Las Vegas Sun

March 21, 2019

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Sun editorial:

By saying nothing, Sandoval tells Nevadans all they need to know

Click to enlarge photo

Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt speaks during his Primary Eve campaign event, Monday, Jun 11, 2018.

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s term-limit clock is down to five months and change, but he appears to be doing something very important for Nevadans on his way out of office.

That something is not endorsing Adam Laxalt as his successor.

In a story Sunday about how backlash to President Donald Trump’s extremism was creating opportunities for Democrats to take over leadership in state governments, The New York Times said Laxalt was being “hindered by the refusal of Gov. Brian Sandoval — a more moderate Republican, who is departing — to endorse him.”

Offered a chance to refute or clarify the Times’ story Monday, the governor’s office said Sandoval declined to comment “further than the quote in the Times.”

Very interesting.

Assuming that Sandoval won’t endorse Laxalt, he deserves credit for putting the interests of Nevadans above politics. That’s something Sandoval has done in the past, most notably with his moderate stances on immigration and his early adoption of Medicaid expansion. It’s inspiring that he’s continuing to do it now as he prepares to leave office.

Moderate Republicans should take note, because a victory for Laxalt in November would be a setback for Nevada.

Laxalt’s fringe-right views put him sharply out of step with the majority of Nevadans on a number of issues, and that’s not just opinion. His opposition to abortion runs counter to the results of the state’s 1990 vote on the Freedom of Choice Act, which passed by an overwhelming margin. He campaigned against the 2016 ballot question calling for universal background checks on gun purchases, which ended up being approved by voters.

Laxalt’s camp will argue that he opposed the background checks initiative because he felt it was legally flawed, not on Second Amendment grounds, but don’t believe it. Laxalt is buried in the National Rifle Association up to his shoulder holster. He’s so juiced up in the organization that he spoke at the NRA’s national leadership forum in 2017, and has an A rating from the gun group. Given the recent revelations about Russia and the NRA, not to mention Nevada’s critical need to address gun violence through reasonable safety regulations, Laxalt’s close ties with the organization are a problem.

He’s also threatened to repeal the commerce tax, a cornerstone of Sandoval’s massive education funding package in 2015.

That would appear to be a key reason Sandoval is withholding the endorsement. He’s concerned that Laxalt would roll back the progress the state has made under his watch.

It’s a valid concern. Keep in mind, too, that Laxalt signed the state onto lawsuits involving abortion and Planned Parenthood without notifying Sandoval, which shows he’s willing to go to extreme means to advance his culture-warrior agenda.

There’s also the matter of Laxalt’s apparent allergy to making public appearances, at least those that aren’t before conservative groups that give him a soft place to land.

Not only does Laxalt give interviews to the media about as often as Trump takes a day off of Twitter, but he was accused of derailing a debate among Republican candidates before the primary and, as of Tuesday, hadn’t responded to a month-old proposal from Democratic candidate Steve Sisolak for a series of debates leading into the November vote. Ducking debates is what cowardly politicans do — the type who would prefer to do their business away from the public eye.

Laxalt isn’t what Nevada needs, so it’s good that Sandoval hasn’t aided him with an endorsement.

The moderate governor should stick to his principles and continue to withhold his support. His silence speaks volumes.