Democrat Sisolak concedes Nevada governor’s race to Republican Lombardo

Photo for The Washington Post by David Becker.
Nevada republican gubernatorial candidate Joe Lombardo speaks during the GOP election watch party at the Red Rock Casino Resort and Spa on November 8, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak said Friday night he had conceded to Republican Joe Lombardo in the tight Nevada gubernatorial race.

The Washington Post has yet to call a winner in the race. But in a statement Friday night, Sisolak said it “appears we will fall a percentage point or so short of winning” and that he believes in “our election system, in democracy and honoring the will of Nevada voters.” He noted the struggles of the past four years – including the pandemic and inflation – and said he had reached out to Lombardo to wish him success.

During the campaign, Lombardo, the sheriff of Clark County – which includes Las Vegas – criticized Sisolak’s handling of crime and the coronavirus pandemic and tapped into voters’ economic struggles in a state where inflation has remained especially high. He said he would be a “pro life governor” but sought to downplay the issue and said he would follow “the vote of the people,” as Sisolak accused him of changing positions out of political convenience.

A Lombardo’s victory would mark the GOP’s first gubernatorial pick-up in a year where many Democratic incumbents defied GOP hopes of a red wave, prevailing in tight races in Wisconsin, Michigan, Kansas and Oregon, where an independent candidate split the Democratic vote.

In contrast to others at the top of the GOP ticket in Nevada, Lombardo has rejected former president Donald Trump’s baseless claim the 2020 election was stolen and said at a debate that the falsehood bothered him. After prevailing over more than a dozen other candidates in a crowded GOP primary with Trump’s endorsement, he sometimes distanced himself from Trump but continued to campaign with the former president.

Lombardo also called to diversify Nevada’s tourism-dependent economy and criticized Nevada’s public education system.

Lombardo got extensive financial backing from Nevada businessman Robert Bigelow, the owner of the Budget Suites of America hotel chain, who put more than $13 million into political action committees promoting Lombardo. That helped Lombardo compete with Sisolak’s fundraising advantage.

While Democrats have seen success in Nevada in recent years, statewide races are routinely decided by a couple points or less, and both parties expected this year’s contests to be close. Nevada had a Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, from 2011 to 2019.