Free to Offend Episode 65 | Guest: John Tsarpalas, Nevada Policy President
The elections are finally over!
So … what happens now? Nevada Policy President John Tsarpalas shares his take on the 2022 election outcome and gives his prediction of what comes next as a Democrat-controlled legislature and Republican governor prepare to face off on numerous policy battles in the coming year.
Read the Transcript
John Tsarpalas: It’s interesting how red controlled states don’t pass school choice. They don’t do much. They don’t feel as motivated.
Michael Schaus: This is Free to Offend. I’m your host, Michael Schaus. Yes, the elections are finally over, which is great news. That means we can go back to our regularly scheduled program of geckos and ducks trying to sell us insurance as opposed to the attack ads that we’ve seen for the last several weeks.
But it also means that there’s going be some real world consequences because of the election outcomes. So, to help talk a little bit about where we go from here, very happy to welcome John Tsarpalas. He the president of Nevada Policy Research Institute. So, John, thank you so much for joining us.
From a policy perspective, what is your immediate reaction to the election outcome? What’s your immediate post-mortem?
John Tsarpalas: The election laws in this state are a mess, that’s what the policy is on election. So, let’s start with anyone who stayed up on election night to see who won just lost a lot of sleep and heard very little. So, we’ve got some real problems with our election laws, which we’ll get into because it leaves people with an uneasy feeling.
However, I’m all about organization. My political background, I used to run campaigns back in Illinois. The way I won elections in Illinois was by knocking on doors, IDing voters that would vote for you, and getting them to the polls. Get out the vote.
What’s changed? It’s no longer get out the vote; it’s grab the balance. There’s a very big difference now in Nevada because it really is about the ballot harvesting, mail-in ballots. The change and the ease and the openness of the system to bring ballots in has changed everything. And I think that’s essentially what surprised people this cycle. Now, we had it last cycle, but we also had a pandemic, and we didn’t know what was going on.
So, there’s a lot of faction factors happening in this election. Number one is overall turnout was 54%. Last gubernatorial cycle overall turnout was 63%. People didn’t show up. There was less turnout. I was told there’s over a hundred thousand registered Republicans in Clark County that didn’t vote.
So, if you want to put blame somewhere, a lot of these races came down to a couple hundred votes. So that’s the number one weakness, the lack of turnout by Republicans. It’s one of the main reasons that they didn’t win, although there was an expected red wave.
So, what’s the problem with get out the vote?
For instance, one of the problems is people think, “Oh, he’s going to win anyway.” All this talk of a red wave. The other thought is there was talk out there amongst conservatives that there’s fraud, that mail-in balloting, maybe your ballot won’t get counted. It won’t get there if you mailed it. So, I’ll just wait until election day to vote.
And that’s perhaps what happened in Elko. So, for an Elko County, turnout was 53%. Four years ago, turnout was in the 70% in Elko. Elko is a Republican stronghold. But there was snow that day on election day. So, if they had gone and used the early voting or mailed a ballot in, the turnout would’ve been much higher. And therefore, the chances for the Republicans to win would’ve been better.
Because all the rurals were down, not just Clark County. The whole state was down. We don’t know why. I think the election fraud stuff’s kept some people. The dislike of Trump kept some people away. The dislike of the Mitch McConnells kept some people away. “I’m not voting for the institutions.”
There’s lots of reasons people have excuses not to vote. But that’s the bottom line. There was a terrible turnout.
Michael Schaus: There’s also kind of an organizational issue when you talk about the Republican party, where, you know, and it’s not just this state, it’s all over the place. They are horrible at adapting to new systems.
We saw this in Alaska when you had Sarah Palin in that special election. Yes, ranked choice voting, I understand a lot of people don’t like it. It was the law in Alaska, and rather than trying to figure out how to win in that system, she and a lot of the GOP folks out there were telling people, “Oh, just don’t rank candidates. Just put one person.” And at the end of the day, the Democrat ended up winning that seat of course.
