Home>Articles>On The Record with Josh Leavitt, GOP Candidate Senate District 18

Former State Senator Scott Hammond (SD-18) (on left) has endorsed Josh Leavitt for Senate District 18 (on right). (Photo provided by Josh Leavitt)

On The Record with Josh Leavitt, GOP Candidate Senate District 18

Leavitt: ‘I believe legislators work for the people, not the Governor’

By Megan Barth, May 16, 2024 12:50 pm

Josh Leavitt, GOP candidate for Senate District 18 (SD-18), grew up in Las Vegas and graduated from Clark High School in 1991. After a “rough” semester at UNLV, he quickly learned that he wasn’t quite ready for college, so he worked as a coin sorter at Valley Bank, which was bought by Bank of America a few years later.

While at the bank, he was recruited by the technology department to work in the helpdesk and quickly learned to develop innovative, technology solutions to complex problems which accelerated his career within emerging technology roles, eventually becoming the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of a local helicopter company.

In 2012, he  learned about Governor Brian Sandoval’s Moving Nevada Forward initiative, a plan to create an innovative and sustainable Nevada economy through technology-based economic development, entrepreneurism, and advancement in targeted sectors. The initiative was exciting to Leavitt, however, he quickly realized that his struggles with finding technology talent would get more difficult as more technology companies moved to Nevada. So, he began his focus on IT workforce development. From that point on, he visited high schools to promote technology careers, joined education boards, became a mentor, and hosted internships.

GOP candidate Josh Leavitt speaks to a group of supporters in SD-18 (Photo: Joshfornevada.com)

When asked what led him into politics, Leavitt replied:

In 2016, I learned that legislators were going to California for advice on technology, workforce, and business policies. So, I began researching legislation and reaching out to legislators to share advice from a Nevadan perspective. I’ve testified during committee meetings, written letters and articles, drafted bills, and assisted governing officials in creating policy.

At the end of 2016, I ended my career as CIO to pursue new challenges and prove that I could take on larger leadership roles. Within a year, I earned a BS in Business Management and an MS in Leadership and Management before becoming the Regional Director of a non-profit that provided free technology training and career assistance. I also launched Nevada’s only private postsecondary software engineering school and became connected with the startup community.

In 2020, after accomplishing my goals, I left the non-profit to become an entrepreneur. I founded three companies – IONovate, Intagly, and Tech Alley, a non-profit that ignited the Vegas entrepreneur ecosystem by accelerating activity within the tech and startup community.

Following the 2023 legislative session, I recognized how much the lack of entrepreneurial spirit and know-how in the legislation limited Nevada. Legislators had become too reactionary, passing laws that reduced growth and opportunities and failing to act proactively for the benefit of Nevadans.

I reached out to Senator Scott Hammond, who was terming out as Senator of SD-18, to get his advice. He told me I would have his full support and endorsement if I decided to run. He has held true to his word.

What are the main concerns of your constituents, and what are your proposed solutions?

The top three concerns I hear most are border security, affordable housing, and access to healthcare. I share their concerns and have put a good amount of time into researching and seeking advice from groups and individuals with experience in these fields. Here is what I’m working on:

Border Security—When the federal government fails to uphold its responsibility, state governments have an obligation to protect the security of their residents. I support Texas’s taking charge of securing its border and stand behind Texas Governor Abbott’s efforts.

We can do our part in Nevada by ending policies that make parts of Nevada a sanctuary state, including then-Sheriff Lombardo’s 2019 order for Metro to no longer honor its agreement to notify U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE) when illegal immigrants break the law. Washoe County has a similar policy.

We can’t have Nevada’s security dependent upon policies that can be changed arbitrarily. As legislators, we need to create laws that end sanctuary sections of the State, including requiring law enforcement to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement when suspected illegal aliens with federal warrants are arrested.

Affordable Housing—It’s Economics 101. The housing price crisis results from high demand and low supply. The solution is simple, right? Just build more houses. Unfortunately for Nevada, outside factors have contributed significantly to the crisis, including higher interest rates, inflation, a lack of land, and an influx of new residents.

So, how do we overcome these challenges? First, Nevada needs more land, which means we need to expedite the sale of federal land to the State at a discounted rate to open new housing areas. Second, we need to leverage innovations in homebuilding materials that quickly increase the supply of energy-efficient homes. Third, the process of buying and selling a home needs to be streamlined, inexpensive, and able to keep up with modernized practices, which can be accomplished by shifting decision-making authority on matters of real estate from legislators to the Nevada Real Estate Division under the Department of Business and Industry.

