Las Vegas Sun

January 21, 2019

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Jon Ralston:

A new GOP chair, Sandy money and Lorne’s departure

The GOP self-destruction machine revs up again, a look at the Adelson money for Newt and a farewell to a good man — here’s your Friday Flash:

• The Goofy Old Party, Part 6,547: I had a chance this week to sit down with Dave Buell, the chairman of the Washoe County Republican Party who wants to be elected state boss in May. Buell is smart, sane and dedicated — that is, thoroughly unqualified to head the Nevada Republican Party.

Buell’s opponent is ex-Las Vegas City Councilman Michael McDonald, who is widely presumed to be the favorite (even Buell agrees) because the Clark County delegates will dominate the convention. I find this to be highly comical.

Those who have dealt with Buell say he has done wonders with the Washoe party in a county that will be pivotal in the presidential race here, the U.S. Senate contest and a crucial state Senate battleground. “He is a very decent and genuine guy who, I believe, can get along with all the different people in the party,” one longtime northern insider said of Buell, echoing what others have said.

Meanwhile, McDonald, despite ingratiating himself to the Clark County faithful, has a checkered past making Democrats salivate. He was found guilty by city and state tribunals of violating ethics laws. He was investigated by two federal agencies. He was recalled from office.

Oh, and Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith recently published a transcript of McDonald repeatedly invoking his Fifth Amendment rights when asked about a strip club mogul he befriended — it's here — not the same strip club magnate who had McDonald on retainer. That’s the, ahem, naked truth.

When I recently told a national Democratic Party operative about this, the visiting pol’s eyes opened wide before an even wider smile appeared. How, some might ask, can McDonald be a credible attack dog when there is so much to attack him on?

McDonald dismissed such a possibility recently on “Face to Face,” but others are acutely aware of it. And will do nothing.

Most elected officials are staying as far away as they can from this election, especially after the caucus debacle that caused a torrent of national derision. Then again, how bad could it be?

As McDonald’s friend, Laughlin Constable Jordan Ross, recently told the Sun’s Anjeanette Damon, “At the bottom of it all, the man has never been indicted for anything. Even our lieutenant governor (a Republican!) has been indicted!”

I can hardly wait for the McDonald Era to begin.

• A better chance to win Megabucks? I was amused this week when I tallied up the Adelson family contributions to the super PAC helping Newt Gingrich — $16.5 million — and then calculated the percentage of overall donations to Winning Our Future — 88 percent. So Sheldon Adelson, his wife, three daughters and a son-in-law singlehandedly kept Gingrich alive. Or, at least, gave him the illusion of life. So when does it come time to shake the Newt image off the family Etch-a-Sketch and draw one of Mitt Romney?

• The most powerful man in Carson City departs: Yes, no one in any organization is irreplaceable. But if anyone comes close in the cloistered capital of Carson City (try saying that), that person is Lorne Malkiewich.

Malkiewich is one of my favorite people in Nevada and has been since I met him 25 years ago when I covered my first session and he began as the Legislature’s lead lawyer. Seven years later, he became the director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, and it is difficult to imagine him anywhere but there.

But this is where imagination hits reality: Malkiewich has taken a job as chief operating officer for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges in Reno.

If staffers are the most powerful figures in an arena with part-time lawmakers, then for almost two decades Malkiewich was a potentate. But if ever there were a benevolent despot, it was Malkiewich.

His professional compass always has pointed toward fairness and bipartisanship. He is a by-the-book guy who also understood political realities and the personalities of the Gang of 63. Of all the scores of lawmakers who have dealt with Malkiewich over the years, I doubt you can find even one with an ill word to say about him.

For those who took the time to get him beyond his ready answers to difficult questions — or his ability to quickly research what you needed to know — Malkiewich also revealed himself to have a wry sense of humor and he never took himself too seriously. He also, by the way, is the kind of guy who knows that Ty Cobb’s lifetime batting average was .367.

It will not be the same in 2013. I will miss his constant, guiding hand. And I am far from alone.

Godspeed, Lorne.

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