The Battle Within: Friction, Purges, and Power Struggles in Nevada Democratic Party

Nevada Democratic Party Events

The rift between progressive groups and the state party establishment began after Bernie Sanders’s caucus victory. Progressives built local infrastructure that helped them grow, but the national Democratic operation led by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid didn’t see it that way.

Internal party documents obtained by NBC News outline the heated battle that has played out since Whitmer took over the chair position in January.

Local Party Meetings

The Nevada State Democratic Party is a state affiliate of the National Democratic Party in the U.S. state of Nevada. It is a major party, controlling all of the state’s four U.S. House seats and both of its senatorial seats, as well as both houses of the state legislature and all statewide offices except the governorship, lieutenant governorship and controllership.

The state party chair, Judith Whitmer, has drawn criticism from members of her own party after more than 230 central committee members were removed from the list of membership ahead of their scheduled officer elections this March. Whitmer defended the purge as standard procedure conducted when members fail to attend meetings.

The infighting reflects a larger power struggle between an insurgent progressive wing and the nationally renowned political operation built by former Senate majority leader Harry Reid that installed Democrats at all levels of state government. The struggle has reignited with the 2024 election cycle.

State Party Meetings

Aside from the obvious political repercussions, the state party’s purge of 40 percent of its central committee membership is a major blunder in a state that relies heavily on labor support. It also puts a significant amount of distance between the state party and the most visible Lefties in Nevada, including leaders from two substantial local unions.

In addition to the ongoing feud with local unions, Whitmer’s leadership style is generating some serious friction with progressive and Democratic Socialist factions in the state party. She’s made the decision to make central committee attendance records public, a move that could spark shouting matches and fisticuffs at the next meeting.

The state party’s Coalitions department should be expanded to prioritize outreach with constituencies that have historically been marginalized and oppressed in Nevada. But that can’t be an afterthought in the party’s operational strategy; it must be a top priority. That will take resources and serious year-round organizing in every county.

Candidate Forums

Several Democratic presidential candidates will be in Nevada this week. They include Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and John Delaney, business leader and philanthropist Tom Steyer, and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Buttigieg’s presence in Nevada this week highlights a new dynamic in Democratic politics: an upheaval that has pitted progressive organizers who supported Bernie Sanders against veterans of the Harry Reid machine. This week’s events were triggered by a slate of Sanders-supporting activists running for party leadership on what they call “The NV Dems Progressive Slate,” and which included all but one candidate who is a dues-paying member of a local DSA chapter. The result is that a number of Sanders supporters have been deleted from the party’s central committee, ticking off a substantial labor organization like Culinary Union Local 226 and drawing national attention. The upheaval has raised questions about whether the state party can move forward and compete in 2022 and beyond without further fracturing.

Regional Meetings

Unlike the Republican Party, which does not control any statewide offices or federal seats, Nevada has a long history of Democratic control of state government. The party controls five of the six statewide constitutional offices and has a majority in both chambers of the state legislature.

The party is at war with itself. The more liberal wing that helped the new chairwoman take over last year has lost two key races to establishment Democrats, including a primary challenger to Governor Steve Sisolak.

In one document, Whitmer’s staff memorialized a plan for an aggressive media campaign to compel Washoe County Democrats to join the state party or face legal action that could de-charter the group and restrict its fundraising. The plan was never executed.

Mo Elleithee, the committee’s senior policy adviser, has said the panel shouldn’t be “held hostage to tradition” and has floated creative solutions to fix the calendar, like allowing Iowa to kick things off in 2024.

Go Home

Nevada’s Political Parties: Divisions in the Democratic Party and Republican Caucus, Rise of the Independent Party

What Political Party is Nevada?

Nevada is often viewed as a bellwether state. Its favored Democratic Party holds both U.S. Senate seats and the governor’s mansion.

But the state’s once formidable machine is riven by divisions that could ripple nationally. Last weekend, pro-Bernie Sanders aides ousted establishment figures from the leadership of the Nevada Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party

A few snafus in a party with a storied history of civility and cohesion have triggered a schism. After Whitmer and a slate of insurgent progressives were elected to party leadership positions, a group of longtime allies of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid quit the state party en masse and transferred a significant sum of money to Nevada Democratic Victory, a new entity housed within the Washoe County Democratic Party that bypassed the state party.

Despite the fracas, state Democrats have maintained their hegemony in Clark County, which hosts Las Vegas and some of the state’s most liberal communities, and a three-way split in the state legislature. They also hold all three competitive U.S. congressional seats and have a strong hold on the state controllership, governorship and lieutenant governorship.

