After spending much of his career in Riverside County and California politics, Jeff Stone wants to return to a state capitol — but not the one in Sacramento.
Instead, Stone, whose career includes stints on the Temecula City Council, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors and in the California State Senate, is seeking a seat in the Nevada State Senate, after the self-employed pharmacist moved there with his wife in 2020.
Stone’s move to Nevada came partly as a result of his career change in late 2019, when he accepted a position with the Department of Labor under the Trump administration.
But Stone, a Republican who was among the minority ranks throughout his time in Sacramento, says it was also the political environment of the California Legislature that drove him away from the state.
“It was very frustrating in Sacramento, because I learned how divisive partisan politics can be, even when you go there with altruistic reasons, saying I want to work with the other side,” Stone told The Desert Sun.
The 65-year-old is still proud of bipartisan legislation he pushed through the state Legislature, such as a drug takeback bill he co-authored with a Democratic lawmaker from Santa Barbara.
But Stone had frequent moments of frustration in Sacramento. He recalls the Legislature’s approval of a gas tax increase in 2017, which he opposed, as “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” forcing him to consider new career paths.
“It was one too many taxes … and I had been there for four years, just got reelected again,” Stone said. “I told my wife, ‘This is not good. We need to start thinking about a different future for us.’”
Around that time, then-President Donald Trump was just a few months into office, and Stone, who attended the president’s inauguration in January 2017, decided to apply for a presidential appointment.
His initial application with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was denied, due to Stone’s refusal to cut ties with his pharmaceutical business, but he later got a call gauging his interest in a Department of Labor position instead. In fall 2019, he accepted the position and resigned from the California Legislature.
By early 2020, Stone and his wife had completed their move to Henderson, a city on the southeast end of the Las Vegas area — though the couple still owns their home in La Quinta and frequently visits the Coachella Valley.
In his new position, Stone began traveling across several western states, visiting with governors and labor officials to discuss the Trump administration’s federal policies — duties that become more crucial when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, with the department setting rules and regulations for special unemployment programs.
“I never thought that the Department of Labor was going to be the premier department of the federal government, because nobody predicted there was going to be a pandemic,” Stone said.
But his stint at the department didn’t last long, as Stone resigned from the position when Trump lost re-election in November 2020, a typical part of the transition between presidents. But Stone admits he was feeling “down” afterward, given it was his first time outside of a political position since 1992.
Over the next few months, Stone says he spent time doing private consulting for companies looking to invest in Nevada properties. Eventually, he decided to become a licensed real estate agent in Nevada, starting his own website — helpmefleeca.com — to recruit others disenchanted with the Golden State.
“People in California that I know are saying, ‘Man, we’ve got to follow you, this place is just getting crazier by the day,’” Stone said. “And I got so many phone calls about people wanting to relocate to Nevada, to Tennessee, to Texas, mostly red states, that I put up the website.”
Stone: Nevada ‘in its infancy’ compared to California
But that same growth — Nevada’s population grew by 15% over the last decade, according to U.S. Census figures — is also what worries Stone, who said there’s plenty of opportunity for Nevada to grow into a national economic hub.
“I see Nevada at its infancy,” Stone said. “It’s a no-state-income-tax state. They have major road improvements going on. Their freeways are clean.”
“I really believe that Nevada can become an economic powerhouse in this country,” he continued. “You’ve got the world capital of entertainment, a world capital of sports. Land is cheap, and rents are cheap in comparison to California, although they are rising.”
“(Migration) is coming from all over the place, where everybody is new, and the old names have kind of just withered off, so I think it’s a state that’s looking for some good, experienced leadership,” Stone said.
Stone plans to run in state Senate District 20, which includes a portion of Henderson and areas farther southeast of Las Vegas. While the district’s lines have changed after redistricting, the local incumbent, Republican Keith Pickard, announced he won’t seek re-election in the district.
Another local incumbent, Republican Sen. Joe Hardy of Boulder City, won’t run for re-election due to term limits. At least one other GOP lawmaker, Assemblymember Glen Leavitt, is poised to run in Senate District 20, though Stone is still optimistic about his chances.
“I like the odds of coming into office in Nevada … It’s a strongly Republican district,” Stone said. “I would venture to say that whoever the Republican is that wins this primary will probably be the one that will be going to Carson City in 2023.”
Stone has already done some outreach ahead of the June 14 primary, telling The Desert Sun that he recently went up to Carson City for a meeting with Sen. James Settelmeyer, the leader of the Nevada Senate Republican Caucus.
“He says, ‘Man, we could use somebody like you up here,’” Stone said. “I got a lot of encouraging signs there.”
Stone mentions voter ID, fentanyl laws as priorities
If Stone wins election to the state Senate, he has priorities beyond ensuring Nevada doesn’t become another California, such as what he describes as “voting integrity.”
“It’s very simple — I think people should have to show an ID to vote, and I think people should be citizens of the United States in order to vote,” Stone said. “One of my first pieces of legislation as an out-of-state senator is going to enforce an ID that has to be shown before you get a ballot.”
Stone also said he wants to introduce legislation creating enhanced penalties for fentanyl dealers, holding them responsible if a person dies after purchasing the synthetic opioid.
He also would like to be a member of the Senate’s economic development committee, a position that would give him influence over how Nevada attracts new companies.
“I think that businesses in states surrounding Nevada are ripe for acquisition and bringing them over,” Stone said. “I believe in rolling out the red carpet and showing them we appreciate them and that we can reduce regulations. There’s no corporate taxes, either, so there’s a lot of tax advantages for businesses to move there.”
Last year, the Nevada Legislature approved raising the state’s mining tax, a move that even drew support from a few Republican lawmakers. However, Stone seemed disinterested in discussions of further tax increases.
“In the 27 years in elected office, I never voted for a tax, and that’s because I think government should try to live within their means,” Stone said. “You’ve got to run government like a business. That’s how my philosophy in running government has always been, and that’s the way I’m going to carry it into the state of Nevada, as well.”
With the state’s primary elections just a few months, Stone said he was excited to begin engaging with voters to win over their support.
“I call it my political chapter two,” Stone said.
Tom Coulter covers politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tomcoulter_.