“One of the promises I made when I ran for treasurer was that I would be an independent voice in Carson City and I have been, I don’t know how else to put it,” explained Dan Schwartz ’72, Nevada’s State Treasurer and a Republican candidate running to replace Brian Sandoval, the state’s term-limited Republican governor.
Time and time again, Schwartz was not afraid to challenge Sandoval and those who he refers to as Sandoval's “lackeys in the Nevada legislature.” In 2015, when Sandoval presented the legislature with the largest tax increase in Nevada’s history, Schwartz proposed an alternative budget. Later that year, when Sandoval approved a $335 million incentive package to entice electric car maker Faraday Future into building a billion-dollar factory in a Las Vegas suburb, Schwartz had serious concerns about the project, believing the entire Faraday Future affair to be little more than a Ponzi scheme.
“I was insulted, chastised, and lambasted for a year and a half because I refused to fund [this] factory,” Schwartz said. He was finally vindicated on July 10, 2017, when Faraday Future “announced to the world that no such factory was ever going to be built.”
Schwartz’s rugged independence is a quality that he has spent a lifetime cultivating. His alternative budget and the Faraday Future debacle are only two recent examples of Schwartz maintaining an independent voice amidst pressure from outside groups.
Back in the early 1970’s, when Schwartz was a student here at Princeton, he exhibited many of the same qualities. Determined to study abroad his junior year at the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris, he made a special arrangement with the then-selective Wilson School to do a double policy conference, now called a task force, his senior year. He was the only student to do this.
When he reached the august state of being a University senior, Schwartz decided to take a different path with his senior thesis. While many of his classmates focused on specific topics, Schwartz wanted to use all that he had learned throughout different disciplines.
In this way, his senior thesis was “a young man’s attempt to organize the principles and ideas and concepts that form the basis of the American Republic.” Many years later, in 2010, Schwartz published a book entitled “Principles of the American Republic: An Essay on American Government,” returning to the ideas he had discussed in his thesis.
After Princeton, Schwartz served for two years in the United States Army, stationed in the Pershing Missile Base in Germany. Shortly thereafter, Schwartz did something he says you can’t do today. He went on a trip around the world, visiting countries like Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. For Schwartz, “a foreign culture puts a mirror in front of your own culture.”
He soon returned to the United States and went back to school, earning a J.D. from Boston University and an M.B.A. from Columbia. Schwartz then embarked on a successful financial career which would span 35 years in total.
In 1986, Schwartz reopened Ulmer Brothers, a corporate finance group specializing in Asian transactions, acquiring an interest in the Asian Venture Capital Journal Group in 1993, when the company was on the cusp of going through bankruptcy proceedings.
“We had a ringside seat to the birth and progress of Asian private equity and venture capital, which right now is doing extremely well,” explained Schwartz. “Over the course of that period, we became the first platform to deliver a print publication online.”
Intending to ensure that he could do for other publications what he did for AVCJ, Schwartz founded Qiosk.com in 1998. He was and is a strong believer in the importance of journalism and he has sought to show this through his work in digital magazine delivery.
At a 2001 international conference in Paris that brought together media executives, Schwartz was the lone voice in the back of the room disagreeing with the executives who argued that the internet was over.
“I stood up and said, ‘I think you’re being a little myopic here, we’re only in year six or seven of a 20 year build up,’” recounted Schwartz, adding that this is proving to be the case.
Schwartz first ran for elected office in 2012, when he entered a crowded field of Republicans running for Nevada’s 4th congressional district. He lost that race but remained involved in Republican politics, serving as State Finance Chairman for the Republican party.
During the Republican wave of 2014, Schwartz ran for and was elected treasurer of the state of Nevada. As such, he is responsible for investing the state’s general portfolio, issuing the state’s debt, and dealing with unclaimed property. He also oversees the Nevada College Savings Kick Start Program, the first statewide, universal, children’s savings account program in the country.
Schwartz plans to bring the same independent voice to the Governor’s mansion if chosen to replace Sandoval. One of Schwartz’s first priorities is to sign an Education Savings Account bill, which would give parents subsidies to send their children to a school of their choice.
“If you live in Massachusetts or New Jersey, big deal — you’ve got great public schools,” said Schwartz. He explained that Nevada’s public schools consistently rank in the bottom half of U.S. states in surveys. In his campaign, Schwartz has promised that he won’t sign any other bill until he has an acceptable ESA bill on his desk.
However, the odds Schwartz faces as he attempts to become Nevada’s next Governor are quite daunting. His opponents are Democratic Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, who has already declared, and Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who is also expected to do so. Both are known to have sizable war chests.
Larger dynamics at play could also work against Schwartz. Hillary Rodham Clinton carried the state in 2016, and the President’s party does not normally do well in midterm elections.
Nevertheless, Schwartz remains optimistic. He plans to put in half of the money he thinks he needs to win the primary and then plans to go to the Republican Governor’s Association to ask for more funding if he wins. Schwartz also argued that the odds may not be as daunting as they seem, pointing to gains that Nevada Republicans have made in voter registration and the fact that fewer Democrats tend to come out during midterm elections.
“Elections are about choices,” explained Schwartz, adding that you could spend a billion dollars losing if the candidate and their message is wrong. Schwartz said that he hopes that Nevadans will make the right choice next year and elect an independent voice to serve as their governor.