Laxalt-Sandoval relationship has ‘softened,’ says former Gov. List

By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval has yet to support GOP gubernatorial nominee Adam Laxalt, partly because he feels Laxalt would undo some of his largest accomplishments, according to published reports.

Yet former Gov. Robert List, a mentor to Laxalt, said the Sandoval-Laxalt relationship may be “softening” and that the two Republicans have much in common.

“I think there has been some softening,” List said Thursday on Nevada Newsmakers. “I certainly don’t believe Adam is going to set out to undo things that Sandoval has done. They are on the same page in a lot of things.”


List, Nevada’s governor from 1979 to 1983, acknowledged that Sandoval’s support would be helpful as Laxalt takes on Democratic nominee Steve Sisolak in the November general election. Sisolak is currently the chairman of the Clark County Commission while Laxalt is ending his first term as Nevada attorney general.

“Brian Sandoval is a popular guy,” List said. “He has the highest ratings in terms of favorability of any public office holder in Nevada today. So people will certainly take it (Sandoval’s opinion) into account.”

List, however, noted the friction between Sandoval and Laxalt go back to the beginning of Laxalt’s tenure as AG, after first being elected in 2014. Sandoval, who is term limited in 2018, was re-elected governor in a landslide in 2014.

Veteran Nevadan Journalist Ray Hagar is known for fair and tough reporting and invigorating commentary.

In his first year as attorney general, Laxalt joined a federal lawsuit challenging land-use regulations to protect sage grouse. Laxalt drew a quick response from Sandoval, who said Laxalt does not represent the state and was acting in a “personal capacity.”

In 2015, Laxalt also joined 25 other state attorneys general in a lawsuit against then-President Obama’s executive orders on immigration — another move opposed by Sandoval.

“There has been some friction there. It goes back to the early days of the two working together,” List said. “When Adam first became attorney general, he joined a couple of lawsuits on behalf of the state of Nevada. The first one, I think, (was done) without conferring with the governor and the governor was opposed to what Adam was doing.

“So that’s rather untraditional in Nevada,” List said. “Usually the AG and governor work together, coordinate pretty closely. But Adam had strong feelings on these things. I think one had to do with the sage grouse and he sued the Secretary of the Interior and actually came out very well on that lawsuit as he has with several others.”

Laxalt aggressive style of joining other states’ lawsuits “is not Sandoval’s style,” List said.

“Sandoval’s style is try to work things out, smooze along with the federal government on some of these things and Adam just took them head on and has been very successful at it. So their two styles are different.”

Nevada will need a Republican governor to veto some of the liberal bills that will probably come out of a 2019 Legislature that is expected to be dominated by Democrats.

List mentioned Sandoval’s many vetoes of bills from the Legislature and said Laxalt would follow along.

“I mean some bills, for example, would have allowed felons to vote in Nevada, prisoners to vote in Nevada, those kinds of things. He and Sandoval see exactly alike on those kinds of issues,” List said of Laxalt.

Many of the bills that Sandoval vetoed in 2017 will probably return in 2019, List said.

“All of the legislation that was passed last time that Sandoval was able to veto, is going to come right back in the next session,” he said. “And if we have a Democrat governor, it will all be signed into law and the state will go down a path that most Nevadans would never want to see happen.”

It is also important to have a Republican governor because of the redistricting that will take place on various political levels from Congress to the state Assembly in 2020, List said.

“If we don’t have a Republican governor, the Democrats and the liberals are just going to take over. They are going to just absolutely gerrymander the thing beyond belief with nobody to control it,” he said. “That’s very significant.”

List also acknowledged Laxalt is not completely comfortable with media.

“The core thing is Adam is shy,” List said. “He is not an outgoing, gregarious sort of person that we are accustomed to seeing in politics. He’s bashful. He’s shy. He doesn’t like to talk about himself. And so he kind of shies away from publicity.”

His interview skills will not make or break his candidacy, List said of Laxalt.

“This election will turn on his performance, his actions rather than his words,” List said. “When he gets out and forces himself to speak publicly, he speaks from the heart. He is not always that dramatic. I think he needs to do more of it. I’ve advised him and others have too. You know, just speak to people and they’ll recognize your sincerity and integrity and your character.”

List predicts Nevada will see a more public Adam Laxalt in the near future

“I think you will see more of it as the campaign rolls along,” List said. “Right now, much of the campaign is about the most difficult part — and that is raising money.”

Laxalt will turn 40 on Aug. 31, making him a young gubernatorial candidate. His life has had its share of turmoil, List said.

“He’s been through a lot in his personal life,” List said. “Some of that has been publicized. Of course his grandfather was (former Nevada Gov. and U.S. Sen.) Paul Laxalt and Paul was really like a father to him. He was a mentor and guided him. Adam’s mom was a single mom when he was born and she raised him. They lived in a little one bedroom apartment. She a strong woman. She lives here in Las Vegas. Michelle. A wonderful woman.”

List touched on Laxalt’s bout with teen-aged drinking. Laxalt was featured in a 1999 story by the Washingtonian magazine, sharing his story about recovery from teen-age alcoholism.

“He got in trouble with alcohol and it carried over to his first year in college, in Louisiana,” List said. “And then there was an intervention by his grandfather and other family members and they said, ‘Adam, you’ve got to straighten yourself up.’ And he did. He got help. He came back and he’s been on the straight and narrow ever since.”

List said Laxalt ‘is as clean as a whistle.”

“He graduated with honors at Georgetown University and went on to do extremely well at Georgetown Law,” List said.

“He then went on to be a naval officer and of course served in Iraq in a very tough job, looking over prisoners who had been captured, the bad guys. He came back, taught at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and ultimately came home to Nevada. He was born in Reno and come home to Nevada.”

Laxalt, in a 2014 interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal, said his family was a major help in his recovering from teen alcohol abuse.

“As a teenager, I had my years where I started to get out of control and started drinking way too much and was getting in trouble and got on the wrong path,” Laxalt said.

“But thankfully, my mother and my grandfather… and a real blessing was my grandmother (who) had 30 years of sobriety when this came about and spent her life in substance abuse and treatment. So that combination got me the help I needed and I’ve been sober since I was 19 years old.

“My life pivoted dramatically,” Laxalt said in 2014 of his recovery from teen drinking. “I would not be able to raise a family, represent this state or be a good lawyer if that important step hadn’t happened in my life.”

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