Here in Nevada, I ‘ve talked to a lot of folks who were on the ground during the election, and they were saying some of the Democrat campaigns two weeks out, they were already trying to identify ballots and voters that needed to cure their ballots. They needed fix the signature issues. With a lot of the Republicans, they didn’t start doing that until a couple days after the election.
There was just this real chasm between how the two sides were operating and navigating these new rules in the state. I mean it seems like that might be a big takeaway that the Republicans need to take away from it as well.
John Tsarpalas: Absolutely. I always believed organization trumps ideas, unfortunately. And we do have a weak Republican party here in Nevada and a weak county party in Clark County. There was not a lot of voter id, door to door knocking, and then get out the vote. And yet Culinarys said they knocked over a million doors and had 70,000 interactions with voters, which probably means they collected their ballots at an early point.
And you’re right about the curing. The Democrats along with the union have a very effective machine that gets the job done and the Republicans do not. Republicans are going to have to realize that mail in voting is probably here to stay. It’s going to be difficult for them to change it.
Right now, we’ll get into this a little later, but the legislature we had a Democrat governor. It’s Democrat Assembly and Democrat Senate. But neither the two bodies of the legislature had super majorities. Now, the assembly has a super majority with a one more than a super majority. And the Senate is not a super majority. It’s one vote short. But they no longer have the governorship.
So how are you going to change the law? Because these laws were passed in 2021. Mailing everybody a ballot is the law and open ballot harvesting with no restrictions on how many ballots any person can gather and no restrictions on who can gather it. There’s no registration to be a ballot harvester or anything like that.
So, the Republicans are going to figure this and get it done. The problem they have is money and manpower, because the unions have built in money and manpower. In the case of the culinary union, their membership is paying them part of their dues. And in terms of government unions, the taxpayers are paying for it. The Republicans have got a real disadvantage, but they’re going to have to figure out how to overcome that.
So that’s part of it. And you’re absolutely right, they’ve got to adapt. They’ve got to get over this, “You can’t mail it. It isn’t going to get there.” and waiting for election day. Yeah, that’s far nostalgic. But if you’re older or the weather’s going to bother you or maybe something’s going to come up, your vote does count. And as I said, there were races where people lost by three, four hundred votes and it could have made a big difference.
Something else that changed too at the beginning of the year, between this election and the last, it was gerrymandering. The Democrats redrew the legislative map, and guess what? The election turned out just about what they gerrymandered. It’s very difficult to overcome a five-point bias against the party.
Republicans were down 3 to 12% in the majority of the districts. So, trying to win and overcome that is a huge hurdle. And in 99% of these cases, they weren’t incumbents, so they don’t even have that edge. So, to get over that, it’s not a surprise that they gerrymandered it and it worked, and the election results are pretty much what was gerrymandered. No big surprise there. So again, you want to know why people lost? That’s another big reason for it right there.
People do bring up, then how did Lombardo win? Lombardo is an odd case in that Sisolak had his negatives. Number one, he’s the governor that shut down the economy, that was presiding over the unemployment system that failed. People didn’t get paid. There was a lot of animosity towards Sisolak. People were just mad at him. They wouldn’t vote for it. That’s part of it.
But also, Sisolak is the only Democrat that didn’t get endorsed by the culinary union. So, if they’re out there ballot harvesting, if the ballot says Sisolak on it, maybe they didn’t pick it up. I don’t know. We don’t know the nuances of any of that. We don’t know what happened in their internal squabbles.
If you’re a Democrat and you’re running for office, I would think twice before you cross the union. Because you want their endorsement so that they’ll turn out the vote for you to get reelected.
Michael Schaus: And this is actually pretty good segue into talking about some of the policy that we need to look for in the next year.
Part of the problem when it comes to politics is that, yeah, Democrats are very much bought by the political support of a lot of these unions, particularly the public sector unions. And I’m thinking specifically about teachers’ unions. I look at things like educational choice. Very happy to hear Lombardo talk about how this is going be a priority for him. But look at the political reality and the legislature. Now, one has to wonder, is there a path forward for something like educational choice?
