Statewide campaigns in Nevada have a pattern:
multiple visits to Las Vegas and Reno, a couple to Elko and a rural tour. Rinse. Repeat.
There isn’t a lot of variation on the model, at least for successful candidates. But Jared Fisher, a political newcomer, is adding a bit of spice to the normal campaign tactic in his bid for governor.
Fisher, a 47-year-old Republican from Las Vegas who owns an adventure travel company, is cycling his way across the entire state on a listening tour.
Fisher went down a winding road before determining he was going to run for the state’s top elected spot. He’s never run nor held public office before but said people approached him about running for a smaller office – county commissioner or the like.
That didn’t suit him, he said, and he decided to go for broke and take a stab at governor. As part of that decision, he said it was important to get out and really “know Nevada.”
Thus, a campaign and a bicycle trip were born.
Fisher’s already traveled more than 900 miles beginning on May 1 from Las Vegas to Elko to Reno to Carson City, hitting numerous small towns in between. Now he’s beginning the last leg of his trip – slated to end May 14 – through Hawthorne and Beatty before returning to Las Vegas.
“The best ideas that come to my mind happen in a two-hour period of each day: when I go running in the morning or go riding my bike,” he said. “That’s where I clear my mind and come up with how each day is going to go and how I’m going to efficiently get through the day and come up with ideas that are beneficial to our company.”
However, he said that doesn’t mean he lacks political experience. His wife, Heather, founded Save Red Rock, a grassroots organization aimed at blocking development from encroaching on Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas. In his business life, Fisher said he consistently deals with the federal government, gathering permits from a deluge of different agencies.
“When it comes to understanding the political aspects of how things are run, I understand it,” he said. “My career has basically been dealing with government and issues and land access and so forth.”
Nevada has a history of eccentric candidates entering the race, largely because all it takes for a hopeful to put his or her name on the ballot is residency requirements and a $300 fee. Most of the time, those candidates are forgotten in lieu of the preferred candidates of the major parties.
“Some of those people, it’s a comical laugh,” he said. “Not all of them, but some of them, they do it just to say they’ve run for governor. But if you look at the Fishers’ track record in Southern Nevada, you’ll know we’re really serious.”
And he doesn’t want to be known only for the grandiose stunt.
“I don’t want people to think of me as the ‘bike guy,’” Fisher said. “I want people to understand that I am a serious candidate for this race and I mean well for everybody. I care for this state as much, if not more, than anybody that I’ve seen express interest.”
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Fisher said he is taking the race seriously. He already has a website – and a link for people to donate. He’s carrying literature around and has a documentarian following him around.
Fisher’s methods aren’t entirely unheard of. In 1970, then state Sen. Lawton Chiles of Florida walked more than 1,000 miles across the state, earning the nickname “Walkin’ Lawton” as well as a U.S. Senate seat. Lawton served three terms, before a stint as governor.
During the 1972 race for governor in Illinois, Dan Walker, a Democratic candidate and political outsider who’d also never held public office, walked more than 1,100 miles around the state.
Walker eventually beat political juggernaut Paul Simon in the primary and incumbent Republican Gov. Richard Ogilvie. Walker served one term.
Fisher hadn’t heard of Chiles’ or Walker’s antics before announcing the tour. Instead, he decided to bike around the state for a practical reason.
“It just happens to be my mode of transportation,” he said.
Fisher also said he harbors no delusions of grandeur. As a political neophyte, he knows the road is going to be difficult.
While trying to fill the role of the upstart outsider candidate, several realities await Fisher once the campaign is in full swing.
The major players most observers speculate will enter the race – Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Democratic Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak – haven’t announced their candidacies, but released that they’re each carrying a hefty sum of campaign money. Other elected officials might join the ballot including Republican Treasurer Dan Schwartz and Democratic Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, as could Diamond Resorts CEO Stephen Cloobeck, a Democrat, further crowding out Fisher’s chances.
“Well I don’t think about Adam Laxalt and I don’t think about any other candidates,” Fisher said. “If I spend time thinking about any other candidates, I’m not going to get anything done.”
Instead of running as the ‘bike guy’ – he’s been going around the state both listening to people and talking about two of his biggest concerns: green energy and education.
Nevada, with its ample sunshine, should be a leader in both producing and exporting clean energy, he said.
As for the education, he said four of his children are either currently in or went through public schools and he’s tired of seeing the Silver State scraping the bottom of national rankings.
Most of all, Fisher said he is pushing authenticity. It’s part of why he decided to ride his bike across the state.
“I don’t want to come to Carson City as a governor and people not know me for who I am, and this is who I am,” he said. “I don’t need to throw a bunch of malarkey out there to try and get myself into office. I’m going to be exactly who I am.”
The reception so far has been warm, he said, adding he’s raised some money. Others had expressed support, he said, but he declined to name anyone publicly.
“I’m really serious about this,” he said. “Most people who know the Fishers know we don’t do anything without 110 percent.”
Seth A. Richardson covers politics for the Reno Gazette-Journal. Like him on Facebook here or follow him on Twitter at @SethARichardson.