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In General: Inside the Race to Become Nevada’s Next Top Cop

[amazon_link asins=’151711702X’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’nevadatoday-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’edfba087-258c-11e8-ac52-dd3eddeaa758′]Nevada voters have a whole lot of decisions to make this year. Among them is who will be the state’s new top cop. With current Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) running for Governor, the AG position is one of several statewide open seats up for grabs this fall. Below, we’ll break down who’s in the running and why this race is more important than you think.

The State of Trump

In case you’ve been living under a rock lately, President Donald Trump and his administration have constantly been in and out of court. A major reason for that? California, especially with the Golden State’s Attorney General, Xavier Becerra (D), taking the Trump administration to task over its draconian immigration policies.

It’s not just California, and it’s not just immigration. Becerra and other state Attorneys General have been taking Trump to task on everything from environmental justice to tax law.

With progressives largely locked out of the reins of power at the federal level, state and municipal leaders have had the unique opportunity to become leaders in “The Resistance” by challenging Trump in the community, and in court. Yet despite Nevada being a “blue state” whose interests don’t often align with Trump’s, the Silver State’s Attorney General has mostly been on the sidelines.

Laxalt plays “The Trump Card”, and folds on Sandoval

Despite Laxalt essentially running and winning on the same ticket as outgoing Governor Brian Sandoval (R), the two have since had an epic falling out. Shortly after taking office, Laxalt signed the state onto Texas’ lawsuit against the Obama administration’s attempt to expand the DACA program to shield an additional 5 million immigrants from deportation. Two years later, Laxalt embraced the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda, including the right-wing campaign against “sanctuary cities“… And he did so over the objections of Sandoval.

And that’s not all. When the state’s health insurance exchange wanted to sue the White House over its efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare), Laxalt declined to follow through on their request for legal action. Again, Laxalt chose Trump (and the Republican base who’s firmly embraced him) over Nevada’s own Sandoval.

And then, there’s the issue of Nevada’s legal marijuana industry. Though Sandoval and other state leaders have decried the Trump administration’s decision to crack down on marijuana, Laxalt has remained silent and thus far has declined to challenge the White House’s marijuana crackdown. Once more, it seems like Laxalt has chosen Trump over Sandoval.

It’s not just about Trump. (Sometimes, politics is still local.)

While Donald Trump and his controversial presidency have captivated so much of the public’s and the media’s attention, there’s far more to Laxalt’s tenure than just Trump. Last year, Laxalt jumped into piping hot water over his effort to convince the Gaming Control Board to intervene on behalf of right-wing mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. The Gaming Control Board not only rebuffed Laxalt on his request, but they turned around to request outside counsel to avoid Laxalt’s conflict of interest.

Laxalt’s very interest of his duties of office also came into question last year, from the curious case of his redirection of a program meant to assist distressed homeowners to his ongoing refusal to enforce a voter-approved ballot initiative to expand background checks on gun sales. Even though the Attorney General’s primary responsibility is to enforce state laws, Laxalt’s record in enforcing state law has thus far been mixed at best.

Laxalt has anointed his right-hand man, but do Nevada voters agree?

Against this backdrop, Nevada voters will choose Laxalt’s successor. Laxalt didn’t hesitate to endorse his deputy, Wesley Duncan (R), who is now running for Attorney General himself. If elected, he will likely stay the course set by Laxalt, as he has racked up his own staunchly conservative record as a state legislator, then as Deputy AG.

But if State Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford (D) wins, one can expect a massive sea change in the Attorney General’s office. A long-time proponent of criminal justice reform, Ford has advocated legislation to equip more police officers with body cameras and integrate rehabilitated ex-offenders into civilian society. Ford has also racked up endorsements from numerous progressive organizations, such as the national LGBTQ+ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign and the Nevada State Education Association teachers’ union, in the hope that Ford will redirect the AG office to be more proactive in protecting the civil rights of underserved communities. And in stark contrast to Laxalt’s refusal to enforce the state’s background checks law, Ford has promised to be more proactive in preventing gun violence.

Now, it’s up to voters to decide how they want the state’s laws enforced. Adam Laxalt’s tenure has certainly been memorable, though Nevadans continue to debate his approach on federal and state issues. The next Attorney General will have to decide whether to confront or accommodate President Trump, how to interpret the state’s gun laws, and who needs the state’s legal protection the most.

Stay tuned, as we’re just getting started in breaking down what’s at stake in this election.

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