RENO, Nev. (AP) — A candidate for Nevada governor who lost this month's Republican primary election by just over 11 percentage points, or nearly 26,000 votes, will pay for a statewide recount after he objected to the outcome and made numerous unproven claims about the election process.
Nevada’s Secretary of State told county clerks Wednesday to begin conducting a recount this week, at a cost of $190,960 to Reno attorney Joey Gilbert.
Gilbert had 26.7% of the vote on June 14, trailing Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who won 38.4% in a crowded primary field for the Republican governor nomination on June 14. Gilbert has not conceded and will pay $190,960 for the recount.
Gilbert, who was present outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, has repeatedly challenged the primary election results, alleging workers did not properly verify signatures or monitor ballots, among many other claims.
Gilbert's team has not offered any proof for the claims and his team did not respond to emailed questions from The Associated Press on Wednesday. County clerks and officials across the state have said that the election was conducted fairly.
Across the state on Wednesday, election officials submitted estimates for how much each recount would cost.
In Washoe County, the state’s second largest county, it will cost Gilbert just over $84,000. Several other local Republican candidates joined Gilbert in filing for a recount but ultimately rescinded their filings, spokesperson Bethany Drysdale said.
Washoe County will have a team work 12-hour shifts until the recount is complete, Drysdale said. A representative from Dominion Voting Systems will be present and there will also be a certification board.
In rural Nye County, with a population just over 50,000, it will cost $600 for two staff members to come in.
All 17 counties have five days to complete the recount.
“We were all preparing for it,” said Sam Merlino, Nye County’s clerk. “We all had a feeling there’s going to be an election contest or recount.”
During his campaign, Gilbert had repeated false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. And in a Facebook video posted to his page two days after the election, Gilbert urged his supporters to submit affidavits that they voted for him. He said it was not about his loss but election integrity overall, an issue that was central to his campaign.
“I just think right now, based on what I’ve seen, this is a mess,” Gilbert said in the video. “These elections, the way they’ve been run, it’s like Swiss cheese. There’s too many holes.”
For Republicans, Gilbert’s apparent rejection of the results reflect growing challenges two years after many in the party embraced disproven claims of election fraud. Party leaders wants to encourage voting while also appealing to the tens of thousands who backed Gilbert and distrust elections.
The day after the election, state GOP chair Michael McDonald — who rejected the results of the 2020 election — rebuked Gilbert and said it was time to unite behind Lombardo in a rare instance of criticism of the far-right within the state party.
“The election is over. It’s been called. Joe Lombardo has won. We need to come together and unite,” he said, calling Gilbert’s reaction “emotional.”
In the two weeks since, Gilbert has talked about filing a lawsuit. In a Facebook Live video posted Tuesday, he offered a reward to anyone who could provide “smoking gun” evidence to prove corruption.
Lombard, who is endorsed by Trump, will face Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak in what is projected to be a toss-up race.
“Every legitimate news outlet has called this race for Sheriff Joe Lombardo, and it’s clear that the people of Nevada have spoken,” Lombardo spokesperson Elizabeth Ray said in a statement the week after the primary. “Like Sheriff Lombardo said, no matter who you voted for last week, he’s ready to listen to you, work for you, and fight for you as your Republican nominee.”
Despite contesting the results of his own race, Gilbert congratulated Republican senate candidate Adam Laxalt and Republican secretary of state candidate Jim Marchant for their Republican primary victories on the same ballot. Laxalt co-chaired Trump’s reelection campaign in Nevada and led failed court challenges to overturn the state’s 2020 election results based on false election fraud claims. In February, Marchant told voters at a candidates forum that their vote “hasn’t counted in decades.”
Lombardo led Gilbert in statewide polls leading up to the primary.
Dozens of angry voters last week urged county commissioners in Clark and Washoe counties to vote against certifying the tallies, describing their own experiences at the polls and repeating conspiracy theories that nearly derailedcertification in New Mexico earlier this month.
Last week, two county commissioners in Esmeralda County conducted a hand count of all 317 ballots cast after the commission delayed the initial certification by one day.
All county commissions certified the vote by the Friday deadline.
The most famous recount in modern Nevada history came in 1998 when Sen. Harry Reid won reelection by 428 votes against Republican Rep. John Ensign in a recount that lasted for six weeks in Washoe County. The election night results there had Reid winning by 459 votes, but a recount and a series of challenges made Reid the official winner by 428 votes.
AP writer Scott Sonner contributed to this report. 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 to report on undercovered issues. Follow Stern on Twitter at https://twitter.com/gabestern326.
Gabe Stern, The Associated Press