Helm Lehmann: Independent and ‘underdog’ in Nevada’s CD-2 race

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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Helmuth Lehmann, the independent candidate in Nevada’s special election to fill the vacant seat in the 2nd congressional district, knows he doesn’t have a great chance at winning.

But Lehmann is not just looking to win; he’s looking to change the tone of the debate.

Lehmann is one of four candidates remaining on the ballot after the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the election could not be a free-for-all where anyone who petitioned could be on the ballot, as Secretary of State Ross Miller had initially interpreted the law.

Lehmann was the only one able to get the sufficient number of signatures on his petition to get on the ballot as an independent candidate.

It’s a moniker he proudly touts; the signature on his emails proudly announces that he is “The only candidate placed on the ballot directly by Nevada voters!”

Indeed, Lehmann says he went “door-to-door, collecting hundreds of signatures from registered voters” in order to get on the ballot. He was pleased with the reception he got. (Lippold withdraws from Nevada CD-2 race, will not run as independent)

“Eighty to 90 percent of signatures I received came from Republicans and Democrats, and that’s talking to them face to face — so I feel I have very good cross spectrum political appeal,” Lehmann told the Daily Caller.

He said he ran into maybe 20 people that were unwilling to sign the petition, but that he got a signature from 98 percent of those with whom he spoke.

“That doesn’t mean I’ll get their vote,” he noted, “but it does mean they had enough confidence” to help petition him onto the ballot.

Lehmann says he decided to run because the fiscal damage in Nevada is so bad right now, and major changes need to be made. “If we continue on this path, we’ll be kind of a second world country within United States,” he said, citing Nevada’s high unemployment rate, large number of underwater homeowners, and the fact that the state ranks second to last in education. “I just cannot tolerate that happening,” he said.

The major parties, he said, have done nothing to help the state out of its predicament. “Now they have the audacity to want to represent Nevadans in Washington,” he said. “If they’re not solving any problems here, they’re probably not going to solve any problems when they go there.”

“Even if I don’t win as a nonpartisan independent, I want to change the conversation,” he said, instead of “just talking the same old stuff.” (Amodei, Marshall to face off in Nevada special House election, Supreme Court rules)

On the debt limit debate, something Republican candidate Mark Amodei has been hitting on throughout his campaign, Lehmann dismissed it, saying “it’s an argument that should not be happening,” and that was being aggravated by the heightened partisanship in Congress.

“Congress has become so divisive that it’s basically ineffective … I think we need more collaboration,” he said.

Lehmann cites his own background working for the past 12 years as a turnaround specialist, someone who goes into a failing company and tries to “turn it around before it either has to close or go into bankruptcy.”

“I retain jobs, and I create jobs,” he said. The way to do that, he says, is to “work with the people there,” so that if the company is going to “move forward, we move together.”

To help fix unemployment in Nevada, Lehmann said he wanted to create more mining jobs by expanding the mining of rare earth metals in the state, and by doing solar installations, among other things.

Unfortunately, a place on the ballot doesn’t come with the funds for a campaign.

Fundraising, he said, “has been extremely tough.” Lehmann is self-funding, and he said he had “not received any donation from a corporation,” though if he had, he “wouldn’t accept it.” (Amodei says he opposes debt limit increase in second TV ad)

In fact, Lehmann’s FEC filings show that he did not receive any donation large enough that he was required to report it.

That lack of funds will impact how he will campaign. He said he’s been contacting his friends in various parts of the country, and using social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn to spread the word of his candidacy. He is also trying to get as much media exposure as possible, on TV, the radio, or newspapers “so I become more visible, he said. “And as I become more visible, hopefully we’ll receive more donations as well.”

In the mean time, his advertising will consist of “brochures and large postcards and signs,” that he has purchased. “I will not do any TV; I simply do not have that kind of war chest,” he said.

He’ll continue to travel around the state, going door-to-door and talking to voters.

The Nevada Supreme Court’s ruling that the state parties’ central committees had the right to choose the candidate from each of the major party’s, rather than allowing a free for all where anyone who petitioned could get on the ballot was a boon for Lehmann. It left him as the only independent candidate on the ballot, one of only four candidates total, making him more noticeable.

He’s hoping that he’ll be included in candidate debates, and he has reached out to the major parties in pursuit of that goal.

“I believe I belong on the debate platform with them,” he said. “I think I could change the whole tenor of the debate,” he said, saying that he could help shift the focus to subjects that are important to voters, but that wouldn’t normally get mentioned.

“I’m the underdog, but I may just be the underdog Nevada needs right now,” Lehmann said.