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Former assemblyman faces GOED grantee, Nye school trustee in decisive GOP state senate primary

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by Jeniffer Solis, Nevada Current

Voters in a large swath of rural Nevada will need to choose a new state senator in a Republican primary that will determine who represents the bright red district after no Democrats filed for the race.

Republican Sen. Pete Goicoechea has represented the predominantly rural Senate District 19 for the past 12 years. Now three Republican candidates are seeking to replace the term-limited lawmaker: former Assemblyman John Ellison, healthcare executive and entrepreneur William Hockstedle, and Nye County School Board Trustee Chelsy Fischer.

The sprawling senate district extends all the way from Elko County in the north to Clark County in the south. The district includes Lincoln and White Pine counties and parts of Clark, Elko, Eureka and Nye counties.

The district also represents a sure win for Republicans in the battle against a Democratic supermajority in the Nevada Legislature. Democrats control 13 seats in the 21-member state Senate — one short of a two-thirds supermajority needed to override a gubernatorial veto. 

Last year, Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo set a state record for vetoing the most bills in a single session, and has made it a top priority to prevent a Democratic supermajority.

Former Assemblyman John Ellison

Despite the lack of Democratic competition in the Senate District 19 race — and several competitive senate seats up for reelection elsewhere — the seat has attracted a fair amount of fundraising for the likely front-runner, former Assemblyman John Ellison, who was endorsed by Gov. Joe Lombardo. 

“Nevadans know they can depend on John Ellison to give them a voice in Carson City. For years he has fought for the rights and interests of Nevada families and small businesses,” Lombardo said in an endorsement post on social media.

Ellison did not respond to interview requests from the Nevada Current.

The former assemblyman has the largest financial lead in the race, pulling in $12,650 from nine donors, according to the final campaign finance report before Nevada’s June 11 primary. Ellison’s highest donation is $5,000 from personal injury lawyer Craig Kidwell, followed by a $2,500 contribution from commercial real estate company R&S Leasing. Ellison’s campaign had spent $10,000 and has $46,700 cash on hand left over from prior campaigns.

Ellison raised about $10,000 more than his nearest competitor Hockstedler, whose campaign is predominantly self-funded by a $1,500 loan to himself.

Before running to represent Senate District 19, Ellison spent 12 years in the Nevada State Assembly until he termed out in 2022. Prior to that, Ellison served 12 years on the Elko County Board of Commissioners, and 10 years on the Elko City Council.

On his campaign website, Ellison listed the economy, taxes, the Second Amendment, and education as his top priorities in the Nevada State Senate.

The candidate was criticized days after being endorsed by Lombardo when he referred to his former employees as “colored people” during an endorsement interview with Veterans in Politics. Ellison was also listed as a suspect in a simple battery in 2022, a misdemeanor under Nevada Revised Statutes, but was never charged, according to the Elko Daily Free Press

Healthcare executive and entrepreneur William Hockstedle

Hockstedler, an Army and the Air Force veteran, said he was encouraged to run for the down-ballot race after being defeated by Republican Adam Laxalt during the 2022 U.S. Senate Republican primary. Laxalt went on to lose to Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

Out of the $1,500 Hockstedler had acquired for his campaign as of the end of March, he’s spent $1,300, and has $1,000 cash on hand.

Hockstedler is vice president of strategic development with Ambient Clinical Analytics, a firm based at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, which focuses on early detection and treatment of sepsis.

In his role as senior adviser of Alka Products LLC — a medical and industrial gloves manufacturer — Hockstedler helped the company establish a new factory in Nye County. In November, the business proposal was approved for $1.9 million in tax abatements by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. It is expected to be operational in early 2025, and will create 240 jobs in the first two years, according to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

“The governor’s office loves it,” said Hockstedler, adding that the biggest concern in his district is jobs. “We will be the third largest employer in Nye County,” behind Nye County and Valley Electric Association Inc.

Hockstedler said he was disappointed to hear Lombardo endorsed Ellison in the Republican primary, but said it was also expected since Ellison is a former lawmaker who was termed-out.

“I think it further divides our party and the things we’re trying to accomplish, because we’re all Republicans in this particular race,” Hockstedler said. “I view the endorsement as a crutch. I’ll stand on my own without it.”

The Army and the Air Force veteran listed crime, education, taxes, and balancing the state budget as his top priorities in the Nevada State Senate.

Goicoechea “did a wonderful job of connecting with the people that he represented,” said Hockstedler. He said he’s interested in expanding on Goicoechea’s work in the state senate to strengthen personal property rights and water rights in the state, while ensuring natural resources are equitably divided.

“It just takes common sense legislation to make sure that water is both conserved and used properly for the survival of everyone in the state,” Hockstedler said.

Hockstedler described himself as a consensus builder, and believes that is the best way to protect Lombardo from being a one-term governor, as more and more voters in Nevada identify as non-partisan. In Senate District 19, non-partisan voters are the second largest share of registered voters, only behind Republicans, according to the Office of Nevada Secretary of State.

“I’m not far right or far left. I’m sort of in the middle with some common sense legislation in mind that will benefit most or all Nevadans,” Hockstedler said. “We have to do better. We have to cooperate. We’re paid and elected to do a job, and I think that we need to stop sending empty suits to Carson City. We’ve got to get things done.”

Nye County School Board Trustee Chelsy Fischer

Fisher has raised the least money out of the three Republicans vying to represent Senate District 19. The Nye County School Board Trustee’s only reported contribution as of the end of March was a $350 loan to herself. 

Fisher did not respond to interview requests from the Nevada Current.

In a statement to The Nevada Globe, Fisher said she opposes Nevada businesses receiving tax credits and believes the state legislature should explore implementing a corporate tax on businesses that do not pay a livable wage or offer full health care benefits. She also expressed criticism of unfettered utility-scale solar development in the district, as well as the proliferation of lithium mining for electric vehicles.

“Fossil fuels are far better for the environment than lithium mines,” Fisher argues on her campaign website.

Fisher lists education, economic growth, and universal Pre-K as top priorities if she were elected to represent Senate District 19. Fisher also advocates for bipartisan solutions and fostering partnerships across party lines.

However, Fisher’s most cited concern across platforms was that health insurance companies in Nevada are required to cover treatment for gender dysphoria and gender incongruence. In her statement to The Nevada Globe and on social media site X, formally known as Twitter, Fisher called for the repeal of Senate Bill 163, which requires insurers to make a reasonable effort to provide gender affirming care to customers in their network plan. Lombardo signed the bill into law in 2023. 

Fisher said she respects Lombardo’s work as governor, and his numerous vetoes last session, but vowed to repeal the health care bill. Fisher also pledged to protect Senate District 19 from “the proliferation of ideologies such as communism.”

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: [email protected]. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

Nevada Current
Nevada Currenthttps://www.nevadacurrent.com
Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: [email protected]. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

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