Additionally, Nevada must continue summary judgments for rental evictions instead of “fixing” homelessness by prolonging the eviction process. Instead, those facing eviction would be better served with organizations funded through state grants that provide housing support and wraparound services to help them get back on their feet. Doing so will increase the number of diverse rental properties in the market and keep rental costs competitive.

Access to Healthcare—Since starting my campaign, I have learned much about our healthcare crisis. Nevada ranks 45th in access to care, 47th in quality of care, and below the national average in 33 of 39 physician specialties. The fact is that Nevada is not attractive to healthcare professionals. Our laws, Medicaid rates, regulations, and malpractice costs make it difficult for doctors to make money compared to other states.

Through conversations with healthcare organizations, doctors, and nurses and research, I put together my HEAL Plan (Health Equity Advancement, Ensuring Access, Affordable Care, Leveraging Innovation), which outlines how we can attract good healthcare specialists to Nevada. The plan includes reasonable medical malpractice reform, increasing Medicaid reimbursement, providing more residency opportunities, participating in licensure compacts, setting a nurse-to-patient ratio, and diversifying state and federal funding resources.

The Leavitt family (Photo provided by Josh Leavitt)

Why are you the best candidate for the district despite Governor Lombardo endorsing your GOP primary opponent?

Governor Lombardo and his team have prioritized protecting the Governor’s veto power above all things. In doing so, they’ve adopted the “Lombardo Machine” strategy, which includes handpicking his friends and loyalists for legislative office and using his position to dictate which candidate receives funding, endorsements, and services from organizations. It is pretty un-American and crosses the line toward nepotism. The Governor wants his yes-man.

Heed the words of Machiavelli, “If the nobles realize they cannot dominate the people, they will try to strengthen their position by making one of the nobles a prince.” I believe legislators work for the people, not the Governor.

I am running for State Senate District 18 to do the State’s business through collaboration with constituents and legislators. I am proactive and solution-driven in my thinking and execution of ideas. As an entrepreneur, I sell vision and secure buy-in, which is needed to solve complicated problems and ensure Nevada’s competitiveness in a global economy. Most importantly, I do what I say, I am honest and transparent, and I am a trusted leader who leads from the front, which is evident by my success in building the Vegas startup community, creating pathways to careers, influencing legislation and government policy, starting businesses, and prioritizing community over personal gains.

My opponent, John Steinbeck, was convinced to run by the Governor, is one of the highest-paid government employees in Clark County, is reactive instead of proactive, and will be an ineffective representative of SD-18.

Additionally, the Governor’s team goofed when selecting and endorsing my opponent. They forgot about the 2009 Clark County Firefighter Overtime Scandal, during which firefighters were caught manipulating sick time to inflate their overtime. My opponent was one of 30 firefighters (according to Transparent Nevada) who more than doubled their salary with overtime. In 2009, Steinbeck’s base pay was $71,000. That year, he took home over $217,000. While under investigation, his overtime plummeted to $19,000.

After 2011, firefighter overtime dipped to eight percent before stabilizing at 12 percent. Since Steinbeck was appointed Fire Chief, firefighter overtime has skyrocketed past pre-scandal levels, peaking at 20 percent or $20 million in 2022.

With redistricting, Democrats and Republicans are now even in SD-18. By overlooking the firefighter scandal, Lombardo’s team has put Republicans at risk of losing this district.

What is your campaign’s platform?

I am eager to make Nevada the best place to live, work, and raise a family. To accomplish this, I drafted and signed a Contract with Nevada that summarized my priorities and outlined my commitments.

My priorities are:

  • Growing business by cutting startup costs and unnecessary regulations and opposing new taxes on businesses.
  • Increase Access to healthcare with my HEAL Plan.
  • Improve Education by expanding school choice programs, prioritizing school safety, and increasing access to postsecondary workforce development programs toward high-growth jobs focused on improving students’ chances for success by helping parents become trailblazers in their child’s career.
  • Cutting wasteful spending through a technology governance board led by the State CIO to align technology services and spending across all agencies. Doing so is estimated to save taxpayers 10s of millions of dollars.
  • Protecting gun rights and removing unnecessary requirements for CCW holders and short-term storage of firearms.
  • Improving election integrity by requiring a form of ID to vote and increasing criminal penalties for voter fraud.

