Nevada attorney general race pits reform-minded incumbent against ‘tough-on-crime’ GOP lawyer

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As chief legal officer statewide, the Nevada attorney general acts as the “people’s lawyer” in civil and criminal matters and as legal counsel for state officers, agencies, boards and commissions. 

The office’s vast range of responsibilities include investigating and prosecuting public corruption and schemes that might target older victims, as well as coordinating statewide law enforcement efforts. The attorney general also works with the governor and Nevada Legislature to propose legislation.

This year, the heated race for the top seat in the attorney general’s office pits reform-minded incumbent Aaron Ford against Republican challenger Sigal Chattah, a tough-on-crime Las Vegas lawyer campaigning on a key message: “Make crime illegal again.”

Ford kicked off his tenure in 2019 with an internal memorandum to his staff outlining a new progressive, reform-focused guide to criminal prosecutions. His key message? “Our job is justice.”

The first-term Democrat has refused to debate his opponent ahead of the Nov. 8 general election, a decision he announced after text messages were leaked in which Chattah said Ford should be “hanging by a crane.”

Keep reading to learn more about the candidates and their vision for the attorney general’s office over the next four years.

Aaron Ford

A former Nevada senator who served as majority leader before his ascent to the attorney general’s office, Ford, 50, was elected to his first term as the state’s top cop in 2018. He has earned significant support from Republicans in his bid for reelection.

Years lived in Nevada: 20 years

Education: Texas A&M University for undergraduate education. Law degree and Ph.D. in Educational Administration from Ohio State University, as well as degrees in interdisciplinary studies, international education, and educational administration.

Previous offices held: Nevada Senate Majority Leader, Nevada Senate Minority Leader

Social media links: Twiter | Facebook

Campaign website: fordfornevada.com

Key endorsements: Ford has been backed by law enforcement unions around the state, more than a dozen Republicans who formed the endorsement group Republicans for Ford, and a host of other organizations and unions. Find a full list of endorsements here.

If retained by voters, what would be your top priorities, and how do you plan to address/accomplish those goals in your second term?

First, I have fought hard to rebuild trust between police and Nevada’s communities and work with law enforcement to expand programs that support victims of crime. My office has expanded programs that bring community leaders and law enforcement together to stop violence before it causes tragedy. And we were able to unanimously pass two criminal justice bills in 2021 – one that reforms the use of “no knock” warrants, and another that allows his office to investigate police departments who are alleged to be engaging in patterns of unlawful policing. In my second term, I look forward to building on this work and continuing to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and our communities.

Second, I will always protect reproductive freedom and access to health care. I have been clear about my stance: Abortion is health care – and Americans have gone from the freedom to choose to government-mandated pregnancies. Now, Attorneys General like me in purple states like Nevada have become one of the last lines of defense in protecting abortion access. I will always uphold the fullest scope of Nevada’s state statute protecting access to abortion – but an anti-abortion Attorney General could severely limit the statute’s scope. A federal ban on abortion could supersede Nevada’s state law; and across the country, states have already passed bills restricting choice. I am the only candidate in his race who has always stood up for and defended the right to choose – and I’m not backing down now.

Third, I’m committed to protecting Nevadans’ pocket and identity from fraudsters and believe that every Nevadan’s first line of defense is education. Every day, members of my Bureau of Consumer Protection work hard to protect folks’ rights and keep them safe from fraudsters. They alert Nevadans about the latest scams, they fight data breaches, they work with individuals and businesses to protect your rights, they work with other states to protect shared interests, and so much more. I have already secured over $100-million in recoveries on behalf of consumers – not to mention over $330-million in settlements with opioid companies. I will continue to build on our successful work and ensure that predatory companies change their behaviors.

What bills would your office support in the next legislative session if you are re-elected?

I have already filed bills for next session that would strengthen our ability to prosecute fentanyl trafficking, domestic violence, child sex abuse, and elder abuse.

What letter grade would you give to Nevada’s current criminal justice system? What other reforms, if any, would you support in your second term?

As previously stated, I have fought hard to rebuild trust between police and Nevada’s communities and work with law enforcement to expand programs that support victims of crime. My office has expanded programs that bring community leaders and law enforcement together to stop violence before it causes tragedy. And we were able to unanimously pass two criminal justice bills in 2021 – one that reforms the use of “no knock” warrants, and another that allows his office to investigate police departments who are alleged to be engaging in patterns of unlawful policing. The fact is, however, that we need more resources for law enforcement, victim services, and community violence prevention. I’m proud to have the support of over a dozen law enforcement groups for my reelection campaign. Looking ahead to my second term, I’m eager to continue building on this work and strengthening the relationship between law enforcement and our communities.

Sigal Chattah

Chattah, 47, is an Israeli-born attorney who immigrated to Nevada as a teenager.

Currently based in Las Vegas, she practices domestic and international law. Chattah comes to this race after gaining notoriety in recent years for challenging Gov. Steve Sisolak’s COVID-19 restrictions, including capacity limits on religious gatherings and mask mandates.

Years lived in Nevada: 33 years

Education: Valley High School; UNLV; Widener University School of Law (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania); Webster University (Geneva, Switzerland)

Occupation: Lawyer

Previous offices held: City of Las Vegas Planning Commissioner 

Previous offices sought: N/A

Social media links: Twitter | Facebook

Campaign website: Chattah4Nevada.com

Key endorsements: Las Vegas Police Protective Association; National Association of Police Organizations; Douglas County Sheriff Dan Coverly; Eureka County Sheriff Jesse Watts; Elko County Sheriff Aitor Narvazia; Storey County Sheriff Gerald Antinoro; Keystone Corporation; National Rifle Association; Asian American and Pacific Islander-Nevada Leadership Council; Gun Owners of America; Nevada Republican Party; Veterans in Politics; Center for Estate Administration Reform; Nevada Firearms Coalition; Association of Builders & Contractors; Law Enforcement Loyalty PAC; Republican Chamber of Commerce

What would be your top priorities in office, and how do you plan to address/accomplish those goals? 

The top priority is to ensure government transparency. The current Attorney General has refused to enforce public records act and open meeting laws and has shielded public corruption in all sectors of the State.

Second priority is public safety. This Attorney General has been the most hostile AG to law enforcement and the worst Top Prosecutor and Top Cop Nevada has ever seen with his criminal justice reform (AB236) ensuring that habitual offenders and thieves roam our streets. He supported increasing possession with intent to distribute scheduled drugs from 28g to 100g and even 400g on some scheduled drugs contributing to the burst of drugs in our State.

If elected, what bills would your office support in the next legislative session?

  1. Mandatory Minimums for felons in possession of firearms and prohibited possessors
  2. Curriculum Transparency legislation
  3. Establishment of two (Northern and Southern) Long Term Mental Health Facilities in Nevada
  4. Repeal of AB 236

Do you believe Nevada’s current criminal justice system disproportionately impacts minority communities? What reforms, if any, would you support?

Yes. I do. I think that there is a significant practice to reduce bail for minority communities based on lower socio-economic status rather than bail correlation with the crime committed. I would reform criminal justice by creating mandatory minimums for gun crimes such as felons in possession and prohibited possessors.

Rio Lacanlale is the Las Vegas correspondent for the Reno Gazette Journal and the USA Today Network. Contact her at rlacanlale@gannett.com or on Twitter @riolacanlale. Support local journalism by subscribing to the RGJ today.

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