Who's to blame for 2022 Republican election losses in Washoe County? – Reno Gazette Journal

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This story has been updated throughout with comments from Robert Beadles. They were not originally included because of a misdirected email and a miscommunication by text. It has also been corrected to reflect that Beadles is not behind the Nevada Liberty website and to correct that DA Christopher Hicks donated contributions from Beadles to nonprofit organizations before an article was published about Beadles and “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
Republican candidates in Washoe County had a dismal showing in the 2022 general election.
A mailer sent out by a conservative political action committee, The Franklin Project, recommended 18 candidates and ballot questions. Of those, 15 lost. Two of the winning three were in safe Republican districts while the third – school board candidate Colleen Westlake – had actively distanced herself from the person behind the PAC.
The Franklin Project is headed by Robert Beadles, a California transplant who moved to Reno in 2019, joined the Washoe County Republican Party last year and spent seven figures trying to influence races.
Some blame the poor general election performance on the Washoe County Republican Party for tying its star to Beadles, and doubling down on claims of election fraud, even as its own members begged it to stop.
“The county party is lost,” said Sandra Linares, former party treasurer who resigned earlier this year and managed Westlake’s campaign.
The Washoe County Republican Party central committee focused more on party purity, turning Republican against Republican, than on outreach, Linares and other Republican observers said.
“They spend their time revising bylaws to kick people out,” Linares said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. They’ve destroyed everything we’ve worked for.”
She points blame at Beadles, who is on the Washoe County Republican Party’s central committee and heads the party’s “election integrity” team. Beadles’ attacks on fellow Republicans hurt the GOP brand, Linares said.
“His name is so poorly looked at in Washoe County that everyone who’s anyone knew to stay away from this guy, to stay away from the county party,” Linares said.
“No candidate with any kind of intelligence went near them – and the candidates that did, who were not incumbents, lost their races,” she said. “He is a destructive force. He’s done nothing positive for our county.”
At first glance, Republicans performed well. They won 16 partisan races on Washoe County ballots to the Democrats’ 12.
With a closer look, it wasn’t so impressive. Of the Republican victories, six were in uncontested races and one didn’t have a Democrat running. Others were slam-dunks for Republicans like Mark Amodei in the U.S. House seat and Lisa Krasner for the Nevada Senate.
Democrats dominated the more powerful seats at the top of the ticket in Washoe County, getting the most votes for U.S. Senate, governor, secretary of state and treasurer.
And in the nonpartisan Reno mayor’s election, Beadles-backed Eddie Lorton frequently mentioned that he was the only registered Republican in the race; he lost by 18 percentage points. Another Beadles pick in a nonpartisan race, Graeme Reid, lost to incumbent Adam Mayberry for school board, 68.3% to 31.7%.
Political operative Aaron Park laid out Beadles’ missteps: He spent resources in races in heavily Democratic districts where a Republican had no chance to win while not supporting candidates in tight races who didn’t align closely enough with him.
A Nevada native, Park worked on Republican Adam Laxalt’s 2022 run for the U.S. Senate, organizing on-the-ground efforts in Northern Nevada. He describes himself as a right-wing conservative Christian.
“The only candidates statewide that (Beadles) supported were (Jim) Marchant (for secretary of state) and Sigal Chattah (for attorney general) and they performed the worst out of all of the statewide Republican candidates,” Park said. “So just by a pure results metric, you look at that and go, Wow, does this guy even know what he’s doing?”
As for why Beadles thinks Republicans performed poorly, he gave a reason to the Washoe County Republican Party’s Nov. 21 central committee meeting: election fraud.
“All I can tell you is don’t believe the numbers,” he said on a recording of the meeting sent to the RGJ.
He added that “all kinds of things are in the works” to prove the general election in Washoe County was rigged.
In an email response to RGJ questions about Republican performance locally, Beadles wrote, “I am very proud of what we did and are doing. I can sum up all these questions in one sentence: Republicans we’re told were outspent in Nevada 5 to 1 and our election results are far from truthful.”
Not a single Reno, Sparks or Washoe County candidate has contested their loss.
In the Republican primary for governor, a judge tossed out a Beadles-funded lawsuit that claimed a mysterious algorithm caused voting machines to flip votes from Joey Gilbert to Joe Lombardo. There was, the judge ruled, no “competent evidence.”
Nationwide, candidates who denied the legitimacy of the 2020 election and ran in competitive races overwhelmingly lost.
Bruce Parks became chair of the Washoe County Republican Party about a year ago. He disagrees with the claim that the party spent too much time on actions that don’t get candidates elected.
“We did spend time on that,” he said of bylaw changes, censures of fellow Republicans and election integrity efforts. “But to say that that was our major focus and we did that at the expense of candidates is complete and total garbage.”
