Gov. Brian Sandoval said Monday the Republican Party Central Committee decision to re-elect Michael McDonald state chairman Saturday “is what it is.”
Sandoval and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., both endorsed replacing McDonald with veteran GOP operative Robert Uithoven.
The 193-112 vote gives McDonald a second two-year term and was seen by many as a slap in the face to the state’s two top elected Republicans.
“I’m not going to say anything bad about the Republican Party,” Sandoval said. He said he was concentrating on his own race for re-election next year, and that he had not yet contacted McDonald to congratulate him.
Uithoven announced his challenge just a couple of weeks ago, saying he was worried the Nevada GOP is falling further behind in both voter registration and fundraising. Democrats hold a 96,705 advantage in total registered voters. He said he could turn that situation around as well as greatly improve fundraising efforts.
The Nevada Republican Party has been in disarray for a number of years amid escalating battles between tea party members and the more moderate members, who argue shifting too far to the right will make the party unable to win statewide elections.
State Sen. Bill Raggio of Reno once told the press that unless the GOP moves back toward the middle, “we’ll turn ourselves into a minor party.”
The battle peaked at the 2008 state convention in Reno, when then-state chairman Sue Lowden shut the event down to prevent Ron Paul supporters from taking the majority of national delegates. The tea party organizers followed that with a grassroots effort that took control of a majority of county parties and used that leverage to claim 22 of the 25 delegates to the 2012 national convention, where Mitt Romney was nominated.
Uithoven most recently represented Las Vegas gaming mogul Sheldon Addleson. Before that he managed Lowden’s unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate. She was beaten in the primary by tea party favorite Sharron Angle.
McDonald said he has been travelling the state trying to bring the party back together, and that he will continue to do so with the goal of winning in 2014.