Published Thursday, June 22, 2017 | 10:59 a.m.
Updated Thursday, June 22, 2017 | 1:26 p.m.
A Southern Nevada lawmaker who heads the elected body that covers the Las Vegas Strip said Thursday he's running as a Democrat for governor in November 2018.
"I'm in," Steve Sisolak said Thursday by telephone following a meeting with stadium authority members and bank officials about funding construction of a $1.9 billion football stadium for the relocation of the NFL Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas.
Sisolak, 63, is in his third term on the Clark County Commission, and is its current chairman.
He also served 10 years on the Nevada Board of Regents, and said improving public schools in Nevada would be a top priority as governor.
"Better schools, safer streets and good jobs," he said.
Sisolak is the first high-profile candidate to announce a bid to replace Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval in the November 2018 election, and the best-funded. Sandoval is term-limited and can't run again.
Republican state Attorney General Adam Laxalt is widely expected to also run to replace Sandoval, but hasn't made an official announcement. Laxalt campaign adviser Robert Uithoven declined Thursday to comment.
Las Vegas bicycle shop businessman and Republican political newcomer Jared Fisher launched a pedal-powered tour around the state in April to promote his campaign for governor.
Wealthy Las Vegas businessman Stephen Cloobeck is also considering entering the race as a Democrat, said Brandon Hall, a political consultant to Cloobeck.
Candidate campaign finance filings in January showed that Sisolak had about $3.8 million in cash-on-hand, compared with Republican state Attorney General Adam Laxalt's $1.5 million.
State law lets candidates carry unspent funds from previous election cycles into future campaigns.
Sisolak noted that much of his nine years on the county commission and Sandoval's eight years as governor focused on recovering from an economic downturn that hit Nevada hard.
Clark County has about 2 million of the state's 2.8 million residents and most of its 48 million tourists a year go to the casino corridor just outside Las Vegas city jurisdiction. The county commission today oversees a $6.6 billion annual budget.
That compares with the $8.1 billion statewide spending plan that Sandoval proposed this year.
"Gov. Sandoval did a good job navigating us through a tough time," Sisolak said. "We faced the same at the county. We made tough choices. We learned lessons about diversifying the economy. I want to take that to the state level."