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In defense of Alex Velto (opinion)


Submitted by Jason Guinasso

I was disappointed to read Alex Velto’s op-ed last week. Sadly, he chose to characterize my legal work and political advocacy for unborn children being slaughtered for profit as “morally repugnant.” While I have strong opinions on the sanctity of life, I was never secretive about my work. Moreover, the assertion that I “weaponized my position of power” was shocking and false.

As his former boss, mentor, and friend, I dedicated my efforts to giving him quality experiences in union advocacy and civil litigation, helped him build a book of business, introduced him to contacts and friends, and worked to support his flourishing as a young professional in every way I could within my power. In fact, one month before he left the firm, I was proud to nominate Alex for consideration as a partner to our firm.

As Elisa Cafferata and Sheila Leslie point out in their op-ed calling out what they deemed to be Alex’s ambitious virtue signaling, it should not be a surprise to anyone in the State of Nevada, especially someone who worked with me for so long, to know my views and legal work opposing abortion. I have been an advocate for the lives of unborn children since I was 17 years old. My entire political philosophy can be boiled down to my views on human life and each person’s inherent dignity and value from conception to the grave. 

Over my 21-year legal career, I have been the attorney for several pro-life organizations, including Real Choices Women’s Center and Nevada Right to Life. Cafferata and Leslie do a pretty good job outlining my open and, to some, notorious pro-life advocacy. As political adversaries, they would know the depth and breadth of my work in this space over the years as much as my friends and colleagues. 

The dignity of human life and the need to give voice to the voiceless in the public dialogue over fundamental human rights and responsibilities is important to me for various reasons. Some of those reasons I have made public in the columns I have written for the Nevada Independent, including this one, this one, and this one.

However, in defense of Alex, I would not question the sincerity of his commitment to fighting for the right to “reproductive freedom.” As friends and former colleagues, we have had an open dialogue on this topic over the years, disagreed with one another, and made space to grow and learn from one another. I have always respected his point of view, even though we disagreed on the law and policy connected to our sincere beliefs. Our law firm had many partners and associates with diverse views and perspectives on a wide variety of political issues, representing clients and causes consistent with who we are and what we believe. No one in our firm was ever required to work on a case or for a client if they expressed objections to the client, issues, or area of law involved. 

In the last few months of working with me, Alex expressed fear that his association with me would be politically harmful, cause him to be attacked by political opponents, and lose his race for Assembly District 27. 

In response, I tried to encourage him that he was his own person with his own opinions and that most people could distinguish my opinions and advocacy from him and his opinions. I reminded him that I endorsed and supported my friend who currently holds the seat, Angie Taylor, despite the fact that she disagrees with me on the issue of reproductive rights, and no one used my endorsement against her. I have endorsed and supported many Democrats, to my own detriment, but my endorsements and support have never been used against the people I have endorsed. 

Further, I explained that being surrounded by diverse people and points of view is a good thing. Being closely associated with people of diverse perspectives makes us better human beings and more empathetic community leaders. Devon Reese, Alex’s other mentor at the firm, and I had successfully navigated our differences in politics for 20 years until recently. 

Unfortunately, after reading Cafferata’s and Leslie’s op-ed, I think I may have been wrong, while Alex might have been right. Alex’s association with me is being used to attack his credibility. Perhaps he brought this on himself by writing an op-ed in an effort to distance himself from his association with me? I don’t know.

But, his lack of wisdom and maturity should not be construed as insincerity concerning what he believes about reproductive freedom. His beliefs and convictions, as well as his fears concerning his association with me, resulted in him abruptly leaving the firm even after I had nominated him for partner. This decision was supported by Devon, who left the firm with Alex. To be certain, this decision came with a significant financial loss for him and those impacted by his decision, as well as the loss of everything we had been building together. 

I wish our friendship would have been strong enough to hold us together because, in the end, politics, campaigns, and elections will come and go, and people will get elected, do “great” things, and then will be forgotten, but our friendships are what have lasting value in this life. 

Jason Guinasso
Jason Guinasso

Unfortunately, it pains me to admit that, in today’s political environment, maintaining friendship while disagreeing about beliefs, convictions, and critical political issues is difficult, if not impossible, for some people. Earnest people like Alex feel compelled to choose a side out of fear of being ostracized for associating with people who do not share their values and beliefs, causing division and broken relationships.

This circumstance grieves me more than any insulting attack in politically motivated op-eds. I hope one day we can return to the old Nevada ethos where the bonds of friendship were stronger than political affiliation and fidelity to xenophobic dogma.

Jason Guinasso is a Reno attorney and pastor. The views expressed in this opinion are his own.

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