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Stories from the KUNR newsroom and regional partners related to the 2024 elections

Majority of District 4 Republican candidates question election integrity

An image of the sign outside the Washoe County Health District Building
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
One of five Republican primary candidates for the Washoe County Board of County Commissioners is likely to win in November, putting them in charge of certifying future elections.

Of all the local races on the 2024 Washoe County primary ballot, one Republican contest is perhaps the most consequential for elections in the future.

There are five candidates running to be the GOP frontrunner for District 4 in the board of county commissioners: incumbent Clara Andriola, retired county employee Tracey Hilton-Thomas, former Sparks fire chief Mark Lawson, business owner Trista Gomez, and Sparks resident John Walter II.

Whoever wins on Tuesday will likely go on to join the board – no Democrats bothered to file in this heavily Republican district, and there will only be two nonpartisan candidates on the general election ballot. Once they’re in, the successful candidate will be responsible for certifying the vote in 2026 and 2028.

But of the five Republicans in the running, only one unequivocally acknowledges the legitimacy of the last presidential election. The rest took positions ranging from waffling to outright denial of President Joe Biden’s win in 2020 – an election for which there is no evidence of widespread fraud.

And whoever wins in November, will join two election-denying commissioners with support from local GOP mega donor and conspiracy theorist Robert Beadles – potentially forming an anti-democratic majority on the county’s governing board.

Andriola, who was appointed by Governor Joe Lombardo after the last commission chair stepped down, boasts a strong fundraising lead and endorsements from prominent Republicans. Her most recent campaign finance report showed a balance of $91,334.76 – more than 20 times her best-funded opponent, Mark Lawson.

In her time on the board, Andriola has been attacked by far-right Republicans for her record, which includes certification of local election returns and a willingness to vote with Democrats on some issues.

Beadles has made her a frequent target in blog posts and campaign mailers, baselessly accusing her of secretly being a Democrat. And the Washoe County GOP, where Beadles serves a leadership role, cast her out of the party earlier this year.

But Andriola rejects those attacks, calling herself a Republican through-and-through.

“Ask the people who know me whether I support a strong business community, low taxes,and minimum regulation,” she wrote in an email. “The rank-and-file, voting Republicans know that I am one of them.”

When asked about the legitimacy of Biden’s 2020 election victory – when he won Nevada by more than 33,000 votes – Andriola defended Washoe County elections staff, but refused to acknowledge national returns and accused reporters of being “obsessed” with the most recent presidential race.

“There are thousands of election jurisdictions in the United States, and I can only tell you what I know about our own County [sic],” she wrote. “The people who are serious about addressing our problems and making a good life for the residents of Nevada are not focused on 2020. We are focused on 2024 and beyond.”

The U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency called the 2020 election “the most secure in American history,” and judges in Nevada and beyond rejected numerous Republican lawsuits seeking to undermine the results.

Meanwhile, both Lawson and Hilton-Thomas have cast doubt on the outcome.

“I don’t have that knowledge,” Lawson said. “There’s a whole lot of people, including myself, that have real questions about that process.”

Hilton-Thomas evaded KUNR’s question about 2020, but recently told CBS she did not believe the results.

“I do believe that there is interference in our elections,” she said.

Those positions have earned both Lawson and Hilton-Thomas the support of Beadles, who seeks a majority on the board to carry out his agenda. He didn’t respond to requests for comment, but Beadles has pushed an elaborate – and illegitimate – plan to overhaul Washoe County elections administration since February 2022.

“Have National Guard at each polling location to ensure rules are followed,” he told his online audience that year. “No more mail-out ballots or machines. All done by hand, by county citizens. We have one day of voting. Not early, not late voting; one day, make it a holiday.”

County officials have no authority to command National Guard troops, who are under the governor’s office.

Meanwhile, Gomez said she was inspired to run after she was hit with fines on her family’s short term rental property. She wants to reduce local regulations and taxes. When it comes to election integrity, she expressed doubt about the 2020 results and asserted public officials should do all they can to mollify supporters of the so-called Big Lie pushed by former president Donald Trump.

“None of us can go back to that time and decide that that was wrong or right, it happened,” she said.

Of all the candidates, Walter had the clearest response. When asked if he believed the 2020 election outcome was legitimate, he responded with just one word:


Bert is KUNR’s senior correspondent. He covers stories that resonate across Nevada and the region, with a focus on environment, political extremism and Indigenous communities.
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