Nevada lawmaker resigns amid campaign finance investigation
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — A Nevada lawmaker resigned amid an investigation involving the use of campaign contributions that prompted law enforcement to raid his home in May.
Las Vegas Assemblyman Alex Assefa tendered his resignation to Gov. Steve Sisolak on Monday in a letter that did not mention the investigation but addressed questions about whether his primary residence was in the Spring Valley district he represents.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in October that police in May had raided a North Las Vegas home owned by Assefa’s wife, Zenash Mebratu, and a Spring Valley condominium he listed as his residence in campaign filings.
Nevada law requires legislators live in the districts they represent. In his resignation letter, which was first reported by the Review-Journal, Assefa maintains that he initially misunderstood the law but later determined his residencfy violated it after deeper review.
“With great regret, and because I believe that lawmakers are bound to uphold the law and act with honesty and integrity, I must admit my mistake and resign my office,” he wrote in the letter, noting that he ran because of his ties to Spring Valley’s large Ethiopian community.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department did not immediately respond to request for comment and charges have not been filed. Assefa did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Assefa reported raising more than $120,000 in contributions as of September 2020 and spending more than $60,000. Campaign finance filings show he reported contributions from and expenses paid to KIB Transport LLC, a freight and trucking company he lists as an income source. He expensed advertising to the company in 2018 and reported the company contributed $9,000 in office space and labor to his campaign in 2020. The office space was one of two that Assefa reported as donated during the pandemic.
He won reelection in November by 45 percentage points in his Clark County district, where Democrats enjoy a 20 percentage point voter registration advantage over Republicans, and had been assigned positions on the Assembly’s Government Affairs, Growth & Infrastructure and Natural Resources committees.
Assefa is the fourth Democratic state lawmaker to resign since 2017. Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson resigned in 2019 and pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges for using campaign contributions to open a Las Vegas nightclub and pay off credit card debt. The Legislature subsequently passed a bill to require more detailed reporting of campaign spending and prohibit candidates from using contributions to pay salaries to themselves.
“The Assembly Democratic Caucus thanks Assemblyman Assefa for his service, and we look forward to welcoming a new member to our caucus very soon. With so many crucial decisions about Nevada’s future at stake in this upcoming legislative session, we remain focused on the important tasks of protecting Nevada’s public health and economic well-being,” Assembly Democratic Caucus Executive Director Chelsey Wininger said in a statement.
The Clark County Commission is expected to replace Assefa and state Sen. Yvanna Cancela, who resigned to take a position in the Biden administration, before the Legislature reconvenes in February. Nevada law requires the commission replace lawmakers who resign before the end of their terms with members of the same party who reside in the district.
AP writer Ken Ritter contributed reporting from Las Vegas. Sam Metz 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.