COVID-19 rules take center stage in Nevada GOP gubernatorial primary as candidates blame government’s ‘draconian’ rules

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As of fall 2020, Nevada residents were required to wear masks in their homes if anyone from outside their immediate household was present – and private gatherings were limited to 10 people from two households.

Schools have been remote or hybrid for more than a year after students were sent home in March 2020. School sports did not resume until spring 2021.

Nevada’s indoor mask mandate was in place through February 2022, including in schools.

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Now, after a federal judge blocked the federal carry mask mandate on Monday, most Americans will go about their daily lives without any kind of lingering virus rules. But Nevada’s pandemic restrictions, largely put in place by Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, remain the focus of a gubernatorial campaign that is likely to be one of the most closely watched in the nation. The dynamic is particularly noticeable in the GOP primary, in which candidates compete to be the most against the rules of the pandemic.

Students walk to class amid the COVID-19 pandemic at Washington Elementary School on January 12, 2022, in Lynwood, California. Nevada removed its mask mandate for public places, including schools, in February of this year.
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, file)

“We have a governor in his first term, half the kids have been kicked out of their schools,” former GOP Senator Dean Heller told Fox News Digital. “The biggest problem is, of course, that we now have second graders who can’t read, third graders who can’t write and fourth graders who can’t do math.”

“It made my decision to run for governor, part and parcel,” Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo told Fox News Digital. He also said the state lifted its mask mandate “far too late” and called the restrictions “political theatre.”

“It was the essential-non-essential mindset, picking winners and losers,” Lombardo added of Sisolak’s restrictions. “As we progressed through COVID and the infection and everything that went with it, he constantly moved the goalposts.”

“It was the most arbitrary, disconnected, unscientific and pointless nonsense we have ever seen,” said lawyer and former boxer Joey Gilbert, another Republican candidate. “We’re now number one in all the bad columns because of these draconian, unscientific, unnecessary blockages. They were just pure, pure, pure evil. Absolutely political bullying like I’ve never seen before.”

Former Nevada GOP Senator Dean Heller is running in the state's 2022 Republican primary for governor.

Former Nevada GOP Senator Dean Heller is running in the state’s 2022 Republican primary for governor.
(Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee has also made Sisolak’s COVID rules a major theme of his GOP gubernatorial primary campaign.

Nevada’s economy, which relies heavily on tourism, was more likely to battle the pandemic than other states.

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According to University of New Hampshire School of Public Policy, in October, Nevada ranked worse than almost any state in percentage job shortages relative to trend since the start of the pandemic. It was also in the lower half of the percentage change in employment and the percentage of jobs recovered as well, although it was among the highest in percentage employment growth in 2021 as a percentage of l employment before the pandemic.

But the GOP primary’s attacks aren’t just aimed at Sisolak. Lombardo, the sheriff of Clark County – where Las Vegas is located – initially expressed support for the virus rules and was able to enforce them at the start of the pandemic. His opponents do not hesitate to remind voters of this.

“I take everything the sheriff says with a grain of salt because he was… just as bad as… the governor himself,” Heller said, citing a vaccination mandate Lombardo put in place for new recruits. of his department. “The sheriff followed suit with this governor literally hand in hand.”

In this June 28, 2021, file photo, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo talks to reporters during a press conference announcing his candidacy for governor of Nevada, in Las Vegas.

In this June 28, 2021, file photo, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo talks to reporters during a press conference announcing his candidacy for governor of Nevada, in Las Vegas.
(AP Photo/John Locher)

Gilbert said “Lombardo is essentially a liberal democrat”.

“He was behind the masks,” Gilbert said, “You don’t force a vaccine for your own people for a year.”

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Nevada Democrats are also keen to address Lombardo’s early support for virus rules in response to his criticism of the governor.

“Lombardo has been lying to the people of Nevada since day one. With his actions as a sheriff constantly contradicting his words as a gubernatorial candidate, he continues to prove he will do or say anything to win,” Nevada Democratic Victory spokesperson Mallory Payne told Fox News. Digital.

Lombardo’s department has indeed taken steps to enforce Sisolak’s orders. In March 2020, Lombardo said his department was ready to enforce Sisolak’s shutdown order on his first show, according to the Las Vegas Sun. Then, on April 9, a press release from Lombardo’s department said it was “working with various partners to enforce Governor Sisolak’s executive orders regarding the closure of non-essential businesses.”

Joey Gilbert during the Republican Governor's Debate.

Joey Gilbert during the Republican Governor’s Debate.
(Ty O’Neil/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Additionally, a March 23, 2020 press release announced that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department “issued 36 warning letters, 7 suspensions, and 4 citations to non-essential businesses that were not complying with the orders of state closure.

“Of the 113 businesses visited by the compliance team, the 7 suspensions resulted in forced closures of businesses that would not close voluntarily,” the press release reads.

Lombardo, however, says his department was put in a bad position by a governor who pressured local law enforcement to act on his executive orders.

“In addition to his regulations and mandates, there was recommended enforcement associated with that,” Lombardo said of Sisolak’s orders. “We’ve been put in this place less than a handful of times. So our mantra, in my communication with the city and county, was that we would educate before doing warrants…99.9% of the time that has worked.”

the Sisolak stop order did not explicitly direct local police departments to enforce government restrictions, although its wording seems to imply that was the expectation.

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak attends the launch of the 100 megawatt MGM Resorts Mega Solar Panel on June 28, 2021 in Dry Lake Valley, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak attends the launch of the 100 megawatt MGM Resorts Mega Solar Panel on June 28, 2021 in Dry Lake Valley, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

“Companies that fail to comply with this directive or the regulations promulgated under this directive, after receiving written notice from law enforcement, may be subject to criminal prosecution and civil penalties,” said Sisolak’s prescription. “All law enforcement agencies in the State of Nevada are authorized to enforce this directive.”

Moreover, Lombardo said, he quickly backfired on Sisolak’s warrants after he began obtaining data that did not match the seriousness of the situation according to Sisolak.

“He said a lot of this was based on overburdening medical services and I didn’t believe that data was true or accurate,” Lombardo said. He added that Sisolak appeared to be largely following what California had done on virus restrictions.

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“If and when elected governor here, I will not ask Gavin Newsom what to do in the state. That was the perception and that was the reality,” Lombardo said.

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak provides an update on COVID-19 regulations in Las Vegas on Aug. 16, 2021. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP, File)

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak provides an update on COVID-19 regulations in Las Vegas on Aug. 16, 2021. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP, File)

As Republicans continue to battle over coronavirus restrictions ahead of their June 14 primary, Sisolak appears to be shifting his messaging to emphasize economic growth and moving on from the virus. That decision was clear in his State of the State address in February, in which he outlined the state’s “way forward” after the pandemic.

“Today, our economy is one of the fastest growing in the country,” he said in his February 23 speech. “Tourism is up, unemployment is down. Our students are back – with 100% of our classrooms in person. rise.”