By GABE STERN
Associated Press/Report for America
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada’s Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo called for unity at his inauguration ceremony on Tuesday while still pushing for conservative ideals such as school choice and repealing some recent criminal justice reforms that he called “soft on crime.”
In front of just over 700 people at the Carson City Community Center, statewide officials took their oaths of office, a pastor led the audience in prayer and five former governors sat behind Lombardo as he gave his first speech in office. That included Democrat Steve Sisolak, the incumbent whom Lombardo beat in one of the closest gubernatorial contests nationwide.
Lombardo said working together will be the “central covenant” of his administration.
“At the same time I will carry the cause of conservative ideals that are anchored by the personal responsibility, fiscal discipline and limited government interference,” he added.
Lombardo was officially sworn in Monday at a smaller inauguration to comply with a state deadline. Tuesday’s event was moved from the Nevada state Capitol’s front steps to the community center as a days-long snowstorm battered the area.
Alongside Lombardo was a slate of elected officials who took the oath of office, representing Nevada’s split-ticket midterm outcome: Republican Lt. Gov. Stavros Anthony and Controller Andy Matthews, as well as Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford, Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar and Treasurer Zach Conine.
Lombardo, who ran as a more moderate candidate compared to the rest of the Republican primary field, acknowledged political divisions across the state, adding “that in some places, we are needlessly polarized.”
“To everyone I say, we can either surrender ourselves to it, or we can strive to rise above it by acknowledging that we all have a responsibility to the future,” he said.
Much of Lombardo’s priorities may have to come from compromise as Democrats hold a majority in the state Senate and a supermajority in the state Assembly.
During his speech he repeated his campaign promise of no new taxes and reiterated his goal of diversifying Nevada’s economy to rely less on gaming and tourism.
He quoted from Abraham Lincoln, whose 1864 reelection campaign was a major reason for Congress rushing to admit Nevada as the Union’s 36th state, as well as past Nevada governors sitting behind him — Republican Brian Sandoval and Democrat Richard Bryan. He also invoked former Nevada Gov. and two-term U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt, a Republican whose grandson, Adam Laxalt, lost a Senate bid in November.
Lombardo also repeatedly referenced the “Nevada Way” — a concept of trust and grit for Nevadans to overcome adversity. He applied it to what he called difficult years during the COVID-19 pandemic and economic swings from Nevada’s tourist-based economy.
“Each time that we were forced to confront these setbacks, we reemerged more driven to succeed than ever before,” he said.
The career police officer-turned-elected sheriff was the only Republican challenger to unseat a Democrat governor in last year’s midterm cycle. The Nevada governor’s ticket was one of several razor-thin statewide races in Nevada that saw a split-ticket outcome.
Stern is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Follow Stern on Twitter: @gabestern326.