He blames the poor showing of Republican candidates in Washoe County on a change in election law allowing “ballot harvesting.” Passed in 2020 by Democrats in the Nevada Legislature during the height of the pandemic and signed by Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, it allows third parties to collect and deliver ballots.
Ballot harvesting has been criticized by Republicans as a security risk. But when a snowstorm hit Northern Nevada on Nov. 8, threatening to keep people from the polls, offers came in from across the political spectrum to pick up and deliver ballots, Washoe County said. The RGJ received a message that Beadles offered this service.
Democrats, Parks said, used ballot harvesting to their advantage.
“We concentrated our efforts on getting out the vote and getting the votes,” he said. “The Democrats, as far as I can tell, concentrated their efforts on collecting ballots, making sure that the ballots got turned in. It’s a big difference in philosophies there.”
At a Nov. 21 central committee meeting, Parks elaborated on that difference.
“We need somebody standing in that vacant lot when the mailman shows up with a stack of ballots for all the residents that live there,” he deadpanned. “And we need to collect those ballots and make sure they get filled out by the people that live there and they get turned in just like they’re supposed to be.”
There were “all kinds of instances of that happening in Washoe County,” Parks said.
It is legal to use a street corner or vacant lot to register to vote if you are homeless and that is your “residence,” the Washoe County registrar of voters’ office confirmed. It said it knew of no instances of stacks of ballots being delivered to vacant lots. Such addresses cannot receive mail delivery so ballots would be returned to the county; voters in this situation would need to vote in person.
Parks told the RGJ he was skeptical of results that showed more Republicans voted for Joe Lombardo for governor than for Laxalt for U.S. Senate or Marchant for secretary of state.
“You’re gonna go a long way to convince me that Republican voters voted for Democrat candidates – nope, nope, I ain’t swallowing it,” Parks said.
Several prominent Republicans, however, endorsed Democratic candidates in the 2022 election because of what they saw as low-quality candidates.
Among such endorsements were Reno Police Chief Jason Soto and former Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley for Catherine Cortez Masto for U.S. Senate race over Laxalt; former Nevada Republican Party Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian and former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller for Cisco Aguilar in the secretary of state race over Marchant; former state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson and former Republican caucus director for the Nevada State Senate Jodi Stephens for incumbent Aaron Ford in the attorney general race over Chattah; and Republican candidates Wendy Leonard and Richard Molezzo for Edwin Lyngar in the Washoe County Commission race over Jeanne Herman.
“Republicans don’t vote for Democrats,” Parks said. “Those are not Republicans, we disavowed them.”
Some Republican candidates said that not only didn’t they get help from the local party, they were also attacked.
Melanie Sutton, who lost her race for Washoe County School Board, was harshly criticized on the website Nevada Liberty, which often shares content from Beadles’ Operation Sunlight website, in a post with the headline “Got Lube? #Groomerawarenessmonth.”
Her sin? She attended a fundraiser featuring Lady Maga, the Trump-loving drag queen.
Westlake, who ran in a different district than Sutton, felt the need to stand up for her.
In a phone call with the RGJ, she repeated what she told the party’s central committee:
“Why are you attacking one of your candidates? None of you in this room are candidates. You have no idea what it takes, what you put into a campaign, what you sacrifice, what you give up to be a candidate to represent our party. Why are you doing it?”
If they disagreed with Sutton, Westlake said, they should talk to her and ask why she went to the Lady Maga fundraiser. And as Christians, she said, they should not judge.
“Boy, oh boy, they started screaming at me,” Westlake recalled.
One man yelled repeatedly that Westlake was a “gay lover” and “not a conservative.”
She told the committee, “I love all people. I’m gonna love the person that’s inside, not the person that you see on the outside, or what their sexuality is. I couldn’t care less. It’s none of my business, just like it’s none of your business what my sexuality is. I’m not going to make that an issue for me to like or not like somebody. I’m not going to hate anybody.”
“And then they just let me have it,” she said.
That night, Westlake quit the county party.
By the time she got home from the meeting, she began to doubt herself. Maybe she was being rash. After all, it was the local political organization she’d been loyal to for years.
But then she saw a fresh post about her on Nevada Liberty authored by someone using what appeared to be a fake name: Caelia Shortface.
The article called her and Sutton “horrible ill informed, cowardly candidates” and “toxic RINOs” (Republicans in Name Only) pushing “cultural Marxism” that supports “sexually mentally ill groomer drag queen perversion.”
“I was like, ‘That’s it. I don’t want anything to do with those people,’” she said. “If there’s a changing of the guard and they get more sensible and they get more into being constructive instead of destructive, I would like to come back to the central committee and work for my party. But I don’t think you can do it with what’s in there now. I don’t think it’s possible.”
