Nevada Democratic Party staff quit after Sanders backers take over

Top staffers at the Nevada Democratic Party resigned en masse on Saturday, hours after supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) won election to control most positions on the committee’s board.

Clark County Democratic Party Chair Judith Whitmer won election to head the state party in an upset victory over Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom. Whitmer’s slate won two vice chair positions and a party secretary position as well.

Whitmer had support from the Nevada chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. She had led the Nevada delegation to the 2020 Democratic convention as a Sanders supporter. 

Segerblom, a former state senator who chaired the state Democratic Party in the 1990s and backed Sanders in both 2016 and 2020, had been urged to run by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D), according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Cortez Masto faces reelection next year in a state where Republicans have been competitive in recent cycles. 

On Saturday, after Whitmer’s election, Executive Director Alana Mounce told the new chair the staff were quitting. The New York Times reported the state party had moved $450,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which will spend the money on Cortez Masto’s reelection campaign, two Democratic sources confirmed to The Hill. 

Whitmer did not immediately respond to a phone call and a text message. Mounce, who will become political director at the Democratic National Committee, could not immediately be reached. 

A former Nevada Democratic Party staffer told The Hill that Whitmer had intended to build her own staff if she won election.

“She said many times while running her campaign that it was her intention to clean house, to remove all the staff,” the staffer said, seeking anonymity after several former aides were attacked by Sanders supporters on social media.

The staff page of the state party’s website is now blank. 

The Nevada Democratic Party had been among the strongest party organizations in the country, built up for years by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) into what was informally dubbed, fairly or not, the Reid Machine.

Party upheaval in Nevada is nothing new, even if it more regularly happens on the Republican side. Allies of former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) took over the Nevada Republican Party a decade ago, after Paul’s second bid for the presidency. 

“The fringes often take over the party, as the Paul folks did almost 10 years ago with the GOP and the Pat Roberston backers did more than 30 years ago,” said Jon Ralston, publisher of The Nevada Independent. “This is all cyclical. The only question is whether the party becomes an effective mechanism for fundraising and voter registration or if the Reid Machine essentially forms its own party.” 

The state Democratic Party said it had $521,000 in the bank at the end of February, leaving Whitmer and her team with less than $100,000 on hand as they kick off.

“They’re not starting with zero. There’s funds in there to continue paying rent, to keep the party going,” the former staffer said.

It is not clear how much the spat will impact Democratic chances in the midterm elections. Democrats hold both of Nevada’s Senate seats, five of six statewide elected offices and three of its four congressional seats, as well as majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. President Biden won the state by about 33,000 votes, or 2.4 percentage points, over former President Trump in 2020.

–Updated at 3:39 p.m.

Tags Bernie Sanders Catherine Cortez Masto Donald Trump Harry Reid Joe Biden

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