GARDNERVILLE — Republican star power rocked the seventh annual Basque Fry on Saturday at the Corley Ranch south of Gardnerville with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and first-term South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem offering strong pitches to elect Republicans to the major statewide offices in the Silver State.
Cruz grabbed the most attention as the day’s final speaker to the crowd estimated between 1,500 to 2,000. The second-term senator from Texas is supporting former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt in his candidacy for U.S. Senate and also ridiculed the Democrats with a number of quick-witted barbs. This marked the second time this year Cruz has stumped for Laxalt in Nevada. Cruz and Laxalt delivered speeches together in late April in Gardnerville, Fallon and Sparks.
“America is in crisis. We all know this,” said Cruz, who attended the first Basque Fry in 2015. “What’s happening in Washington … it’s never this bad. Every policy they (Democrats) put into place is an absolute disaster.”
Cruz said Nevada has one of the highest inflation rates in the United States, which has been verified by the federal government and other public and
privately-generated reports. He also railed about the worst illegal immigration in decades, the evacuation of troops and civilians from Afghanistan one year ago that also resulted in the death of 13 servicemen and women and the recent raid on former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida mansion Mar-a-Lago.
Cruz reiterated he was in Nevada to support Laxalt in what has become a battleground state.
“Nevada is the single best pickup opportunity for Republicans in the Senate in the entire country,” Cruz said. “Adam is a smart, principled Republican.”
Before Cruz spoke, Laxalt addressed the partisan crowd. The Navy veteran who served as a judge advocate general (military attorney and adviser) in Iraq said his opponent, Catherine Cortez Masto, is the most vulnerable senator in America who’s seeking re-election.
Laxalt succeeded Cortez Masto, who served for two terms as the state’s attorney general, in 2014.
“I had to clean up after her,” Laxalt proclaimed.
Laxalt, whose late grandfather Paul was both a governor and U.S. senator from the Silver State, said Nevadans must put everything they can into saving the state and country.
“This is our year,” Laxalt exhorted.
Laxalt took a few jabs at the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention for its 6-foot distancing requirements and COVID mandates for two years, saying Nevadans need to look into the future.
“This race is for the 51st state,” Laxalt said.
Currently, the Senate is evenly divided with 50 senators each from both major political parties. Vice President Kamala Harris, though, gives the edge to the Democrats.
Noem, who was introduced as a rancher, farmer, small business owner, best-selling author and first female governor of South Dakota, said it was a great day to spend her time with patriots. She said Laxalt invited her to the Basque Fry.
When Noem made her decisions on her state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, she explained how she formulated her response.
“I was raised by a cowboy. My dad was tough. He was exactly like John Wayne,” she explained. “He expected his children to be excellent.”
Tragedy struck, though, early in Noem’s life at the age of 22. Her father died.
“He was my best friend. I was devastated ,” she added.
Noem said her family tried to resume the ranch’s operations, but the family owed thousands of dollars to the IRS. From that problem with the federal government, Noem began to forge an interest in serving her state, fist serving in the legislature and then as a congresswoman for four terms. She then opted to run for governor.
“I won governor by 3 points against a Bernie Sanders guy,” said Noem, who’s running for re-election this year.
Noem took the opposite of Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, who initially closed the entire state down except for essential businesses. She said her administration did research and talked to experts on how other countries were handling this new virus. Noem said her goal was not to overstep, and as a result, she pointed out South Dakota was the only state that didn’t close a business during the pandemic. Additionally, Noem said her administration rejected federal government employment benefits because South Dakotans were working.
“In South Dakota, we have the best economy in the nation,” she said, adding income is growing faster than the other states.
Noem, and another speaker, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, touted their respective state’s economic successes while pointing out Nevada was near the bottom in economic recovery.
Susan Dutra of Gardnerville said she enjoyed hearing Noem’s story.
“People can relate to her because of her rural roots,” she said.
Janine Kolokithas of South Lake Tahoe agreed.
“We were happy to be in free America,” she said, referring to the difference of living in California compared to Nevada. “I love Kristi Noem. I think she has guts. We need more politicians who will fight for their people like she does.”
Before she left the stage, Noem said Nevadans must elect Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo as Nevada’s governor. Lombardo said Sisolak doesn’t seem to care about the state, especially with the residents’ safety and the governor’s wrong direction in supporting law enforcement.
“Law and order affects the economy, affects your kids’ education and the ability to have a nice quality life in the State of Nevada,” he said.
Additionally, Lombardo said the Nevada State Police has a 35% vacancy rate for new officers, and for the first time in 40 years, Nevada is No. 1 in fatal accidents.
Lombardo, who defeated runner-up Joey Gilbert by more than 25,000 votes, took a veiled swipe at the Reno attorney. On Wednesday Carson District Judge James Wilson dismissed Gilbert’s lawsuit challenging the results of the gubernatorial primary.
Gilbert, who refused to concede the race, had demanded a recount, saying he actually won the primary by some 55,000 votes.
Nevada county election officials in all 17 counties recounted the votes and confirmed Gilbert’s loss. Gilbert argued he won the gubernatorial race but lost due to election fraud. A spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office told the Nevada News Group that Gilbert is expected to appeal the dismissal to the Nevada Supreme Court.
“I came out of a very contested primary race,” Lombardo said, alluding to the elephant in the room. “We had a lot of qualified guys running for the Republican ticket for the seat of governor. We haven to come together since then.”
Lombardo said it’s vital for the Republicans’ success in the fall elections to do their part and come together to support the candidates.
Congressman Mark Amodei, Nevada’s lone Republican in the state’s congressional delegation, said the voters have spoken in the primary election. He also urged the crowd to support the Republican candidates running for the House of Representatives in southern Nevada.
He said Clark County must do a better job in turning out the votes for Republican candidates. He then pointed out 2020’s results.
“Donald Trump left rural Nevada with a 75,000 vote lead,” Amodei said.
The Carson City native said 15 of the state’s 17 counties voted for Trump, while Washoe County was 50/50.
Amodei amused the crowd when he questioned the philosophical changes in the Democratic party and independent voters. He said today’s independent voters in Nevada probably would’ve included former Democratic governors Mike O’Callaghan and Richard Bryan among their ranks.
Amodei also noted he served with Noem in the House of Representatives before she ran for governor.
Those who attended the Basque Fry said they felt energized.
Ari Kolokithas of South Lake Tahoe said he enjoyed hearing the speakers, those who already hold an office and those who are running for election. This was Pam Darr’s first Basque Fry. The Sparks resident said she enjoyed the great food, companionship and the entertainment.
“I liked Gov. Noem,” she said. “What a little spitfire. She had a lot of energy.”
Frank Dutra of Gardnerville said this is the second year he and his wife have attended. He said Ted Cruz was very motivational as were other speakers.
“It’s good to see some leaders, some potential leaders, who can turn this country around,” he said.