Parks said Beadles can do what he wants on his personal website – but if he publicly endorses a non-Republican in a race with a Republican, in violation of the party’s bylaws, “there’ll be repercussions for that.”
Beadles told the RGJ, “I have zero to do with Nevada Liberty, never have, people continue to lie about me as they are with this fiction. My site is operationsunlight.com. I sign my work.”
Through The Franklin Project, Beadles sent out mailers with vicious personal attacks. Such behavior had rarely been seen in Washoe County elections.
“He goes and he sends these mailers basically accusing everybody he doesn’t like of sexual misconduct,” Aaron Park said.
“Nasty, vicious, vile, mean campaigns are the norm in national politics – you can get away with it at that level,” he said. “When you run one like that at the local level, it doesn’t work. Vicious, uber-personal campaigns on a local level backfire 90 percent of the time.”
When you’re running for school board, county commission or city council, a candidate should run a generally positive campaign, he said. If not, it’s likely to hurt your chances of winning.
One Beadles-related mailer attacked Democrat Mariluz Garcia’s private life. She ran against Republican Denise Myer for Washoe County Commission District 3, covering downtown Reno, the university area, Sun Valley and west Sparks.
Park is not a fan of Garcia, he said, “but the fact of the matter is that mailer that he sent against her was beyond the pale. It was ridiculous. It didn’t do any favors to Denise Myer at all.”
Garcia beat Myer 62.4% to 37.6%.Bruce Parks stands by Beadles and his belief that he has been a benefit to the local Republican Party.
“Mr. Beadles, to my knowledge, has contributed a ton of money to Republican candidates,” Parks said. “What he does in his private life is his business and none of mine. I also know that as our election integrity chairman, he’s done a fantastic job.”
Parks admits there’s a lot of the animosity against Beadles but “most of it is fake, as far as I’m concerned.”
Beadles stood by the mailers.
“We simply tell the truth about people,” he said. “We don’t see that as attacking. They lie about me – that’s attacking.”
Beadles has repeatedly cited “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a well-known antisemitic book that claims to prove a Jewish conspiracy seeking world domination.
For more than 100 years, it’s been known to be a hoax. The U.S. Senate even issued a report in 1964 declaring the book was “fabricated” and criticized those who promoted it for using the same propaganda technique as Adolf Hitler.
Because of Beadles’ viewpoints and actions, Sheriff Darin Balaam and District Attorney Christopher Hicks donated campaign contributions received from Beadles to nonprofit organizations. Both ran unopposed.
“I reject all of Mr. Beadles’ extremist positions, whether on race, religion, or anything else,” Hicks said in a statement published in a KUNR and The Nevada Independent article following up on their original story that discussed Beadles citing “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,”
In the follow-up, Balaam was quoted as saying, “I find the public statements and political viewpoints of Mr. Beadles to be hurtful and divisive; his political expression in no way reflects my own political beliefs; and I do not associate myself with him in any way.”
When Westlake was on the campaign trail seeking endorsements from civic groups, she said, Beadles’ name popped up often.
“They wanted to know if I had taken money from Robert Beadles, and I’d say the answer is no,” she said.
If Westlake had taken his money, she said, those groups would not have supported her.
Aaron Park said some local blowback on candidates could be traced to Beadles.
“He was definitely a factor – people definitely made decisions based on what he was doing,” Park said. “Shame on him for becoming that much of a lightning rod.”
Westlake didn’t want to get tangled up in the drama that Beadles’ political tactics were creating, she said.
“I saw a lot of individuals from the Republican Party and the central committee getting on board with Robert, and it’s almost as if they lost their minds,” she said. “They would start bashing other Republicans if they were not just lockstep with every single thing that they felt Republicans should be. If you didn’t fit into their little pigeonhole, let me tell you, it was ugly, very ugly.”
In October, the Washoe County Republican Party’s central committee meeting had an agenda item about governing documents. A motion was made to set it aside and discuss early voting instead.
The motion was shot down.
“I said to Bruce, ‘We’re in the middle of an election this year,’” Westlake said. “‘We have an election. Why are you rewriting bylaws, attacking other members, censuring other members, kicking people off of the central committee. And the meetings (are filled with) chart after chart and graph after graph of the election integrity stuff. Why aren’t candidates getting time to speak and saying what they need and what help they could use?’”
Bruce Parks said candidates got a lot of support.
“The Washoe County Republican Party had direct contact either face to face or via phone with 40,000 voters in Washoe County,” he said.
Beadles said promoting candidates and fighting for election integrity both need to be done and that “All the promotion in the world by itself won’t matter without integrity in our elections.”
Last week, the Nevada Supreme Court certified the 2022 general election results, based on the canvass by Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske.
Her office also investigated widespread fraud in the 2020 general election and found no evidence to support the claim.
