Republican Lombardo defeated Democrat Sisolak in the Nevada gubernatorial race

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Republican Joe Lombardo is expected to unseat Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak in Nevada, giving the GOP its first lead in the governor’s race this election cycle.

In a statement released before the race was called Friday night, Sisolak said he “looks like we’ll be one percentage point or less from winning” and that he believes “our election system is democratic and respects the will of Nevada voters.” He cited the struggles of the past four years — including the pandemic and inflation — and said he reached out to Lombardo to wish him success.

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

“Our victory is a victory for all Nevadans who want our state to get back on track,” Lombardo said in a statement Friday night. “This is a win for small business owners, parents, students and law enforcement.”

Lombardo’s victory marks the GOP’s first gubernatorial victory in a year when many Democratic incumbents defied GOP hopes of a red tide in tight races in Wisconsin, Michigan, Kansas and Oregon.

Unlike others at the top of the GOP ticket in Nevada, Lombardo rejected former President Donald Trump’s baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen and said in a debate that the falsehood bothered him. After defeating more than a dozen candidates in the GOP primary with Trump’s endorsement, she distanced herself from Trump at times but continued to campaign with the former president.

Lombardo called for diversification of Nevada’s tourism-based economy and criticized its public education system.

Sisolak’s election in 2018 gave his party consolidated control of state government for the first time in decades, as Democrats also gained a state legislative majority.

Lombardo received extensive financial support from Nevada businessman Robert Bigelow, owner of the budget Suites of America hotel chain, who invested more than $13 million in political action groups promoting Lombardo. This helped it compete with Lombardo Sisolak’s fundraising advantage.

While Democrats have seen gains in Nevada in recent years, statewide races are usually decided by a couple of points or less, and both parties expect the contests to be close this year. Nevada had a Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, from 2011 to 2019.

Amy B Wang contributed to this report.

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