Two candidates with legislative experience are vying for what is probably the most low-key executive branch office on the statewide ballot this year — the accounting-focused state comptroller job.
After Democratic incumbent Catherine Byrne decided not to seek re-election, former Democratic Congresswoman Ellen Spiegel is set to face the only Republican candidate, Congressman Andy Matthews, in the November election. Democrat Alex Costa and Libertarian Jed William Profeta also jumped into the race, but neither candidate has a public profile or raised or spent campaign money in the first quarter.
Last year, Spiegel announced his intention to run for secretary of state, but then switched to seek the comptroller job in February, avoiding a potentially risky Democratic primary with the former Nevada Athletic Commission chairman. Cisco Aguilar, who had won the backing of big names for the role of Secretary of State. Both Byrne and Gov. Steve Sisolak showed their support for Spiegel when she announced she would run for Controller instead.
“When I heard that current comptroller Catherine Byrne was not running for office, the governor called me and asked me to think about it,” Spiegel said in an interview with The Nevada Independent. “And I realized that with my background, my vision and my experience in business, I am very well suited for the position.”
The State Comptroller is the chief financial officer of the State of Nevada and is responsible for administering the state’s accounting system, registering vendors, settling all claims against the state, and collecting debts owed to the state. The Comptroller also sits on the Transportation Council and the Executive Audit Committee.
Each comptroller is limited by the state constitution to two four-year terms, and annual compensation is approximately $100,000. The comptroller’s office publishes a 24-page annual report, also known as the People’s Annual Financial Report, so citizens can access information about state finances.
Raised in the small Long Island town of Jericho, New York, Spiegel has a degree in consumer economics from Cornell University and has 40 years of experience working with companies such as American Express and The Weather Channel. She said her business background would be the perfect fit for the state comptroller job.
“I’ve always been a political geek,” Spiegel said at a Las Vegas event hosted by the Hispanics in Politics group on May 4. “I’m always looking at people, I’m always looking to do things in a different way. I’m looking to take what’s out there and reinvent it and do it in a way that makes financial sense. .
Spiegel also developed one of the first online stores that allowed people to buy software and download it to their computers, and supported the development of internet privacy and email marketing guidelines that protect consumers. She owns a Nevada-based consulting company with her husband Bill.
According to his campaign website, Spiegel sponsored two sex discrimination bills that were signed into state law in 2017 and aimed to protect equal pay for equal work. She also drafted a bill in 2019 that mandates health coverage for pre-existing conditions and gives consumers better access to specialists.
After spending a decade in Assembly and narrowly losing a 2020 state Senate bid, Spiegel said it was time for something new. Of Jewish faith, she says she believes in “tikkun olam”, a concept of Judaism that refers to the repair of the world, and says she wants to contribute to her community.
“As I look at the challenges that Nevada faces, we have a tremendous amount of issues related to our financial situation,” Spiegel said at the event. “Our taxes are low and we love living here, but it can be hard to get enough money to go around and fund the things we want, like fixing our schools.”
Spiegel said she has a plan to tackle the state’s financial problems. She wants to introduce a Right Track program – one of her campaign ideas for Secretary of State – that can help disadvantaged entrepreneurs get a business license and mentorship to succeed.
“The thing is, our commercial license is a little crazy,” Spiegel said. “And I agree there should be awards. But if you’re struggling with business because you’re unemployed or underemployed, you don’t have that kind of money to pay to the ‘State when you don’t even know if your business will succeed.
Under the Right Track program, Spiegel said individuals could start their businesses with a provisional business license for free, provided they accept mentorship. She added that the mentorship aspect will bring a higher likelihood of success and that the “stable financial line of defense” would give people a head start, benefiting the state by saving on social services.
“We need to have our finances in order,” Spiegel said. “And people have been trying to solve these problems for as long as I can remember, but I actually have some ideas of how we can do that.”
So far, Spiegel has raised around $21,000 and spent $26,000. She received $2,500 from a PAC affiliated with Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft and individual donations from Byrne, former Rep. Shelley Berkley and Rep. Shea Backus.
She has nearly $130,000 in cash, about $30,000 less than her Republican opponent, Andy Matthews. Most of his expenses, about $18,000, were on payroll.
Republican Andy Matthews
A first-term Assemblyman, Matthews previously led the conservative advocacy group Nevada Policy Research Institute, which supports more schooling options, low-tax solutions and increased transparency around sector compensation. audience.
He beat Democratic incumbent Shea Backus in Las Vegas Assembly District 37 by 2 percentage points in 2020. Matthews did not respond to multiple interview requests from The Nevada Independent.
Matthews was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He graduated from Boston University’s College of Communication and began his career as a sports journalist at outlets such as FoxNews and MLB.com. He worked on a political race in New Jersey in 2005, then moved to Nevada to work as a campaign manager for former state legislator Bob Beers, who ultimately failed to run for governor in 2006.
His website said he was prompted to run when former Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, pushed a record package of new and expanded taxes worth more than $1.1 billion in 2015. Matthews jumped into the race for the 3rd congressional district as a Republican candidate in 2016 but was ultimately defeated by Danny Tarkanian in the primary.
Among the bills, sponsored by Assemblyman Matthews, were measures that would have exempted small businesses from obtaining a business license, canceled expanded mail-in voting, increased penalties for agencies agencies that violate public records laws and created a committee to recommend cuts to public spending. . As with many Republican-sponsored bills, these measures did not survive the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
On his campaign website, Matthews’ list of priorities includes making government more transparent and accountable, increasing public access to information about government spending and operations, opposing ‘destructive’ tax hikes , limit government spending and “restore sanity in the state capital”. ”
It has been endorsed by a long list of conservatives such as former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, former Comptroller Ron Knecht and former Governor Robert List. Matthews also leads the political action committee Morning in Nevada, an organization tied to Laxalt and conservative causes, as executive director.
During the first quarter, Matthews raised just over $40,000 and spent around $20,000. He received $1,000 from the Las Vegas Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, owned by TV star and Republican donor Rick Harrison.
Matthews has $150,000 in cash on hand. He surpassed Spiegel in campaign fundraising but spent about $6,000 less, giving him a slight edge early in the second quarter.