- - Tuesday, July 18, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

If at first you don’t succeed … make an honest evaluation of what went right and wrong — and think about trying again!

OK, so that’s not how the formula usually goes. But when it comes to campaigns and elections — “try, try, again” isn’t always the best approach. Sure, it is a free country and a citizen can mount a quixotic campaign any time they want. But the better part of wisdom would lead us not to waste resources where there is simply no chance of winning.

On the other hand, sometimes an election loss contains hints of hope for the next time around.

Such might be the case for a retired school teacher in Las Vegas who made a first-time run for public office in 2016, trying to land a seat in the Nevada Assembly. Mark Riggins sought to represent the 12th District as a Republican — though the district historically votes 60-40 for the Democrats.

During the primary, Riggins defeated three other Republican candidates and secured the GOP nomination. He then took to walking the district and knocking on the doors of his would-be constituents. And remember, this is Las Vegas, with high temperatures soaring over 100 degrees all summer long.

James Ohrenschall, the Democratic incumbent, had held the office for 10 years, and Riggins said that the man’s family had “controlled the district for 22 years. And they outspent us 100-1.” Even so, Riggins‘ sweat equity into his campaign produced a sense that there was a chance for flipping the district.

“Ohrenschall told me that I made him actually walk doors for the first time in ten years,” Riggins said. “He was not getting the polling numbers. His people told him, ‘This isn’t like before — you may not win this. This guy is pretty good. He’s getting Green Party people to vote for him — even as a Republican!’”

Riggins lost the election 55-40, but wound up on the surprising end of compliments from the Democrat.

“I went up to Carson City, as part of my duties as a Republican official, and I was received as Ohrenschall’s guest at the State Legislature,” Riggins said. “He stood up on the Legislative floor and talked about what a great campaign I ran — how it was a clean campaign, how I didn’t get into the mud. He told people, ‘The only bad thing is we can’t both be here, because we work together.’”

With Ohrenschall now serving his final two years due to term limits, Riggins looks forward to running again in 2018 — but this time for the open seat.

“I think that when I run in ‘18, two things will make it different,” Riggins said. “First, 2016 was a Presidential election year, and that made it hard for Republicans in a Democratic district. There was a huge Hillary presence here — the unions and the Obama people were really pushing hard.”

Riggins also noted that the contentious nature of Donald Trump’s campaign didn’t help the situation. “Our major people in the state — the Governor, the Senator, and Congressmen all came out against Trump. So the word through the whole Trump camp was, ‘Vote for Trump, leave the down ticket blank.’ That isn’t helpful, but again, that will be different in 2018.”

Riggins is active in his church, Family Worship Christian Church, currently volunteering as a church ministry coordinator. He has attended two American Renewal Project events, one in Las Vegas and another in Los Angeles. He served as the county chair for Mike Huckabee 2016 (Huckabee dropped out before the Nevada caucuses) and attended the Las Vegas ARP event with him.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people about the ARP — as well as the Issachar Training and their vision,” Riggins said. “The best thing about these events is that it gives you hope for the country because it’s not going to be just politicians that are going to go in and change our country. It will be the church waking up and getting involved.”

Riggins knows that churches and pastors feel pressure to forgo discussions that deal with moral issues that involve politics because the political side of an issue makes them fear reprisal — including the loss of tax-exempt status.

“We brought it up and asked our people ‘How would that affect your giving if we weren’t tax deductible?’ Nobody seemed to think it would affect their giving to the church at all. And so we started asking: Which is more important? Are we going to do what God says or will we abrogate our duties just to get a tax deduction?”

With the next primary less than a year away, Riggins looks forward to being in the thick of the race once again. And with the solid name recognition he earned in 2016 combined with a lack of an incumbent to defeat, who knows what may happen the second time around?

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