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October 25, 2014

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2008 GOP convention debacle still haunts Lowden’s candidacy

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Sue Lowden

Elephants have long memories, and, apparently, so do some Nevada Republicans.

Those Republicans also know how to hang on to a grudge.

Five years ago, amid an imminent takeover of the state convention by so-called Ron Paul Republicans, the party establishment abruptly gaveled the proceeding to a close. The move effectively eliminated any chance the Texas congressman’s supporters would elect delegates to the 2008 national convention.

The dramatic convention shutdown seems to have embedded itself stubbornly in the lore of Nevada politics, remaining a small but painful sliver that’s aggravated whenever certain individuals run for office.

This year, that individual is Sue Lowden.

Lowden was the state party chairwoman in 2008 who supported and defended the move to abort the convention just as delegate ballots were being counted.

On a recent trip to Nye County to start testing the waters in rural Nevada for a possible run for lieutenant governor, Lowden was subjected to a tongue-lashing from Kenny Bent, a Paul supporter who isn’t yet willing to let bygones be bygones when it comes to the 2008 convention.

“Basically the conversation went like this,” Bent said. “You want to run for this office, you better come clean about what you did in 2008, what you’ve learned from it and whatever. Because the liberty movement still remembers it.”

Bent, who’s one of a number of “Liberty Republicans” still active in the state party, said Lowden wasn’t able to persuade him to let go of the past.

“She doesn’t have any remorse for pulling the plug on the convention,” he said.

Bent isn’t the only Liberty Republican holding a grudge.

Wayne Terhune, a Paul supporter who spent his personal funds to sue the state party over the 2008 convention debacle and led a failed insurrection at the 2012 national convention, believes Lowden’s role disqualifies her from office.

“I’m not bitter about it, but just the fact she did do that kind of shows poor leadership and poor decision-making,” Terhune said. “On the basis of what she did, really, I couldn’t support her for a statewide office like that.”

Lowden has yet to declare an official candidacy for lieutenant governor. If she does run, she’ll face a tough primary from state Sen. Mark Hutchison, who has the backing of Gov. Brian Sandoval, Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Joe Heck.

Both candidates are in the process of seeking early support from die-hard Republicans throughout the state — voters who are crucial in what could be a low-turnout primary.

For the record, Bent doesn’t really like Hutchison either, disapproving of the senator’s support for tax increase extensions and support for a mining tax increase.

It’s unclear how big a problem the 2008 convention could be for Lowden. Although Paul’s supporters have taken hold of the state and county party structures, they never mustered enough votes to shepherd their candidate to victory.

Nye County Republican Chairman Bill Carnes, who hosted the gathering for Lowden, said it’s human nature for some Republicans to still be upset about the convention.

“By the same token, we still have people upset over other things,” he said. “Some people are not happy with 2008, yet they are more unhappy with Mark Hutchison’s voting record.

“I don’t know that anybody should hang their hat on any one event, or any one grudge, really. We have to look at who the best people are.”

Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers, who was the convention chairman who officially gaveled the 2008 convention to a close and who supports Lowden, said the Republicans still holding a grudge are few.

“There are certainly a handful of holdouts who simply have no feet in the real world,” Beers said. “For people like that, this would be a lifetime grudge. They’re just removed from reality.

“But the majority of folks who were very, very angry after that convention, now with five years' experience, they understand what it was.”

Lowden declined to comment for this story.

Beers and Lowden have always maintained the convention was shut down not because Paul supporters won a rules change and were well on their way to sending members from their ranks to the national convention, but because the contract for the convention hall was about to expire and the voting was a long way from being completed.

“The antidote to that was, take over the party not at the state convention but at the county conventions,” Beers said. “That’s exactly what they did, and today the libertarian Republican wing is better represented in the state party than ever before.”

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