the most consequential Nevada Republican Party chairman since John
Mason rode herd over the party faithful in the mid-1990s. I should
know; I was Chairman Mason’s first executive director in 1995.
This is no mean feat. Under Mason’s leadership Republicans in Nevada
became the majority party for the first time since Reconstruction,
hosted the most financially successful Western States Republican
Leadership Conference (WSRLC) in the regional event’s history, oversaw
the election of a Republican governor in 1998 and a Republican U.S.
senator in 2000.
Big shoes to fill. But here are three big developments under
McDonald’s watch that come close to rivaling Mason’s accomplishments.
1.) Republican National Convention
The idea of Las Vegas hosting the GOP’s national convention grew out
of the success of the 1995 WSRLC at the MGM Grand. It was a great idea
that just never caught fire.
Indeed, it was a great idea that laid dormant until the April 2013
Republican National Committee (RNC) meeting in Beverly Hills,
California where McDonald resurrected and began promoting it, not just
within the RNC, but among Nevadans as well.
By August, McDonald’s spark of an idea began spreading like a
brushfire. Since the Nevada GOP, by law, is unable to serve as the
organizing committee, a separate non-profit group, Las Vegas 2016, was
established and has since done a fantastic job in positioning Vegas as
a finalist for hosting this extremely prestigious event.
The final decision will be made by the RNC this summer. If Vegas wins,
baby, thank Chairman McDonald. But even if we miss out on 2016, it’s
now more likely than unlikely that a future national convention will
come to Sin City.
2.) Primary endorsements
I, along with many others, have long advocated pre-primary
endorsements. But even under Chairman Mason we were never able to
persuade enough other members of the Central Committee to abandon its
position of neutrality in primaries and take a more active leadership
But at the 2014 Nevada Republican Party convention under McDonald’s
leadership and direction, elected delegates ratified for the first
time a pre-primary endorsement policy and issued its first seals of
approval. And because of it, the GOP’s official top-of-the-ticket this
election cycle consists of a Hispanic, Gov. Brian Sandoval, and a
woman, former state Sen. Sue Lowden.
For a party that has faced challenges with both of those demographics,
this is a hugely symbolic accomplishment. It also brings some
philosophical balance, with conservative Lowden pushing the ticket
rightward from Sandoval’s middle-of-the-road record.
3.) Party Platform
For many, many years now, many Republicans have complained that an
over-emphasis on certain hot-button social issues — particularly
abortion and gay marriage — have hurt the party with independent
voters in general elections.
Whether that’s true or not will continue to be hotly debated for years
to come, I’m sure. But rightly or wrongly, for better or worse, the
Nevada Republican Party at its convention this year became, I believe,
the first state party in the nation to adopt a platform that is silent
on both the abortion and gay marriage issues.
Now, contrary to some of the hysterics I’ve read from some social
conservatives who are extremely unhappy with this decision, it doesn’t
mean the Nevada Republican Party is now pro-abortion and
anti-marriage. What it means is that convention delegates recognized
that there are a lot of good Republicans who take opposing views on
these two issues for a variety of reasons and, therefore, the party is
taking a neutral position on them and letting the candidates and
voters address them as they see fit.
And while this decision could certainly backfire and both issues could
be added back into the platform in 2016, my guess is they won’t — and
that a growing number of other state GOP parties will follow Nevada’s
lead in the future.
Maybe even in the national platform adopted at the 2016 Republican
National Convention in Las Vegas where the Nevada GOP’s endorsed
candidate for president will be crowned!
Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a non-profit public
policy grassroots advocacy organization. He may be reached at