And I think that’s where people really need to start focusing is, look, the election’s over. Voting is only one small part of what you really have to do. This is where groups like Nevada Policy come into their own, because the next step is you’ve got to be engaged and active when you start talking about things like what’s going on in the legislature and offset some of that political preference that groups like teachers’ unions might have among our current legislative majority.
John Tsarpalas: Absolutely. There’s room now for negotiations and deals. Politics is often about coalitions, and so having a governor that does have a veto over the Senate. They in mass and Democrats usually stick together because they don’t want the union not to support them in the next election, so they vote in mass.
So, they will be veto proof in the assembly, but the Senate, everything’s going need one vote by a Republican to be veto proof. And if the Republicans hang together with the governor, they can hold out for some big things. I do believe school choice is a possibility. Governor Lombardo in his acceptance speech this week stressed school choice. I think that’s huge. And that’s something that could be bargained for over something big on either side.
They’re all going to want something. And if the Republicans can stick together with him, they’ll have some power. If they don’t, if they don’t unify, then you know, Democrats will walk all over them.
But not only education is coming up. And then there’s different levels. Can we loosen the rules for starting charter schools? Can we bring back the Opportunity Scholarship Program or refund it? It didn’t get fully closed, but bring it back up to higher levels? Levels we used to have for lower income kids to go to private schools through a scholarship system, which the state had. Things like that.
How about restore Read By Three or dealing with some of the security issues in schools? We have schools where teachers are afraid to teach. Can we get some kind of system of guards policing the schools protecting other students and the teachers in the schools? All these things are something the governor can talk about, has a bully pulpit for, can go out in front of a school and say, there was X amount attacks at this school, whatever, and this is wrong, and the legislature needs to do something about it and champion something and intimidate the Democrats in voting for things. So, schools are just one area we could have hope for.
And Nevada Policy will be there. We have our full-time lobbyist. We have a very active legislative affairs department. We are members of many coalitions and host many coalitions meetings. We have our Center Right regular coalition meeting. We recently started help pull together an education coalition group of different school choice groups that are out there. And they come at it from different angles. Somewhat more homeschooling, somewhat more charters, some are for private schools. But if we could put it all together and stick together, we’ll have some power, some clout as they say in Illinois, to get some of these things moved through.
Michael Schaus: And there’s some other areas too where, I’ve always talked about it and we always talk about it on this program, the importance of building coalitions and ideologically diverse coalitions.
I look at some of the areas where we might have success with that. We have the Transparency Coalition that is very strong throughout this state and does a very good job. But we also have got a potential opportunity for things like criminal justice, the common-sense criminal justice, not some of the stuff you’ve seen in San Francisco or something.
Of course, that is hampered by the fact that I know we’ve got some DA’s still working in the legislature who don’t really want that stuff to move forward. But nonetheless, I do see despite…
John Tsarpalas: Let me stop you. Melanie Scheible and Nicole Cannizzaro quit their DA jobs. It’s private practice. They’re still DAs in the back of their mind. I understand that. So yes. Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for bringing up our separation of powers lawsuit.
Michael Schaus: Yeah. But I will tell you, that one of the benefits there is over the last few years as Scheible and Cannizzaro have had control over everything and have really put the kibosh on reasonable criminal justice reform, that’s infuriated a lot of progressive groups.
I’m thinking of the ACLU and even Battleborn Progress and stuff. These groups are really frustrated. And I know that in the past, they’ve worked with groups like Nevada Policy to say, “Okay, let’s try to push.”
So, you’ve got opportunities for real reform, regardless of what the political landscape looks like. And my message to folks is, this is when things get real. Politics is about popularity. It’s about winning with some sound bites, running some good attack ads or something. And what we’re about to enter is the world of, “oh, here’s the nitty gritty, here’s the actual budgets. Here are the things that actually matter to people’s everyday lives.” is that kind of how you see the era that is coming?
