Republican candidates for Nevada attorney general Sigal Chattah and Tisha Black
Policy, politics and progressive commentary
Nevada Republicans have two choices in the primary race for Attorney General – Sigal Chattah, a civil and criminal attorney who says she wants to imprison women who have abortions, and Tisha Black, a business attorney who denies, despite evidence, that she contributed in 2015 to Steve Sisolak, a Democrat then seeking reelection to the Clark County Commission.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Black said during a phone interview of the contribution that bears her name, albeit misspelled, as well as her address. A campaign staffer did not respond to requests for additional comment on the contribution.
Chattah initially raised the issue earlier this month during a debate on Nevada Newsmakers.
“That is a straight up lie. I have never given Steve Sisolak a dime in my life,” Black said during the debate.
Black, the founder of the Nevada Cannabis Association, the lobbying arm of the cannabis industry, is a board member of Clear River, LLC, a cannabis company owned in part by her father, developer and former casino owner Robert R. Black Sr., also known as Randy Black.
Clear River, LLC contributed $10,000 to Sisolak in 2015, $10,000 to Sisolak in 2020, and $10,000 to his inaugural committee. Black Sr. contributed $8,000 to Sisolak in 2017 and $5,000 in 2018 to then-Attorney General-elect Aaron Ford, who his daughter now hopes to challenge in the general election.
The AG is the state’s top law enforcement officer and routinely engages in criminal prosecution. Black has no experience practicing criminal law and takes issue with Chattah’s history as a defense attorney.
“A lifetime defending criminals sounds soft on crime to me,” Black said on Newsmakers.
The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution affords all defendants the right to counsel.
“I don’t think it (criminal experience) is necessary. The AG has, you know, there’s 120 attorneys in there,” Black said.” I think the ability to liaise with the local DA in each county to see what their problem is, you know, to see how they do their problems and how they would be best supported is the way to best use the resources.”
Black ran for Clark County Commission in 2018. She lost in the general election to Justin Jones by a margin of eight percentage points. She has raised almost $374,000 for this campaign and reported $363,412 on hand as of March.
Chattah, who is making her first run for office, failed to keep an appointment for an interview with the Current and refused to reschedule. She raised $455,000 last year, another $87,429 this year, and had $324,800 on hand at the end of the first quarter of the year.
As the nation confronts the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court will reverse 50 years of precedent on reproductive rights by striking Roe v. Wade and sending the abortion issue back to the states, both Republican AG candidates mangled the state of play in Nevada during their debate on Nevada Newsmakers.
“It’s in the constitution,” Chattah insisted of the right to abortion in Nevada, even after host Sam Shad attempted to correct her by stating abortion is codified in statute.
Black followed her opponent’s lead.
“I had a human moment. I made a mistake. I was nervous,” Black told the Current, adding as AG she would not seek changes to abortion law.
Chattah later issued a statement acknowledging the error.
“Question 7 didn’t embed the right to terminate a pregnancy in the Constitution,” she wrote. “And it didn’t embed the Nevada law protecting the right to terminate a pregnancy in the Constitution. What it did was constitutionally prohibit the Legislature from changing the law.”
Chattah wants to prosecute and imprison women who seek an abortion. Efforts to do so in other states, such as Texas, have drawn public protests.
“The way I look at it is the same way that we do sentencing enhancements on unborn children, victims of unborn children. I would marry it to that,” Chattah said on Nevada Newsmakers, adding she believes “life begins at the time of fetal heartbeat.”
However, sentencing enhancements in Nevada law apply only to a so-called “quick” fetus, meaning the mother has felt its movements, which generally occurs 16 to 20 weeks into pregnancy. Chattah did not respond to questions about whether she would seek to imprison women who abort their pregnancies at an earlier stage, and for how long.
Both candidates insisted during the Newsmakers debate that as AG, they would not defend programs with which they personally disagree. But earlier this year, Chattah told the Nevada Independent she has an obligation to uphold the law. “And that applies to every law in the state,” she said.
During the pandemic, Chattah challenged Sisolak’s restrictions on church attendance, arguing they violated the First Amendment and singled out places of worship. She appealed a federal court ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of the churches.
