Democratic 2020 Race Heads to Sheldon Adelson Country

WASHINGTON – The Democratic caucus in Nevada often attracts less media attention than the earlier races in Iowa and New Hampshire. But this year, the fractured field of candidates and close initial results have reinforced the western state’s importance ahead of Saturday’s vote in the fight for the presidential nomination.

Nevada is also the first state to vote that is home to a significant Jewish community. While there are Jewish communities in Iowa and New Hampshire, Nevada’s community – concentrated mostly in Las Vegas – is much bigger: Some 75,000 Jews live in the state, compared to about 10,000 in New Hampshire and 5,000 in Iowa.

– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 63

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 63Haaretz

The majority of Nevada’s Jews tend to support the Democratic Party (like most U.S. Jews); in 2018, Nevadans elected Jewish-American lawmaker Jacky Rosen to the U.S. Senate.

But the state’s most famous and influential Jewish political figure is a staunch Republican: billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the single most important donor to GOP politicians over the past decade. Las Vegas is home to the headquarters of his international gambling empire, and Adelson also owns the city’s highest circulation newspaper, The Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“Adelson represents the Republican, right-wing elements of the local Jewish community. But that’s absolutely not the entire Jewish community in Nevada,” says Jon Ralston, editor and founder of news website The Nevada Independent. Ralston is the state’s leading political analyst, and accurately predicted the election results in Nevada in the 2018 and 2016 elections – two cycles in which Democrats did well in the state.

People waiting in line to vote in Las Vegas on the final day of early voting for the Nevada Democratic presidential caucus, February 18, 2020.AFP

“Las Vegas is a very Democratic city and county, and that’s where a lot of the Jewish community is,” recounts Ralston, speaking to Haaretz by phone while prepping to co-host Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate. The city is home to more than 20 synagogues, representing every denomination and stream. The other main Jewish community can be found in Nevada’s third largest city, Reno.

The Sanders factor