Reid defends embattled Nevada Democratic chair, says ‘so-called split’ in state party is ‘exaggerated’
By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid defended embattled Nevada Democratic Party Chair Judith Whitmer during a interview on Nevada Newsmakers this week.
“I have not talked to anyone, other than press, who has any ill will toward Judith,” Reid told host Sam Shad.
Reid, a U.S. senator for 1987 to 2017, said any dissension between Whitmer and other Democrats is exaggerated.
Whitmer defeated Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom in March for the chairmanship of the state party, which has been known as the “Reid Machine” for the organizational work and financial support Reid oversaw.
“Judith Whitmer and the so-called split in the Nevada Democratic Party is exaggerated because there isn’t one,” Reid said. “She is a good Democrat. She is doing everything she can to organize and I think the relationship between Judith and the state party operation and Washoe County, which is very strong, is doing rather well. So I’m not concerned about that at all.”
Yet there are still indications of a split in the party.
Monday, the executive board of the Washoe County Democrats voted to bypass the state party and run their own campaign to elect Democrats in 2022 to state and local offices.
The move drew a rebuke from Whitmer, who questioned Washoe Democrats’ past successes.
“It is a profoundly dangerous choice to sidestep the state party structure and its democratically elected leadership in favor of a less-successful county organization in a corner of the state that has not seen the solid-blue shifts that we’ve seen elsewhere,” Whitmer said in a statement about the move.
Also, state party treasurer Howard Beckerman, resigned last month after Whitmer issued a statement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying that the United States has turned “a blind eye to the injustice and violence committed by the Israeli government.”
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen, who defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Heller in 2018, issued a statement condemning Whitmer’s stance. A statement supporting President Biden’s call for a cease-fire and condemning Whitmer’s stance was signed by 27 Jewish Democrats, including former U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Nevada’s 1st U.S. House District Rep. Dina Titus and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, both Democrats, were also critical. Cortez Masto said foreign policy should be made by elected leaders and not party officials. Titus said the state party should support the federal delegation and help elect candidates, and not take independent positions.
Reid downplayed Whitmer’s statement.
“I think she was very careful in indicating those were her personal feelings, not the state party’s,” Reid said of Whitmer.
However, Whitmer’s statement read, “the Nevada State Democratic Party calls for immediate action from the Biden administration,” according to a story in the Review-Journal, suggesting she was speaking on behalf of the party.
In his resignation letter, Beckerman wrote that Whitmer’s statements could hurt fundraising and cost Democrats in the 2022 election.
Despite the turmoil, Nevada Democrats announced in April they had raised more than $500,000 since the change in state-party leadership. The haul came in from 16,500 different grassroots contributions, Whitmer said.
“I can’t thank everyone enough for their solidarity and for helping build up the Nevada State Democratic Party with grassroots support,” Whitmer said in a press release. “We are humbled by all the messages of support and donations that have poured in.”
Reid, still considered the most influential Democrat in Nevada, pointed to the state party’s current strength in defending Whitmer.
“I think what we need to do is look at what we have now,” he said. “All the constitutional offices, except one, are controlled by Democrats. (We have) the majority in the Assembly and majority in the Senate… We are the only legislative body in the country where both houses in the state legislature are made up (of a majority) of women. I think we have a really good, strong Democratic base here in Nevada and I’m not worried about Judith Whitmer. She has the interests of the state at heart and she is getting along well with everybody.”
Reid also addressed Segerblom’s loss to Whitmer in the chair’s election, suggesting Segerblom may be too busy to concentrate on running the state party.
“I think that Tick has a lot of irons in the fire,” Reid said. “He’s on the county commission. He is busy, doing lots of things. I have great admiration for him. He and his family have been friends of ours for decades.”
Reid also dismissed talk of Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick taking on Gov. Steve Sisolak in a Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2022.
“There won’t be a race between the two of them for sure,” Reid said. “I have great confidence.”
Reid also predicted Sisolak would win re-election.
“I think Gov. Sisolak has been a terrific governor,” Reid said. “He is the first Democratic governor in some 20 years. He’s going to be re-elected.”
The interview with Reid will be posted Monday on the Nevada Newsmakers website.