John Tsarpalas: First of all, politics is like high school. It’s about popularity and Nevada Policy’s about real life. It’s about the actual things that get passed, the legislation that affects people’s lives.
And yes, I do see this as really a big opportunity. Having the governorship in a different party’s control really opens up the possibility for coalitions to come together, for odd bedfellows to come together and maybe deals. Or come together on things that we can agree on.
All sides are going to want to do something. No politician wants to not be heard. They need something to go back to their home district with to say, ” I did this”” or we came close on that.” Not just, “Nothing happened because it was deadlocked.” I don’t think that will happen this cycle. I really don’t. And I’m excited about it, because that’s what we’re here for, to try and advance and move the ball forward on things we stand for.
What about fixing unemployment? Nothing happened on fixing that system. There’s a great one for Lombardo that probably doesn’t even need legislation. He just has to get in there with the right people to straighten out the system and manage it within the rules.
But then if they want to change some of the rules, Nevada Policy’s got our agency program on how to put incentives into that agency so that they can recoup some of the money that was paid out fraudulently. But also, how can they make the systems work better, and especially if another massive shutdown. I don’t think we’ll have that for a while just because the politicians learned their lesson. That’s what caused Sisolak to lose. I would not want to touch that with a ten-foot pole if I were a governor in the future.
Michael Schaus: When you talk about DETER and the education of the employment office, there were multiple former employees and even directors who said, “Look, that it was so bad during Sisolak’s time, I had to leave. I quit.” And that definitely hurts him. But also, what that tells me is there’s administrative opportunity there for some sort of reasonable change that doesn’t require Cannizzaro or Scheible to sign onto it.
John Tsarpalas: No, I think our government bodies and agencies are poorly managed. I remember when they were trying to unionize the state workers. This was 2019, and most of the comments from the employees who wanted to be unionized was, “The union will help me with my issues with my manager.” You’ve got to put another middleman in the way to straighten this out because it’s so bad?
So perhaps they can figure out how to get decent management happening within government with the right administrators. And so that can be done by a governor and that could free up some of the things. As well as what else can they do by executive order?
What about the 200 plus boards and agencies that the governor appoints to? How much control do they have over rules and regulations? Like the board that regulates contractors or the board that regulates real estate licenses. Could license fees be lower? What can be done there through those boards and through the executive branch? Lots and lots of possibilities and these are the things that a Nevada Policy goes after, works at, and makes happen.
Michael Schaus: Especially in Nevada, we have a pretty strong governor, executive branch. Because we only meet every other year, the legislature only meets every other year, there’s a lot that a governor can do that in some other states they might not really have the ability to do. It also seems like there’s an opportunity now since we’re done, at least currently, with election politics, there’s an opportunity to really focus on some of those specific policies as we get ready to have the legislative fight.
One of the things that I’m interested in is at the end of every legislative year, there’s a big mad dash and all the rules are suspended, and it always just gets absolutely crazy. A thought that I had recently was, I think divided government might really actually help there. I look at states like Utah, for example, that’s reliably red, very red. And yet they don’t have things like school choice. At least not in any meaningful way, and it’s because Republicans run everything out there, they don’t feel like they really have to work for a lot of it.
I feel like we saw that in 2015 when Republicans had a trifecta and suddenly passed the state’s largest tax increase. Do you think having a Republican governor and a Democrat legislature, regardless of, even if those roles were reversed, you think that might be a good thing for the end of the legislative session when they try to, scrap all the rules, and just push through whatever they want?
John Tsarpalas: It’s interesting how red controlled states don’t pass school choice. They don’t do much. They don’t feel as motivated. Both sides are desperate to get reelected. Both sides need something to happen. So, I think it’s a good thing, a really good thing. I think it creates, it’s not competition, but it creates engagement between each one of them.