Chattah, along with Republican gubernatorial candidate Joey Gilbert, unsuccessfully challenged the mask mandate in Clark County schools.
Black says the government’s primary job is to protect the public, but she says she believes Sisolak’s “cruel mandates,” during COVID, such as requiring students to wear masks in the classroom, were “an overreach.”
“In the beginning, I could understand why. What we now know is there was no science behind it. There was no science behind keeping masks on three-year olds,” she said.
Black says the government’s role is to protect the public and get out of the way of business.
She and law partner Jim Wadhams lobby for a variety of state-regulated sectors, including hospitals, physician services, mining, insurance, utilities, medical transport, and financial advisors.
Black says her firm’s representation of those industries, as well as her previous position as president of the Nevada Cannabis Association, which she left when she decided to run for AG, will not affect her ability to enforce the law.
“Do you want me to stop talking to people I’ve known for 50 years? I stepped down from the offices that I represent, and I may step out of my law firm if I win the AG office,” she says. “That is what is required of me ethically and I will do those things.”
“I think that the citizens of Nevada would be happy to have an attorney that has practiced 25 years in licensed businesses in the Attorney General’s Office,” she says. “I have conservative principles. I don’t have any ethical issues.”
“I will protect your right to bear arms, your freedom of speech,” says Black’s website.
“I think that our state makes it really difficult to get a gun,” Black told the Current. “We have people dying to get background investigations.”
She does not oppose background checks, which can take up to three days, but says the processes in place “are antiquated and don’t use technology that can help them progress in a more functional way and streamlined manner.”
Black says she’s not advocating to “make it easier to get a gun. I’m saying more efficient.”
On the First Amendment front, Black says the concept of ‘cancel culture’ – the idea that a person, corporation or institution can be culturally blocked – “is 100% an infringement on free speech.”
For some, the effort to “cancel” is a means of speaking truth to power. Black declined to say why the people who are engaged in “canceling” are not also entitled to express their opinions. “Move on. I don’t know why you’re trying to get me with that stuff here.”
Backing the blue
Chattah, a criminal defense attorney, says on her website that “‘progressive justice’ also seeks to not only defund the police, but limit use of force, tamper with qualified immunity and essentially strip the importance and utility of law enforcement in our country.”
“Newly established ‘progressive justice’ policies in criminal justice such as bail reform, decriminalization and defunding law enforcement seeks to reduce criminal recidivism through alternative methodologies such as mental health diversionary programs, youth offender diversionary programs, safe injection sites, etc.,” Chattah’s website says.
In stark contrast, on Nevada Newsmakers Chattah proclaimed “as somebody that’s been in criminal justice for 20 years, I am a huge proponent of diversionary programs,” adding “whether it’s mental health, I’ve had to deal with sending somebody out of state for dual diagnosis, drug addiction, and dealing with the person who shouldn’t be incarcerated.”
Black’s website says she’s committed to “standing up to the mass migration of illegal drugs and dangerous criminals being forced upon our state by the Biden administration’s lack of concern for our Southern border and their weak on crime policies.”
Her digital ads say she “backs the blue.”
Asked whether she acknowledges a racially-based police brutality problem in America, Black said there are “bad apples in every section of society” and cautioned against “painting a broad stroke over any community.”
Black says she’s unaware of efforts to shift some police resources to teams of mental health professionals trained to respond, when appropriate, to certain police calls.
Both Chattah and Black were quick to condemn the Clark County School District last week after a women stated at a school board meeting that her daughter was required to memorize “pornography” as part of an assignment.
“That would be something I would pursue immediately,” Black said. CCSD has not confirmed the alleged incident involved an actual assignment.
Chattah also concluded, without proof, that the allegations are legitimate, writing on her campaign website the woman was ridiculed and called a liar “when she tried to read the assignment to board members.”
Black’s website says she’ll defend Nevada “against the unconstitutional edicts of the Biden administration.” A campaign ad proclaims “Socialism out of control.”
Socialism, she says, “means not a democracy – when your freedoms are being curtailed by your government.”
Socialism is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.”