But national Democrats aren’t taking anything for granted in the complex swing state. They know that the Sanders wing of the party isn’t going away, and they’re worried that it will take Democratic control of the state to a test.

The Republican Party

The state’s Republican Party is holding a caucus, which could give the presidential candidates a boost. But the move is drawing criticism from those concerned it will confuse voters and tilt the scales toward former President Donald Trump.

The caucus is being overseen by state Republican Chairman Michael McDonald, who has deep ties to Trump and his base in the GOP. He and others in the party hierarchy acted as fake presidential electors for Trump in 2020. McDonald has also visited Mar-a-Lago.

Some conservatives say that with so many delegates at stake, the Nevada Republican Party is playing a dangerous game. They worry that other presidential candidates might bypass the caucus and instead run in a primary, which would allow them to collect more early votes and show their electability among a larger pool of voters. A primary election would offer early and absentee voting and same-day registration, which typically broadens participation. That would be a big loss for the party and its donors.

The Silver Party

Nevada’s small size, low advertising costs and concentrated populations make it a popular target for national and state-level political groups. Both sides are spending heavily in the state, with Romney front-groups Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity making large ad buys to soften Obama’s attacks on Berkley and Reid’s front-group Patriot Majority doing the same to bolster Heller’s campaigns.

The imbroglio has raised questions about how to maneuver in the critical 2024 cycle without further fracturing the Democratic Party. For veterans of the Reid machine, those questions center on how to manage a state party that has become increasingly liberal and independent of Democratic leaders in Washington. For Sanders followers, the questions focus on whether it’s worth taking control of state parties at all. For the moment, Sisolak and her allies have the upper hand, but their dominance could quickly erode if the party continues to struggle in Nevada. Fortunately, AB 126 of the 2021 legislative session established presidential preference primaries in the state, potentially allowing Nevada to leapfrog Iowa and New Hampshire in the presidential nominating process.

The Independent Party

A small political party in Nevada, the Independent Party is best known for gaining national attention when Cliven Bundy, of the Bundy standoff fame, spoke at its convention in 2018. The Independent Party has a stronghold around Elko and often runs full slates that see more success there than other parts of the state. In the 2022 Reno mayoral race, the party nominated Joaquin Roces, a National Alliance on Mental Illness employee who ran on a platform of increasing homeless outreach, expanding funding for the fire department and cutting casino subsidies. He finished a distant eighth with just 1.35% of the vote.

But the Independent Party’s rise reflects the growing division among Democrats along ideological and generational lines. The Sanders wing of the national party hasn’t faded away, and the drama in Nevada suggests it will continue to resurface. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the No Labels campaign has qualified for ballot status in Nevada as a minor party.

Power Struggle for Leadership of Nevada Democratic Party in 2024

Who Will Lead the Nevada Democratic Party Twitter Account in 2024?

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford has a lead over Republican challenger Sigal Chattah in counted votes. Ford is one of several Democrats to survive what polls and political pundits predicted would be a midterm “red wave.” Chattah drew criticism for her transphobic Twitter rants during the campaign. She has deleted her campaign Twitter account.

Judith Whitmer

A fierce power struggle is unfolding over who will run the Nevada Democratic Party, a key 2024 battleground that last year decided the Senate race in the purple state. The sitting chair, Judith Whitmer, has come under fire from both veterans of the Reid machine and progressive Democrats aligned with Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Her critics accuse her of antagonizing elected officials and failing to build the grassroots organizing infrastructure she pledged to build. They also say she rigged the party’s March elections for leadership by purging forty percent of its central committee members, including Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom, prior to the vote.

Nevertheless, Whitmer remains in control of the party’s finances. She was re-elected last weekend along with her more progressive slate, beating out a more establishment group led by former Rep. Susie Lee, who is backed by Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, as well as state Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno. The victory was not without its drama, however. Shortly before the outcome was sealed, party staff reportedly moved hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the state’s accounts and into the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in an apparent protest.

Daniele Monroe-Moreno

Earlier this year, she sponsored legislation that would make meals that businesses provide for their employees tax-free. She also believes that for-profit prisons contribute to Nevada’s mass incarceration problem and is an advocate for comprehensive criminal justice reform. She is a 2020 African American Trailblazer Community Activism Politics awardee and Emerge America’s 2017 Ambition to Action recipient.

She was elected to the Nevada Assembly in 2016, representing District 1 in North Las Vegas. She has served on several committees, including the Energy Committee and the Legislative Commission on Special License Plates. She is the Vice-Chair of the Assembly Committee on Child Welfare & Juvenile Justice, as well as an Alternate on the Interim Finance Committee.