Randi Thompson, a vice chair of the Washoe County Republican Party in 1995, said she thinks it’s worth having the party work on election vulnerabilities, but not to the exclusion of winning races during election season.
“To turn the county party into an election integrity committee instead of focusing on registering voters and getting them out to vote, that’s my concern,” she said.
Thompson said she got a phone call and text from Democrats asking if she needed to go vote.
“I never got a call from the Republicans,” she said. “I never saw a slate (mailer) from the Republicans, which is standard operating procedure.”
Parks said he heard that a lot, including at the Nov. 21 central committee meeting.
“I hear people tell me, ‘You didn’t send out a slate mailer,’” he said of the list of the party’s endorsements. “I say, ‘We didn’t send you one.’ Why would I bother sending a slate mailer to a hardcore Republican? It’d be a waste of postage and paper and everything else.”
Instead, he said, the mailers targeted independent voters and nonpartisans. Party supporters also left literature while knocking on doors.
“Not only did it list all the candidates that we supported, but it also talked about how to vote on (ballot) questions one, two and three,” Parks said. “It also contained information about the differences between Republicans and Democrats – we made that into a separate card. It was also in Spanish, so that the Hispanic community wasn’t left out.”
Beadles pushed back against critics of his efforts.
“I and our PAC knocked most every voter’s door in Washoe,” he said. “We additionally touched most voters six to eight times. Show me the complainers and what they did – nothing. They complained, that’s it.”
He added that it’s not their money: “We spent the PAC money and my money on candidates we believe in. Period.”
Thompson maintains the county party’s election efforts were anemic.
“The fact that both Masto and Sisolak won Washoe County tells me the Washoe County Republican Party did not do their job,” Thompson said. Cortez Masto did not win Washoe County in 2016.
Thompson shook her head at stories about candidates being attacked by Beadles and those who support him.
“What happened to a big tent? What happened to getting behind Republicans and supporting candidates?” she said. “It’s just crazy.”
At the Nov. 21 central committee meeting, issues with messaging during the election were not discussed.
What was discussed is that the Washoe County Republican Party had over $60,000 left unspent at election’s end. It also passed a resolution to censure U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.
McConnell had supported Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski over Trump-backed Republican Kelly Tshibaka in Alaska’s ranked-choice Senate race. Murkowski, who had voted to impeach Trump for the Jan. 6 insurrection, was declared the winner Wednesday.
Parks said he did not view the censure as a waste of time. A central committee member proposed the censure, and Parks allowed that member’s voice to be heard.
“My personal opinion of the business is irrelevant,” Parks said. “If they think that business is important – as long as they’re not out of order – it will be heard and then it will be discussed and then it will be voted on.”
Michael Kadenacy calls Republican-against-Republican attacks “gratuitous silliness.”
He said they harm Republican candidates in lower-level local races because when they’re door-knocking, potential voters – especially independents – think they’re all part of the same name-calling circus.
Kadenacy was chair of the Washoe County Republican Party before Parks and now is chair of the Nevada Wins PAC, a nonprofit that works to get Republicans elected in key races.
“It’s a very subliminal type thing that goes through the low-information voters,” he said. “They start to think of the Republicans as disagreeable and they don’t want to be associated with them and they’re predisposed not to vote anyway.”
That can be fatal for a campaign. Even if 100 percent of Nevada Republicans turn out and vote a straight Republican ticket – a big if – it’s likely not enough to win in a state where both registered Democrats and nonpartisans outnumber Republicans.
“When they see this kind of language and this kind of behavior, it turns them off from politics in general,” Kadenacy said of voters who don’t follow politics closely. “That’s why you start seeing lower turnouts. They just don’t want to get involved.”
From his look at voter data in Washoe County, Kadenacy said, “I think we hit around 60-something (percent turnout) for Republicans but it was in the high or mid-30s for independents. Our takeaway is the independents just didn’t turn out.”
To counteract this, he said, targeted mailings should’ve been sent to independent voters talking about what the candidates will do, not just that the other side is awful.
“The Republicans basically ran on, ‘We’re not them,’” Kadenacy said. “That’s a negative message. That’s not a positive message. Perhaps they thought it was going to gin up their base, which it didn’t do – and it was a turnoff to the independents. We knew that and we kept saying, ‘Don’t do this.’”
Beadles took exception to the claim that he’s had an outsized influence on the county party.
“I am but one vote and voice,” he said. “The people are the party, not me.
“I could point out so many incredible things they’ve done as a party and committee – that was them not me. I’m proud to be a part of the people and our movement to get back to the America we all knew and loved.
“Me pushing the desire for free and fair elections for all, I make zero dollars from. This isn’t a hustle, this isn’t a business model, it’s simply the truth, some people can’t handle it.”

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