There are a couple of other little bright spots here. Number one, political ads are over, and Nevada Policy is one of the few places that’ll be putting out a message about policy, about legislation. We will be out there educating. We will be definitely doing a whole lot more online ads, digital ads in your YouTube videos, those kinds of things. Talking about inflation, talking about gas tax, talking about school choice, talking about issues that matter to people so that we can educate the voters.
So next time there’s a legislative cycle, we’ll be letting people know that the votes are coming. But also, when it comes time to vote, to be able to talk to your candidates to see what they stand and understand the issues. So, I think that’s huge.
And then the other thing was there were two others, three candidates elected statewide. That was the governor Joe Lombardo, Lieutenant Governor Stavros Anthony, and Andy Matthews. Those are the three Republicans elected statewide.
Andy Matthews is the former president of Nevada Policy. He was elected for state controller, which is the perfect job for someone who wants to analyze the budget and take a look at the spending, having had all his background, having been the president here of Nevada Policy Research Institute. So, I’m very excited about those possible possibilities of where they go.
And the Lieutenant Governor actually sits on some of the boards that are extremely important and is in charge of the boards and is the president of the Senate. He’s the one that controls the vote.
Michael Schaus: Will Nevada Policy be doing their legislative report card again? You’ve got obviously your legislative affairs group out there testifying and giving information to lawmakers and what have you. But at the end of the session, you guys go through and look at all the issues that actually matter and produce some sort of a scorecard based on how everybody actually showed up and voted. Are you guys planning on doing that again?
John Tsarpalas: Absolutely. That’s one of our most popular public. The scorecard has a couple of things. First of all, it’s got some interesting stories of what happened in the background during the legislature. But then it is rankings, on the votes cast, on fiscal conservative issues, primarily taxes.
And during the primaries, especially on the Republican side, that is like the hot tip sheet to know, did their incumbent vote the way they wanted on taxes and other fiscal conservative issues. And yeah, absolutely, we’ll be doing that again.
But also, people need to go to npri.org, sign up and get on our email list, and then we will be sending emails about our legislative tracker. And then you can go to the tracker and see where the bills that we track. We don’t track everyone. We track the ones that relate to the programs we’re involved in. But they’ll show you where it’s at, needs the hearing in the assembly or been heard in the Senate or in committee, whatever. It’ll explain where it’s at. It’ll give you an explanation of what it’s about.
And we will send email updates when they’re about to come before a hearing or a vote so that you can then contact your legislator, email them, reach out to them some way to let them know what you think on that issue. Because just a few people complaining or letting them know what you think really does affect the legislature.
Legislature, because they don’t necessarily get that feedback from the public much. A hundred emails to them is… talk about a wave. There’s a wave to that. And that can move them. And that’s what we want to help you do by signing up at npri.org.
Michael Schaus: Yeah. And I love the service where you guys show the show the actual bills. Because when we first started doing that, one of the comments that we got both from activists and from lawmakers was the way that we break down very simply the impact of what this bill will do. Because you can have a bill that’s named the Make Everything Amazing and Pave all Roads with Gum Drops Act of 2023. You don’t really know what it actually does until you look on our site and, “oh, here it is, it’s going to raise taxes to do x, y and z” or something. So, I know that we’ve had a lot of good feedback on that in the past and its powerful tool because, as you point out, we still live in a relatively small state.
I know we like to think of ourselves as becoming California junior or something, but the benefit is we’re not California as far as size is concerned. You can talk to a lawmaker in California. They can’t get through half of their emails that they get every day. Here, as you point out, a dozen or two dozen people contacting a lawmaker and they think, “Oh wow, people really care about this issue. I need to pay attention.” so there’s a real opportunity for activism as we move into the next session.
John Tsarpalas: Absolutely. That’s why people need to pay attention because this is really the moment when things are going to happen. The elections just a prequel to get you to this point. It’s about to take off in February, so please sign up and nevadapolicy.org.