She is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, which is currently engaged in a power struggle over party governance. This fight has left the party in a state of uncertainty just days before a pivotal 2024 election. It has also raised questions about whether it is worthwhile for progressives to take control of state parties at all.

Zach Segerblom

Tick Segerblom grew up with family members who taught him to take public service seriously. His father, Cliff, was a Bureau of Reclamation photographer who documented the construction of Boulder Dam and inspired future generations of Nevadans to be active civic citizens. His mother, Gene, was a high school teacher and four-term Boulder City councilwoman who encouraged her children to get involved in local politics.

Whether it’s his work as a lawyer or his efforts in government, Tick Segerblom is committed to building a vibrant community that offers opportunities for all residents. He wants to make sure that economic growth includes investments in education, parks, housing and other amenities.

As a Clark County Commissioner, he’s focused on making the county more equitable and inclusive. He says the county needs to be a leader on fair wages and benefits, especially for its workers. And he’s working to create more affordable housing for lower-income families. He also wants to complete one of his first-term goals — getting marijuana lounges up and running.

Jacky Rosen

Jacky Rosen, the junior United States senator from Nevada, is a fighter for hardworking families and an independent voice standing up for her state. The granddaughter of immigrants and daughter of a World War II veteran, she has worked multiple jobs and taken out student loans to get where she is today. As a Senate leader, she works across party lines and finds solutions that work for the whole state.

A fierce power struggle has erupted over who will run the Democratic Party in a crucial 2024 battleground that last year determined the balance of the Senate. The rift has left the Sanders coalition divided right at the start of the critical campaign and sparked debates over whether it’s even worthwhile for progressives to take control of state parties.

Nevada Democratic Party’s Internal Turmoil Threatens Statewide Election Success.

Nevada Democratic Party Recommendations

With Democrats controlling the Legislature and most of the state’s elected offices, it’s a poor time for schoolyard shoving matches inside the party.

But that’s what is happening now, with the insurgent progressive wing of the Nevada Democratic Party confronting what has been known as the Reid machine. The latest salvo came when the party removed several members of the central committee, including Culinary Union Local 226 leaders and Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom.

Catherine Cortez Masto for Senator

With national Democrats worried about their chances of retaking the Senate, Nevada is seen as one of the most competitive states. Cortez Masto has a lot going for her: name recognition, serious campaign cash, establishment support and polling leads in hypothetical matchups with potential Republican challengers.

The former two-term state attorney general, who was also a federal prosecutor, is focusing her campaign on abortion and the economy. She has promised to vote against any bill that restricts access to the procedure, and she has worked hard to court Nevada’s Spanish-speaking residents and hourly wage earners by visiting union halls and workers’ groups.

She is cosponsoring legislation to improve health care coverage for working families, including the Family Coverage Act, and she’s pushing to lower drug prices by allowing Medicare seniors to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies. As a member of four Senate committees, she is in a position to push for those policies and others that help the state’s economy.

Adam Laxalt for Attorney General

As Nevada’s attorney general, Laxalt filed legal briefs in support of laws restricting abortion and challenged federal environmental protection regulations and gun rules. He also chaired Donald Trump’s failed reelection campaign in 2020 and repeated Trump’s disproven conspiracy theories about widespread election fraud.

In addition to his work in private practice, Laxalt established the Office of Military Legal Assistance, a first-of-its-kind program that provides pro bono legal help to service members and their families. He is a Navy veteran and served in Iraq as a judge advocate.

He graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University and earned a law degree from its school of law. A fourth generation Nevadan, he lives in Reno with his wife, Jaime, and their daughters Sophia and Isabella. He is a partner at Cooper & Kirk. He serves on the board of Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada and co-founded the Saint Thomas More Society of Nevada. He is an advisory board member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Foundation.

Dina Titus for Congress

Dina Titus is a longtime champion for Nevada and was outspent by her opponent in the 2022 general election but held on to re-election. She is running to serve another term representing Congressional District 1, which encompasses much of Las Vegas.

She is an active member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Education and Labor Committee as well as the Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security committees and has been elected to numerous issue caucuses. She is a strong proponent of clean energy and is a co-sponsor of the Renewable Electricity Standard Act and the Climate Change Action Plan.

In the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in modern history at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Titus became one of the leading voices in Congress calling for substantive action to reduce gun violence and introduced legislation to close the Bump Stock Loophole. She also is an advocate for the DREAM Act. Fully embracing her Hellenic heritage, she has traveled to Athens, Meteora, Delphi, and many of the beautiful Greek islands.

