Nevada GOP drops lawsuit aimed at blocking presidential primary

The party had argued the non-binding, state-run primary would waste money alongside the party-run caucus, which is scheduled just two days later.

A volunteer cleans windows at the GOP headquarters in Henderson on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

By Jacob Solis and Gabby Birenbaum

The Nevada State Republican Party on Friday agreed to drop a lawsuit against the state that had sought to stop next month’s presidential preference primary — ending a monthslong legal battle and ensuring that both the state-run primary and the party-run caucus will be held in early February. 

Nevada lawmakers created the new primary system in 2021, but the state GOP argued in an initial filing last May that the law would prevent party leaders from opting for the state’s existing caucus model in 2024. A Carson City District Court judge sided against the party in July, ruling that both a primary and caucus could move forward under the law. 


State party Chair Michael McDonald said in July that the lawsuit was intended to avoid confusing voters and wasting taxpayer dollars on a primary election that would not count toward Nevada’s delegate count for the Republican nomination. 

The party filed an appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court in August, but it was never heard. Attorneys representing the state and Nevada Republican Party filed the joint stipulation to dismiss the appeal last week.

Reached by phone Monday, attorney and Republican National Committeewoman Sigal Chattah — who represented the state GOP on the case — argued the district court ruling was not a loss, because it still allowed the party to decide to bind its delegates through the caucus, rather than the primary. 

Last year, the party decided to continue its case, Chattah said, because “first and foremost, the [presidential primary] is a waste of money.”

“Why is the Nevada taxpayer going to be on the hook for a primary that is completely irrelevant?” Chattah said. 

However, she declined to explain the timing of the party’s decision to drop the lawsuit last week, just one month before the scheduled primary, citing confidential settlement discussions. 

A spokesperson for Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. 

The state-run primary will continue as scheduled on Feb. 6, while the party-run caucus will occur Feb. 8. 

The proximity of the two contests has created ongoing confusion within the party rank and file, as voters receiving primary ballots have questioned why major candidates — including former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, both caucus participants — are not included.  

Separately, the competing caucus and primary processes have drawn intraparty criticism, amid charges from Trump opponents that the rules surrounding the caucus were designed to favor the former president. That criticism has largely centered on a rule barring super PACs from participating in the caucus itself — a blow that would have an outsized effect on DeSantis, who has relied heavily on a pair of outside super PACs to buoy his campaign in early primary states. 

The caucus also came under fire from Gov. Joe Lombardo (R), who called the confusion over the dueling contests, and their separate pools of candidates, “unacceptable.” 

In addition to Trump and DeSantis, other caucus candidates include former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and pastor Ryan Binkley.

On the state-run primary ballot, which will not count for delegates, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is the only major candidate remaining who has not suspended their campaign. She will appear alongside former Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), as well four, little-known long-shot candidates (John Anthony Castro, Heath Fulkerson, Hirsh Singh and Donald Kjornes).

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