Logo_NVDems-refreshgold 22-02

MEMO: Ryan Bundy is a Huge Problem for Adam Laxalt


To: Interested Parties

From: Alana Mounce, Executive Director, NV Dems

Date: Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Subject: Ryan Bundy is a Huge Problem for Adam Laxalt

The 2018 candidate field is set. The withdrawal deadline was yesterday, and notorious Bunkerville rancher Ryan Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy, is still in the race for governor as a nonpartisan. Bundy’s status as a household name among Nevadans cements him as a formidable challenger to Laxalt from the far right, promising to “stand up for statehood” and even possibly taking his famous father on tour with him for rallies across the state. With Bundy campaigning on a states’ rights platform and vowing to kick the federal government out of Nevada, he is sure to cause Adam Laxalt to tack even further to the extreme right in a desperate attempt to beat Dan Schwartz in the primary and salvage votes from his rural base.

Bundy claims no other candidate will fight for Nevada’s right to land.

  • Bundy told the AP that he doesn’t believe any of the other candidates in the governor’s race would “properly protect states’ rights.”
  • Laxalt lists land use as a key issue on his campaign website and pledges to “work with the federal government to ease restrictions” and “push for the transfer of ownership” of land from the federal government to the state.
  • This does not go far enough for Bundy, who says rather than push for land transfer, he would simply “enforce” Nevada’s “constitutional right” to control land currently owned by the federal government.


Bundy is already forcing Laxalt to the right on land control issues.

  • In early February, Laxalt dodged a voter’s question on federal lands, saying it’s a broad issue and he “probably [doesn’t] want to fish around on that.”
  • In late March, Laxalt made “bizarre comments” at a campaign stop in rural Fernley, including calling the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) “‘an enemy in our state’” and claiming he’s pushed the current administration for more land transfers.
  • “How will you pay for all that land management, governor-in-hoping?” Jon Ralston of The Nevada Independent asks. “Maybe you are simply trying to induce independent candidate Ryan Bundy, who is going to cut into your rural base, out of the race?”
  • The Nevada Independent notes that Bundy’s bid could push Laxalt to pick a side on whether Nevada should sue the federal government to hand over control of lands.
  • Right-wing lawyer Larry Klayman, a Bundy ally, said he’s filed a lawsuit in state court based on the premise that the federal government’s ownership of lands around the Bundy ranch is unlawful, which could give Laxalt a second chance to “gallop to Bundy’s rescue.”


Laxalt has flip-flopped on his support of the Bundys, who’ve taken notice.

  • Laxalt, during his campaign for attorney general in April 2014, said, “The men and women involved [in Bunkerville] are ranchers, friends and fellow church-going residents of our state.”
  • Six months later, in October, Laxalt said, “I have never even mentioned once that I support Cliven Bundy.  I’ve certainly never said that he’s my friend.”
  • During a candidates’ debate in 2014, Ross Miller had this to say on Laxalt’s reversal: “Mr. Laxalt defended [Cliven Bundy] and refuses to acknowledge the basic rule of law. And so, this seems to be an issue of convenience for him. When it suits his purposes he says that I’m not going to inject myself into the policy, but when it comes to other issues he certainly would.”
  • Klayman is using his lawsuit as a way to push Laxalt to take the Bundys’ side. “I think that could be a great issue for Adam Laxalt in his run for governor.”


Bundy is predicted to funnel votes away from Laxalt.

  • The Reno Gazette-Journal notes Bundy’s entrance into the race is an “unwelcome development for Republicans” since he’s likely to “siphon off votes” that would otherwise go to the Republican nominee.
  • KUNR’s political reporter observes that Bundy could “cause some serious problems” for the eventual Republican candidate. “Bundy could get a lot of votes, especially from folks in rural parts of the state. Those are areas where Republicans need a strong turnout to fend off the more Democratic-leaning Clark County.”
  • The former executive director of the Nevada GOP called Bundy a “potential threat” to Laxalt, predicting that Bundy “could potentially siphon off enough conservative votes in November to swing the seat into the D’s corner in a close race.”


Conservative third party candidates have pulled a significant percentage of votes in recent elections.

  • Russell Best, who’s running for Nevada governor with the far-right Independent American Party, has won between two and four percent of votes in his last three elections.
  • In other recent contests for statewide office in Nevada, the far-right third party candidate has captured nearly four percent of votes on the low end and up to nearly eight percent on the high end.


The bottom line: Laxalt is set to lose key Nevada voters to Bundy while following him off the right-wing deep end.

Republican attorney general Adam Laxalt has built a reputation on crusading against “federal overreach,” even establishing a Federalism Unit in his office to combat what he sees as “unlawful” infringement on the state’s role. Now that states’ rights hero Ryan Bundy is in the race, Laxalt will be forced to take an even more radical position on issues like land ownership, potentially setting up the awkward scenario of having to choose between battling the Trump Administration, which he ardently supports, and surrendering precious rural votes to the loose-cannon Bundy. If he survives his primary against Dan Schwartz, the ever-evasive Laxalt will have to twist himself into a pretzel to keep from losing the key rural votes he needs to win the election.