Debra March for Lieutenant Governor

When Bernie Sanders aides and members of Democratic Socialists of America took control of the Nevada Democratic Party two years ago, progressives cheered the move as a blueprint for how to transform state parties into potent grassroots organizations. But now that the party is in turmoil, it’s clear that the experiment hasn’t worked out as planned. State party chair Judith Whitmer has been accused of failing to build the party infrastructure to reach rural voters, antagonizing leaders in the state’s legislative caucuses and getting into a needless contretemps with Gov. Steve Sisolak by backing a challenger in the 2022 primary for lieutenant governor.

Those infightings have spilled into the open, as partisan attacks fly and longtime party leaders air their grievances on social media and in blistering press releases. It’s like watching a quarreling family start a food fight at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Amid the dysfunction, it’s hard to see how the Nevada Democratic machine can turn out Democrats in key statewide races this year.

Power Struggle Within Nevada Democratic Party Leads to Resignation of Chairwoman

Clark County Nevada Democratic Party Chairwoman Resigns

For a moment last week, it looked like Joe Biden might have enough electoral votes to win the presidency. Then election officials started counting outstanding ballots in Clark county.

The result has been a power struggle that has pitted two sparring factions against each other. One of the sides is a major labor union.

The Party’s Vision

Not long after Judith Whitmer won the Democratic nomination to be Nevada’s party chair, she got an email. The executive director of the state party told her that she and every other employee — including all of the consultants — were leaving.

Unlike traditional party leaders, Whitmer’s backers were organized grassroots groups like the Clark County Left Caucus and local DSA chapters that had been active in Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. They had also worked to boost down ballot candidates in rural areas of the state, where Republican margins are far higher than in urban centers like Las Vegas and Washoe County.

But the group’s members felt that Whitmer was too eager to snuff out disagreement and was not effective at building coalitions. In the end, they split with her to form a new group called Nevada Democratic Victory. Their goal is to support more centrist candidates like former Gov. Steve Sisolak and U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, while also focusing on down-ballot races.

Its Mission

The fracas over Nevada Democratic Party leadership underscores how a once-unified progressive movement in the state has been divided over the future of its state party. The clash between the Sanders wing and the establishment comes as state Democratic leaders prepare for the 2024 election cycle.

Clark County, the heart of Las Vegas and home to a majority of Nevada’s population, is a powerful force for statewide Democrats. Its wide margins help offset Republican strength in the state’s other regions, including Washoe County and a collection of rural counties known as the Rurals.

Cortez Masto’s ability to outperform Sisolak in these other regions was crucial for her reelection victory. She was able to cut into the GOP’s margins in those areas because she is well connected outside of Las Vegas, having developed relationships over three terms as an attorney general and two years as governor. In addition, she was not swayed by President Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.

Its Goals

With election day over, Democrats are now facing the next phase of Nevada’s political drama: party leadership elections. Chairwoman Judith Whitmer, who won two years ago on a slate of Bernie Sanders supporters, is running for reelection but faces a tough challenge from Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno.

Both women have endorsed Kamala Harris for president, but their differing approaches to the state party are the source of much of the friction. Monroe-Moreno is a moderate who has backed progressive policies such as lowering the minimum wage, supporting same-sex marriage and expanding abortion rights. She has a softer tone than Whitmer and has been endorsed by a majority of Democratic elected officials. But her campaign has been rocked by allegations that she deleted members of the state party’s left caucus and Democratic Socialists of America chapters from a central committee, a move that irked some union activists. The deleted members included leaders of Culinary Union Local 226, which has more than 60,000 members and operates several Vegas casinos.

Its Future

While the Democratic Party’s national fortunes may be dim, local voters in Nevada are still hoping to turn around a decade of economic decline. But, as the state’s most populous county, a lot of Clark County residents aren’t sure they can afford to keep the lights on.

As the state’s top Democrats prepare for 2024, they face several challenges. The most pressing is repairing their relationship with the Democratic base, including a growing number of progressives.

To do so, progressive groups like the Left Caucus and local DSA chapters organized a slate of candidates for state party leadership. They dubbed their team “The NV Dems Progressive Slate,” and all but one of the candidates was a dues-paying member of a DSA chapter. The results were a setback for the party establishment and a boon for progressive activists. But it’s not too late to repair the rift. The central committee’s purged members—who represented more than 40% of the panel’s membership—will meet Saturday to choose new leaders and see the party through the next cycle.