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Reno’s Contentious and Polarized Race for the At-Large City Council Seat

Austin Daly and Gracie Gordon report on a race that has featured plenty of social media battles to digest.

Both candidates are non-partisan; however, Devon Reese has been endorsed by the Washoe County Democrats, and the Washoe County Republicans have endorsed Eddie Lorton. Original art by Diether Llaneza.

A Campaign Focused on Personality, Values and Character

Through early voting, mail-in ballots and on Election Day at the polls, November 3rd, voters in Reno, Nevada, will determine whether Devon Reese or Eddie Lorton will claim Reno City Council’s at-large seat, which is the only seat, besides the mayor’s, which represents the entire city.

Even though both candidates have stark policy differences, from Reese’s support for new housing programs and Lorton’s goal to reign in spending and fix Reno’s debt issues, the race has gotten media headlines and social media traction focusing on the personality and character of both candidates. Like many political races, the city council at-large race has not gone without high tension disputes and personal attacks. On October 25, via Facebook, Lorton accused Reese’s allies of defacing and stealing campaign signs of his.

“Two nights ago, my campaign received a tip that a local bar owner has been defacing and stealing my signs… Low and behold, known affiliates of my opponent were in possession of stolen and defaced (with Hitler mustaches) Eddie Lorton signs… THIS IS A FELONY CRIME!!!” Lorton posted with a video of signs being carried out of the Dead Ringer Analog Bar.

Reese has opted to not respond to many of Lorton’s accusations and statements.

“You know, my parents taught me at an early age never wrestle with a pig because you both get dirty and the pig likes it, and so I would just leave my comments at that,” Reese said when asked about Lorton in our interview with him.

Lawyer Devon Reese has held the seat for almost two years after the City Council unanimously selected Reese for the at-large council position which had opened up with a departure, out of 144 other applicants. Businessman Eddie Lorton has unsuccessfully run for mayor twice. Lorton started his first business, E.T. Carpet Cleaning, 36 years ago. Lorton believes his successful business and investments demonstrate his in-depth understanding of numerous fiscal situations. Listen to the podcast episode above, breaking down both of their strategies in this race.

Different Strategies to Win Race

Lorton has openly criticized his opponent, even sharing a video of Reese’s brother accusing him of being a bad brother and evicting him from his home. Reese has tried to avoid similar attacks on Lorton instead of responding with more subtle digs at the candidate.

“I have a very easy contrast between me and my opponent and because I think that leadership and character do matter,” Reese said.

However, both candidates jumped into the fray after an advertisement funded by Lorton’s campaign attacked Reese’s support to change Columbus Day in Reno into Indigenous People’s Day, saying, “Reno’s self-proclaimed gay councilman Devon Reese has shown little tolerance for those who don’t heed his politically correct agenda.”

Reese responded to the comments in the Reno Gazette-Journal, stating that Lorton’s “running a really disgusting campaign that’s just generally full of lies, bigotry, racism, prejudice, and homophobia… So, this is really nothing more than an extension of who he is as a person.”

Defaced and disappearing Eddie Lorton signs have been the focus of recent Lorton posts on social media.

Refusing to be Interviewed, Using Social Media Instead

Lorton has been able to get many of his messages out to his supporters through his use of social media. On a myriad of occasions, Lorton has written or shared posts criticizing his opponent’s actions and behaviors. In one Facebook post Lorton shared on October 22nd, he again called on Reese to respond to sign theft allegations.

“For the second time now, I am asking you to respond to your base and denounce these behaviors for all to see. I can’t believe I have to ask twice with something so obvious. Failure to respond to your base during today’s working day will show me simply that you condone this behavior and I will hold you publicly responsible for every defaced and stolen Eddie Lorton sign on the streets of Reno,” Lorton’s post read.

With Election Day just days away, both campaigns are making personality a clear divider.

“Certainly policy choices are important, and I think it’s a nonpartisan office, and that’s an important part of it. But at the end of the day, people should be making a choice about the leadership and character of the individual who they’re voting for,” Reese said.

Eddie Lorton declined to be interviewed for this article, stating he did not want “to be caught in a ‘gotcha moment’ so close to the election.”

Reporting by Austin Daly and Gracie Gordon for the Reynolds Sandbox



A pop up election newsroom from the Reynolds Sandbox. We covered the 2018 cycle and will be back for 2020.

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