You mention “secure voting rights” as one of your goals, if elected. What does that look like legislatively?

The ultimate goal is to protect election integrity and ensure all eligible voters have the opportunity to vote. I don’t buy the argument that it needs to be one or the other. That’s silly.

I come from a technology leadership background, which meant I was in charge of protecting company assets from attack while ensuring they were accessible to authorized users inside and outside company networks. It was a responsibility that kept me up many nights.

It was a wise practice to accept that an intrusion was a matter of “when” and not “if,” which is why taking a proactive approach to cybersecurity was necessary. Every user was required to use a unique and private credential, networks were monitored, security logs were checked, and strict procedures were followed.

Only a signature is required to vote in Nevada. Nothing else is needed to validate the legitimacy of the voter. From a technologist’s viewpoint, it is akin to requiring some variation of a username to access a computer. No password is needed. How would the State know if there was voter fraud? What type of evidence is reviewed? Are people so naive to believe voter fraud isn’t possible?

Legislatively, we need to require an additional form of identification to validate voters. This is not a new concept. Thirty-six states have enacted some form of voter ID requirement. It can be as simple as the last four digits of a social security number. It is not an unreasonable requirement to further protect the integrity of our elections.

In the not-so-far future, technology will be used to better secure and simplify the election process and guarantee that every vote counts. As legislators, it is our duty to ensure that Nevada is prepared for advances in these types of technologies.

Editors note (3:43 pm): In response to Leavitt’s claims related to then-Sheriff Lombardo’s “sanctuary policy” in Clark County, Better NV PAC Spokesman John Burke provided this clarification to The Globe, disputing Leavitt’s claims:

To date, the state of Nevada, Clark County and the City of Las Vegas have not enacted any law restricting the Las Vegas Metro Police Department from communicating with Immigration, Customs and Enforcement (ICE) officials about any arrested person’s citizenship status. Here’s the relevant section of a fact check that showed this claim to be false.

Lombardo nodded to the lack of clarity around the term sanctuary city during the debate and noted that the “Legislature has not identified or labeled any jurisdiction the the state of Nevada as ‘sanctuary.’”

His words echo a letter Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson wrote to the U.S. Department of Justice in May 2017, noting that the Metro’s law enforcement and detention activities comply with federal law and rebuking the notion that the county is acting as a sanctuary jurisdiction.

Metro was listed as an “uncooperative” agency by the Trump administration in 2017, largely based on a 2014 policy put in place by then-Sheriff Doug Gillespie to not hold individuals solely based on a federal immigration detainer. Metro and Clark County sharply pushed back on the insinuation that the county was acting as a sanctuary jurisdiction. 

Metro announced in 2019 that it was suspending a so-called 287(g) program that involved specially trained Metro officers doing some of the tasks of immigration agents within the jails. Still, the agency indicated it would “continue to work with ICE,” and Lombardo’s statements and public records show the agency is using an alternative process to continue helping ICE.”

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Megan Barth
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One thought on “On The Record with Josh Leavitt, GOP Candidate Senate District 18

  1. Better NV PAC Spokesman John Burke replied to this story by a copy-pasted (word for word) from a 2022 Nevada Independent Article – https://thenevadaindependent.com/article/gop-debate-fact-check-sanctuary-cities-abortion-funding-and-border-crossings. This response seems disconnected and does not refute the claims of Josh Leavitt. His concerns are valid. The Center for Immigration Studies lists Clark County and Washoe County as Sanctuary Cities due to Sheriff’s Policies (2014 Washoe, 2019 Clark)- https://cis.org/Map-Sanctuary-Cities-Counties-and-States. There are also a decent number of articles covering the order, including the 2019 Nevada Independent article titled “Metro suspending controversial 287(g) collaboration with ICE; federal agency says public safety will be compromised” – https://thenevadaindependent.com/article/metro-suspending-controversial-287g-collaboration-with-ice and the Nevada Current article titled “Lombardo vows to remove “worst of the worst” as Metro agrees to suspend ICE partnership” – https://nevadacurrent.com/briefs/lombardo-vows-to-remove-worst-of-the-worst-as-metro-agrees-to-suspend-ice-partnership/

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