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In Defense of Senator Roberson

Do I like the fact that Nevada State Sen. Michael Roberson went wobbly on extending the $620 million worth of “temporary” tax hikes that were supposed to end last year but didn’t, and now are supposed to end next year but probably won’t? Heck, no.

Do I like the fact that Sen. Roberson, as the Senate GOP’s campaign chairman this year, recruited moderate Republican candidates for competitive districts and encouraged those candidates not to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge? Heck, no.

But remember: The objectives of Republican leaders and conservative activists aren’t necessarily the same thing.

GOP leaders are all about winning…and are all too willing all too often to sacrifice principle in that pursuit. Conservative activists, on the other hand, are more focused on advancing a consistent philosophical agenda, accepting that sometimes you’ll win and sometimes you’ll lose.

So with that in mind, let’s give credit where credit is due.

Sen. Roberson recruited three candidates for three targeted Senate seats in Clark County this year: Senate districts 5, 9 and 18. But not only did he recruit viable candidates, he endorsed them despite the fact that other Republican candidates filed in those races…and backed his picks to the hilt in both words and deeds, including a substantial amount of cash.

Now, some are criticizing Sen. Roberson for endorsing in the primary. Sorry, but while I may not have agreed with who Sen. Roberson endorsed, I applaud his leadership in getting behind the candidates he thought would have the best chance to win in November and thus wrest control of the state Senate from the Democrats. Frankly, he did exactly what leaders of the state and county Republican Central Committees SHOULD be doing.

That said, some are trying to spin the victories of the three Roberson-backed candidates as a repudiation of conservatism in general and the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in particular.

Not.

First, in Senate District 5 Steve Kirk, who did not sign the Pledge defeated Annette Teijeiro, who also did not sign the Pledge. So much for that.

But Dr. Teijeiro was also simply overmatched in this race. Mr. Kirk was a well-known political figure with deep ties to the district and experience as a former city councilman. He had all the money he needed and a skilled, experienced professional campaign team behind him. Teijeiro didn’t.

So this race wasn’t decided based on a philosophical difference between two candidates; it was simply that the stronger candidate with the well-funded campaign won.

In Senate District 9, Roberson-backed Mari Nakashima-St. Martin defeated Brent Jones. Neither candidate had any experience serving in office, so they were evenly matched in that department…and the race *could* have been a philosophical referendum. Indeed, Jones signed the Tax Pledge and St. Martin didn’t. And Jones speaks “tea party” while St. Martin speaks “establishment.”

But instead, the Jones camp foolishly went after St. Martin on a personal issue that certainly garnered a lot of attention, but in the end backfired. The ill-advised over-the-top attack surely repelled a lot of voters and garnered sympathy for St. Martin. So in the end, this race wasn’t decided based on philosophical differences between candidates either.

Which brings us to Senate District 18. This was a race with a clear philosophical distinction between two similar candidates; moderate Assemblyman Scott Hammond vs. conservative Assemblyman Richard McArthur.

McArthur was a Pledge signer and Hammond was not. McArthur voted against the $620 million tax hike/extension in 2012; Hammond voted for it. McArthur scored at the top of conservative rankings based on his voting record in 2012; Hammond was in the middle.

So yes, on paper this was a clear moderate-vs.-conservative choice for the voters. However…

Sen. Roberson’s support for Hammond, and the campaign professionals Hammond was able to hire because of the money that came with Roberson’s’ support, allowed Hammond to swamp McArthur in the closing two weeks of the campaign with false advertising and untrue attacks on McArthur. It was reminiscent of the attacks leveled against former State Sen. Ann O’Connell claiming she wasn’t a conservative several years ago.

That said…it worked.

McArthur – relying solely on volunteers and door-to-door campaigning – had no means to respond to the last-minute underhanded attacks by Hammond. So it wasn’t that McArthur didn’t have the better message and voting record for a GOP primary; it’s that Hammond was willing to say and do anything to win and had the resources to say and do it…while McArthur had no way to respond.

So give Sen. Roberson some credit. The rule is, if you’re going to kill the king, kill the king. Sen. Roberson stepped up to the plate, took risks in endorsing candidates early, put his money where his mouth was…and won. Vunderbar.

And while I would certainly have preferred the endorsement/nomination of more conservative Republican candidates, the three victorious Roberson-backed candidates are a FAR cry better than the Democrat alternatives voters will face in November. Just don’t expect them to rock any boats that might upset the establishment or vote against extending the “sunsets” again next session.

Yes, I’ve hammered Sen. Roberson the past couple of months over his support for extending those “temporary” tax hikes; however, nothing succeeds like success. So congratulations and best of luck, Sen. Roberson, in winning your majority in November. The state needs real change in Carson City and we hope you and your recruits will provide it!