Jim Clark: The November election for Nevada, in a nutshell (opinion)
The Trump vs. Clinton matchup is temporarily in neutral as both political parties roll out their conventions, so let’s take a look at what’s going on in the Silver State.
First of all, some preliminaries. At June 30, 2016, there were just over 1.3 million registered voters in Nevada; about 528,000 Democrats (40%), 459,000 Republicans (35%), 254,000 nonpartisan (20%), 58,000 Independent American (4%), 10,000 Libertarian (less than 1%) and 11,000 “other” (less than 1%).
Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by about 69,000, but Independent Americans and Libertarians are ideologically much closer to the GOP, and neither party regularly fields candidates, so you can see why Nevada is considered a “swing” state.
Registration is one thing, turnout is another. In 2012, the last presidential election year, just over 1 million Nevadans cast ballots; of that 42% were Democrats, 37% Republicans and 21% “other.” Obama carried Nevada 52% to 46% for Romney implying that “other” voters split about evenly between the two candidates.
In 2014, the GOP cleaned up. Popular GOP Governor Brian Sandoval had no significant Democratic opposition. Total voter turnout dropped to 552,000 and Republican turnout exceeded Democratic turnout 44% to 37%. The result was a Republican sweep with the GOP retaining the state house and taking over both houses of the legislature as well as all constitutional offices.
This year is another presidential election year. Democrat Senator Harry Reid is invested in getting his hand-picked successor elected to the senate. Unlike 2014, Reid is expected to have all his Las Vegas union forces at the ready.
Moreover, even if enthusiasm for both Trump and Clinton wanes, the November ballot will have proposals to legalize recreational marijuana and impose more rigorous background checks for firearms purchasers. Both subjects are lightning rods which will draw voters from the left and the right to polls so we can expect a high turnout.
The biggest statewide contest shaping up this fall is the race to replace Harry Reid who is retiring. Democrat and former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto is squared off against Republican Congressman Joe Heck.
Heck is a medical doctor and was recently promoted to general in the US Army Reserve. He regularly volunteers to go to Mideast wars to take care of the wounded. He has the support of many veterans and is currently slightly ahead in the polls.
All 42 State Assembly seats are up for election this year. Currently the assembly consists of 25 Republicans and 17 Democrats but is unlikely to remain a GOP majority body.
The uncharacteristically low Democrat voter turnout in the 2014 election combined with the fact that many of the districts are in Democrat-rich Clark County means the GOP has an uphill battle retaining control.
The State Senate has an 11 to 10 Republican majority. Two seats in Clark County and one in Washoe County are deemed toss-ups. Whichever party wins at least two of the seats will be the Senate majority.
The Washoe County race features Republican Heidi Gansert who has served as former GOP Assembly Minority leader and chief of staff to Governor Sandoval who is opposed by IVGID Attorney Devon Reese, a Democrat.
Within Washoe County one matter should assure good voter turnout for the fall election. With all of the negative press and publicity over their gaffes and financial mistakes the Washoe County School Board has sponsored a ballot measure which, if approved, would raise county sales taxes by 5% to the highest in the state.
The proposal is to issue bonds to finance maintenance, repairs and new school construction. There is no proposed “sunset” or tax reduction after the bonds are paid off which has drawn substantial criticism as creating a future “slush fund” with no accountability.
And that’s the way it is, midsummer, 2016.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Nevada and Washoe County GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.