Conservatives from across the state and country descended on Northern Nevada this weekend to participate in attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt’s 4th annual Basque Fry. The event has become a proverbial who’s who for Nevada Republicans, serving as a way to both rally the base and raise some much-needed cash ahead of the election.
The country music was blaring as several hundred conservative voters made their way across the verdant fields of the Corley Ranch south of Gardnerville on Saturday to take part in what has become an annual tradition, Adam Laxalt’s Basque Fry.
And while the lamb fries, and other traditional Basque favorites, were almost certainly a draw, this year’s biggest attraction seemed to be the list of Republican speakers. They included incumbent Senator Dean Heller, White House Strategist Kellyanne Conway and National Rifle Association Spokesperson Dana Loesch.
Nevadans must vote for conservative candidates this November or risk becoming like the dreaded C-word – California.
"It is a huge problem and, dare I say, a scourge," said NRA Spokesman Dana Loesch who made parallels to Nevada and her home state of Texas – which has seen an influx of more progressive voters in recent years. "You know what I'm talking about. You have all of these progressives not from your state moving into your state and they're bringing their socialist values with them."
"I love good conservative California people," Loesch said. "It's the ones who think that we can't have guns, we have to have high taxes and the government has to tell us what to do every second of our lives. Those are the individuals that I have a problem [with]. I kind of want to stand at the border of Texas and ask the president to build us another wall to keep the progressives out. Maybe you need that here in Nevada, too."
Others though, directed their attacks at more Nevada-specific targets, like Democratic Candidate for Governor Steve Sisolak. White House Strategist Kellyanne Conway, speaking as a private citizen, told fry-goers that candidates like Sisolak don’t understand the values of Northern Nevada voters.
"I've been reading up a lot about the Democratic nominee for governor," Conway told the crowd. "The way he's attacking people of faith and people working in crisis pregnancy centers and people who call themselves pro-life. A judge said he was illegally and corruptly trying to do something. He might as well just call the voters of Nevada, especially those of you who live north of Clark County -- you might want to give him a visa and a map to come this way and see that there's a whole big state out there besides one county -- he might as well just call you irredeemable and deplorable."
For incumbent Senator Dean Heller, who is facing a tough re-election bid himself, the media is to blame for not giving conservatives a fair shake.
"The Democrats in the media will tell you that there will be a blue wave and I guarantee you that the Reno Gazette-Journal will be telling you every day that we can't win, it will be a blue wave and they will write articles, puff pieces, for all Democrats and they will do negative articles on every Republican," said Heller.
Outside the Basque Fry, about a mile down the road to be exact, protestors lined the street leading into the cookout. Many voiced concerns that the agenda espoused by the Republican leaders like Laxalt and Heller would lead the state down the wrong path. For voters like Leslie Hokanson, their association with President Donald Trump makes them unelectable.
"He represents the values of Trump, which are not my values and I don't think they should be anybody's values," Hokanson said.
But back at the Basque Fry, Republican officials decried the idea of a blue wave.
"They always tell us that we're against the odds and that we'll never be able to beat the blue wave," said Nevada's Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald. He says, if anything, there's going to be big GOP turnout. "Ladies and gentlemen, we'll surf the blue wave, and when it comes crashing on the shores of this great state it's going to blood red. Make no mistake about that."
Whatever the outcome, both major parties have less than 72 days to convince voters their side has the wherewithal to lead the state for the next four years.