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Conway, Nunes among headliners at GOP Basque Fry in Nevada

August 24, 2018
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FILE--In this Aug. 15, 2015, file photo, dozens of Basque chefs tend the fire pits at the Inaugural Basque Fry at Corley Ranch in Gardnerville, Nev. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and a slate of conservative officials and political figures will descent on a northern Nevada ranch Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, for the 4th annual Basque Fry hosted by Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt. (AP Photo/Lance Iversen, file)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and a slate of conservative officials and political figures are set to descend on a northern Nevada ranch Saturday for the 4th annual Basque Fry fundraiser hosted by Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt.

The cookout at a ranch about an hour outside of Reno offers GOP officials and rising stars on the political right a chance to mingle with voters and Nevada politicians over traditional Basque dishes like deep-fried lamb testicles.

The event raises money for the Laxalt-aligned Morning in Nevada PAC, which gives money to conservative candidates and causes, and will likely help boost enthusiasm for Laxalt’s own campaign for governor.

Laxalt, the grandson of former Nevada governor and U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt, comes from a family of Basque immigrant sheep herders who settled in Nevada.

The annual cookout highlighting Basque culture and traditions is also becoming a key stop for GOP candidates aspiring to higher office, said Paul Enos, the CEO of the Nevada Trucking Association and president of the Morning in Nevada PAC.

In the lead up to the 2016 presidential election, attendees included Republican presidential hopefuls like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as they worked to gain an edge ahead of the state’s early caucuses.

Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to attend last year’s event but canceled to focus on the impact of Hurricane Harvey on Texas.

This year’s key speakers include former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who wrote the best-selling memoir “Lone Survivor,” along with key allies of President Donald Trump who are polarizing in national politics but popular with conservatives.

Nevada State Democratic Party spokeswoman Helen Kalla said in a statement Friday that the Basque Fry lineup was “a veritable who’s who of Trump lackeys and radical extremists.”

In addition to Conway, who also served as a Trump campaign manager, speakers include National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch, Florida Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi, who served on Trump’s transition team, and California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who chairs the U.S. House Intelligence Committee and has given support to the president in one of the many investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Enos said he expects the speakers will likely use their talks to emphasize the importance of staying involved and turning out to vote in the upcoming midterm elections, where Republicans are looking to keep control of the U.S. Senate, U.S. House and Nevada’ governor’s mansion — among other offices.

Laxalt, who was elected attorney general in 2014, is in a tight race with Clark County Commission chair Steve Sisolak, a Democrat. They’re vying to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who is not endorsing Laxalt.

Democrats, hoping to reclaim the governor’s mansion and build on key Democratic wins in 2016, have made that race a priority.

Activists on the left plan to stage a protest outside Saturday’s event. Clark County Commissioner Christina Giunchigliani, who lost the June Democratic primary to Sisolak, is among those expected to speak at the demonstration and criticize Laxalt and Nevada GOP Sen. Dean Heller for their stances on immigration, gun control, health care and more.

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