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Nevada GOP party court case paused by judge after hearing

May 26, 2021 GMT

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Nevada judge declined Wednesday to take immediate action on a bid by Republican activists to force GOP leaders in Las Vegas to admit them as party members, as online tensions and allegations of a takeover effort by people with ties to far-right Proud Boys extremists spilled into state court.

Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez rejected a request to issue a court injunction to block a Clark County Republican Central Committee meeting at which members would be added and dismissed.

But the judge invited attorneys for 10 plaintiffs who allege discrimination by committee leaders to amend a lawsuit filed last Thursday to focus on what she called “allegations and evidence with regard to protected-class status.”

Nevada law prohibits bias based on color, race, sex, religion, age, disability, gender identity, national origin or sexual orientation.

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“There has been no credible evidence presented that the (county GOP committee) is discriminating against any of the plaintiffs as a member of a protected class, which arguably I would have jurisdiction to help with,” Gonzalez said.

Adam Fulton, the attorney representing the 10 plaintiffs, told the judge he will revise and resubmit the lawsuit.

Gonzalez dismissed the Nevada Republican Central Committee from the case and signaled that the court may avoid deciding the political membership dispute. She said the county committee “as a private political association, has a total right” to determine its own members.

The membership meeting had been scheduled Tuesday, but it was called off Monday by party leaders citing concerns that members of the Proud Boys planned to disrupt it and harass party members.

A committee spokesman, Ed Gonzalez, said the next meeting is regularly scheduled July 20 at a place to be determined. Gonzalez is not related to the judge. He said no membership meeting is planned in the interim.

The Proud Boys are a male-only group with a history of violent clashes with left-wing protesters. Then-President Donald Trump cited the group during an October campaign debate with Democrat Joe Biden, with a comment that members should “stand back and stand by.”

Several Proud Boys have been charged with conspiracy and other crimes relating to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Clark County Republican Party Chairman David Sajdak and Stephen Silberkraus, vice chairman, said Monday the county party barred anyone involved in the group from membership, along with those who Silberkraus said traffic in “intolerance or hateful, anti-Semitic and racist ideology.”

No specific allegations about anti-Semitism, right-wing extremism or the roots of the GOP party dispute were voiced during the hearing.

The party rift became public in April, following the censure by state party members of Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, for “failing to investigate” allegations of election fraud following the November presidential election.

Cegavske repeatedly defended election results as reliable and accurate, despite attacks from Trump and other Republicans. Biden defeated Trump in Nevada by 2 percentage points, or nearly 34,000 votes. In the Las Vegas area, the margin for Biden was more than 9%.

Fulton told the judge the names of more than 100 Filipino-Americans who submitted online applications to the Clark County committee were not on a list of 117 names offered for membership confirmation and 38 names for deletion.

“The Clark County Republican party does not want a new wave, a new generation of people to come in,” the attorney said. “The bylaws don’t allow the party leadership to decide who applies or who doesn’t.”

“There are approximately 350 people that ... are being summarily rejected,” Fulton added, “not by the party, but by those people in leadership in the party. They’re saying, ‘This group of people, we don’t want them. We have the right to exclude them.’ ”

Ian Bayne, an activist who created a political action committee called No Mask Nevada, said the fight is for pro-Trump Republicans to join the committee ahead of a July vote for party chairman “where a former Trump staffer will face off against an anti-Trump establishment professor.”

Bayne has focused criticism of Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak and sought to enlist Republican backers of Trump to run for public office. No Mask Nevada was not a party to the lawsuit.