Michael Schaus: Again, nevadapolicy.org, sign up there. Before we let you go, last question here. Aside from education what are some of the major focuses that you know are going to probably crop up? Either that you are paying attention to or that you just expect between now and January, some of the new lawmakers and legislative leadership are going to say, “Hey, we’re making this a big issue.” what are some things that should be on people’s mind as we go into the next?
John Tsarpalas: Affordable housing‘s been out there in the press for the last year as when prices jumped up. There’s going to be a lot of pushes for government subsidies on housing. And that’s an area to be aware of.
We also need to look at people wanting to fund pre-K. That’s coming. I would expect to even try to change minimum wage, although it was just passed in one of the ballot questions to make it $12 an hour in the constitution. I would think they would push for an even higher legislative amount.
I don’t know with Lombardo there that they’re going to go to repeal right to work. But I would expect that would happen as long as the Democrats are still in control. That’s a big issue for them, to keep people trapped within the union due system. So, I think that’s a possibility.
You already mentioned criminal justice reform. I think gasoline and inflation, not necessarily state issues, but they will be something that will be talked about in the legislature. I’m sure there will be some moves to both strengthened, but maybe raise gas taxes because the left doesn’t like combustion. And that brings up one that’s coming from California. That’s the move to ban all cars that aren’t electric. That will be coming in the next session for sure, because I don’t know why we think we’re California east, and if California did it, we’d better do it too.
Michael Schaus: That’s going to come crashing down to earth pretty soon because as people have to move to electric cars and they can’t even keep the power on in California I’m not sure folks are going to be happy with that end result. I think the most important thing for folks is just to be involved.
Again, go to nevadapolicy.org, make sure that you are on their email list. Make sure that you’re following them, especially as a legislative session gets started, because they’re going to be the ones who are letting you know exactly when and where your voice is going to count the most. And that’s what it boils down to.
You need to be able to go out. Be active. It doesn’t even take that much nowadays with being able to testify remotely and things like that. You just need to make sure that your voice is where it’s going to be the most powerful. John, thank you so much. We really appreciate you coming on the program.
John Tsarpalas: Thank you, Michael. It’s been fun, good to talk with you as usual. And thank you for all of those who are listening to Free to Offend. It’s a wonderful podcast. We hope you spread the word. Thanks.
Michael Schaus: Again, John Tsarpalas, the president of Nevada Policy Research Institute. Definitely checked out NPRI.org or nevadapolicy.org. Sign up for their email because during the legislative session, as I just said, the most important thing is knowing when and where your voice is going to count the most.
You can call your lawmaker because you know that there’s a bill out there that you want them to support or you want them to oppose and you can say something, but calling them, getting in touch with them right before they have the hearing, then you are what’s on their mind when that hearing actually comes up.
So, knowing exactly when it’s going to matter the most is going to be a critical issue of being active during the legislative session. And if you’re somebody that takes voting seriously, then you’ve got to be active during the legislative session because voting is really just one tiny part of getting things done.
And that is evidenced by the fact that in other states things getting done regardless of what political party is in power. I know it’s an example I always go back to, but it’s just such a good one. You look at, for example, Colorado, which is run by Democrats. It’s got a Democrat governor, and yet they’ve still done some deregulatory stuff that red states haven’t even touched, haven’t even considered touching. And the reason why that’s happened is because you’ve had a lot of good free market folks contacting lawmakers when it matters.
So nevadapolicy.org, sign up for their email. Also go to nevadapolicy.org/podcast and you can sign up to not only get the podcasts right in your email, but you can also reach out to us and let us know if there are any guests that you think we ought to have on, any topics we ought to cover or just generally be part of the conversation. Again, nevadapolicy.org/podcast. This is Free to Offend. Thank you so much for joining us.
Free to Offend:
A podcast that radically defends free speech by regularly practicing it.
Produced by Nevada Policy Research Institute,
featuring Nevada Policy’s Michael Schaus.