By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Nevada State Treasurer Dan Schwartz said Wednesday it is “virtually certain” he will run for governor as a Republican in 2018.
Schwartz, speaking on Nevada Newsmakers, said he would officially announce his campaign in about two months.
“I am virtually certain I will do it,” Schwartz said about running for governor. “I will probably announce sometime in September and have an exploratory committee in mid-August.
“It looks like this is going to happen,” said the one-term treasurer, purported to be a millionaire.
Attorney General Adam Laxalt is considered the front-runner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. He has already secured the financial backing of Nevada’s richest citizen, Las Vegas Sands boss Sheldon Adelson.
Schwartz said he was not concerned about Adelson’s financial support of Laxalt: “Sheldon is a good man. I’m not disparaging him. But this world is full of billionaires and full of millionaires. He’s not the only guy in town.”
Yet Adelson “has bought” Laxalt, Schwartz suggested.
He cited news reports earlier this year that Laxalt, on Adelson’s behalf, urged Nevada’s top gaming regulator to influence a high-stakes trial between Las Vegas Sands Corp. and its’ former Macau CEO.
“I really question, and it is a question and not a statement, as to whether Sheldon has bought Adam,” said Schwartz.
Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett, the regulator in question, taped his conversation with Laxalt and turned it over to the FBI.
The FBI determined no crime had been committed by Laxalt, yet Schwartz said ethical questions remain.
“It is a statement of fact that the FBI did not find any criminal activity,” Schwartz said. “But there is a real question as to how you are using your position, in this case attorney general, to appear before a public board, which is the Gaming Control Board, and effectively advocate for that board to intervene on behalf of someone else who is not your client.
“That is where the distinction (between crime and ethics) comes in,” he said
“Do you think if it were someone else who had not donated $50,000 to his campaign, that Adam would have shown the same intensity of getting a hold of Mr. Burnett?” Schwartz said.
(Editor’s Note: Laxalt never appeared before the Gaming Control Board on behalf of Adelson. He had the conversation with Burnett about interveneing into the Las Vegas Sands court case at a Reno coffee shop, according to Burnett’s affidavit about the secretly-recorded conversation).
Schwartz also said Adelson’s influence and financial backing are behind state Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson’s campaign for lieutenant governor.
Laxalt and Roberson have indicated they are running as a GOP governor-lieutenant governor ticket for 2018. In Nevada, however, campaigns for those offices have traditionally been independent and have not officially been regarded as a ticket.
Roberson’s candidacy is a “millstone around the neck” of Laxalt, Schwartz said.
“This is speculation and it is simply an attempt to develop an insight as to why Michael Roberson — perhaps the most unpopular Republican, if not the most unpopular candidate in this state — is running?” Schwartz said.
“Adam is a smart guy. Why would you put a millstone around your neck?” Schwartz said. “It leads again back to the (Las Vegas) Sands and Sheldon. I mean Sheldon and his accomplice, (Sands senior VP) Andy Abboud, are big fans of Roberson. And again, I don’t understand why he (Laxalt) would do that.”
Abboud is a senior vice-president at the Las Vegas Sands Corp., and deals with corporate government affairs.
“There are some issues of money,” Schwartz said. “Sen. Roberson has been a prolific fundraiser but he had his head handed to him in the congressional race (in 2016).
“This to me, makes me even more nervous about the attorney general,” Schwartz added. “If you are in the pocket of the state’s richest citizen, what does this suggest for your administration if you’re elected governor?”
Asked if Laxalt and Roberson are both “in Adelson’s pocket,” Schwartz said, “I believe they are.”
No clear choice for the next treasurer
Schwartz said there is no clear candidate to replace him as treasurer. He would also like to run for governor on a ticket that includes a female candidate for lieutenant governor.
“What I would really like to do — and Adam has kind of opened the door to this — is I would like to run with a woman,” Schwartz said. “I would like to see a woman be nominated for lieutenant governor, not like the last election with the Democratic nominee (Lucy Flores) but someone with experience who can help the state.”
Schwartz would return the duties of economic development to the lieutenant governor’s office, if elected governor. Current Gov. Brian Sandoval made economic development a gubernatorial cabinet position in 2011.
Before that, it has been a duty of the lieutenant governor since former Lt. Gov. Bob Cashell pushed for it in the early 1980s.
“I haven’t had a lot of kind words for Steve Hill, who is the head of GOED (Governor’s Office of Economic Development),” Schwartz said. “He is his own czar. I want to bring GOED back into the governor’s office through the lieutenant governor.”
Schwartz said he has surpassed the goals he set for himself as treasurer, although he has been urged to stay in his current position.
“I’ve had a number of people who want me to stay as treasurer and my response to them is, and I say this in all modesty, ‘I’ve done it all,’ ” he said. “We’ve doubled and tripled investments, we cut the unclaimed-property claim period from 120 to 20 days and we have restructured the college saving programs.
“I could sit with my feet on the desk or coffee cup in hand, but that to me is not a good return for Nevadans,” Schwartz said about remaining state treasurer. “I have had a number of people who called me and asked if I would run against (U.S. Sen.) Dean Heller and the answer is no.”