weather icon Partly Cloudy

5 things to watch for on primary Election Day

Updated June 13, 2022 - 10:58 am

The final primary ballots will be cast Tuesday, with voters choosing who will advance to the November elections in key races across the state, from U.S. Senate and governor to city council and statehouse seats.

There are eight Republicans vying for U.S. Senate this November in what will be one of the most watched races in the country and will play a major role in determining which party controls the upper house of Congress heading into the second half of President Joe Biden’s first term.

In the governor’s race, 15 Republicans are running for the chance to face first-term Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak this fall.

All three of the redrawn House districts within Southern Nevada feature competitive primaries that will set the stage for key November matchups.

And some races, such as those for judicial seats, local government and sheriff, could be decided outright once the primary ballots are tallied.

Early voting ran from May 28 to Friday. Final early voting numbers won’t be posted until Monday. As of Thursday, however, turnout in Nevada’s two largest counties — Clark and Washoe — stood at 10.2 percent. Democratic voters led Republicans by 5,183 votes on Thursday, which doesn’t including the final day of early voting.

This is only Nevada’s second primary election in which mail ballots were automatically sent to all voters. The first one happened in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when only about 7,900 people across the entire state voted in person.

But what that turnout means isn’t clear.

Republicans have more competitive primaries at the top of the ballot this year than Democrats.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day. Voting locations can be found on the county’s election website. Mail ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday and received by June 18 in order to count, but they can also be dropped off at any voting location on Election Day.Voters must sign the outside of the mail ballot envelope for a vote to be counted.

Here are five things to look for in key races Tuesday:

1. Can grassroots beat Trump’s candidate in the Senate race?

Former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt has the money, name recognition and the endorsement of former President Donald Trump. He’s long been considered the favorite to get the nomination and the chance to challenge Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in the general election.

But retired U.S. Army veteran Sam Brown, a political newcomer to Nevada, has put together a stronger campaign than most anticipated. He’s raised nearly $4 million and spent nearly all of it while trying to frame himself as the grassroots alternative to Laxalt.

Brown’s allies had pushed to get Trump to switch his endorsement away from Laxalt to no avail.

Brown got the endorsement of the state Republican Party after its central committee voted at the party’s April convention. Whether it’s representative of the views of all party members statewide remains to be seen, though most polling suggests it is not.

The most recent poll from the Nevada Independent/OH Predictive Insights, released last week, showed Laxalt leading Brown by 14 percentage points, 48 to 34. That’s a marked improvement for Brown from a pair of polls from The Trafalgar Group and Emerson College in late April and early May that showed Laxalt leading by 24 and 24 percentage points, but it’s still a large gap for Brown to make up.

Cortez Masto is also facing a primary from three other Democrats, but the first-term senator is expected to advance easily. None of her challengers have reported raising or spending any money.

2. Can Lombardo hold off a crowded field?

With 15 names on the ballot, no race this year features more candidates than the Republican nomination for governor.

Like the Senate race, one candidate has separated himself from the pack in fundraising, polling and with Trump: Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo.

And also like the Senate race, the state party decided against backing the Trump-endorsed candidate and instead threw its support behind Reno attorney Joey Gilbert.

The primary race has been marked by the other candidates attacking Lombardo and trying to paint him as not being conservative enough, often attacking his track record on crime, immigration and referring to him as a RINO — a Republican in name only. But that became harder when Trump threw his endorsement behind Lombardo in late April.

Lombardo has led the crowded pack in every major poll throughout the primary. But the latest polling shows the gap closing somewhat.

The Independent/OH Predictive Insights poll released last week showed Lombardo leading the group with 34 percent. Gilbert came in at 21 percent, and former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee were at 10 percent each.

3. Constitutional offices.

There are competitive races in the primaries for secretary of state, treasurer, attorney general and lieutenant governor.

All seven Republican secretary of state candidates have given support for limiting voting access in the interest of “election security.” Leading candidates include Sparks Councilman Kristopher Dahir, former Assemblyman Jim Marchant and businessman Jesse Haw. Democrat Cisco Aguilar is running unopposed.

In the state treasurer’s race, Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore is taking on businessman Manny Kess, who dressed up as Fiore to mock one of her more famous campaign ads. Fiore has been dogged by controversy, including taxpayer-financed travel and an FBI raid at her home, while Kess has been upfront about filing for bankruptcy during the recession in New York. Treasurer Zach Conine, a Democrat, is running for re-election without opposition.

Firebrand lawyer Sigal Chattah is running against the more moderate Tisha Black in the Republican attorney general primary. Both candidates have called incumbent Democrat Aaron Ford, who is running for re-election, “soft on crime.” Chattah became embroiled in scandal earlier this year when a former ally leaked texts in which Chattah said Ford should be “hanging from a (expletive) crane,” for what she saw as his poor job performance.

Both parties have contested primaries for lieutenant governor. Democrats have Henderson Mayor Debra March facing off against appointed incumbent Lt. Gov. Lisa Cano Burkhead, and Republicans have a slate of candidates including Las Vegas Councilman Stavros Anthony, former state treasurer Dan Schwartz and investor John Miller.

4. How will the congressional races shape up?

In Nevada, newly redrawn congressional districts, along with economic strain and inflation, have created stiff political headwinds for Democrats. The GOP needs to pick up just five seats to retake the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives — and the National Republican Congressional Committee is targeting the three Las Vegas-area seats in their national strategy.

In the 1st District, liberal activist Amy Vilela, who helped orchestrate Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders’ presidential caucus win in Nevada two years ago, is challenging Rep. Dina Titus, the dean of the state’s congressional delegation.

Titus is considered more of an establishment Democrat, while Vilela’s strength is likely with liberal urban voters, according to J. Miles Coleman, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Titus represented much of the newly drawn district when she served as state senator for two decades before moving on to Congress.

Conservative activist David Brog has aired television ads to break out of the pack of candidates that includes a former Trump Nevada campaign adviser, Carolina Serrano, former Congressman Cresent Hardy and Mark Robertson, a former Defense Department senior adviser and combat veteran.

Serrano, Brog and Robertson raised substantial campaign war chests in their quest for the Republican nomination, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

In the 3rd District, Rep. Susie Lee has served two terms in what is still considered the true swing district in Nevada. She’s opposed by Republicans including April Becker, who narrowly lost a 2020 general election race for state Senate.

Becker faces construction company owner John Kovacs and Noel Malgeri, an Iraqi war combat veteran and businessman who is endorsed by Trump-aligned Republicans and could muster a GOP protest vote to Becker.

Becker, though, has outraised her opponents and as of May 25 had a significant cash advantage.

Army veteran Randell Hynes is running as a moderate for the Democratic nomination against Lee.

Rep. Steven Horsford is unopposed for the Democratic nomination in Congressional District 4.

GOP hopefuls seeking the chance to oppose Horsford include Assemblywoman Annie Black of Mesquite, who said she has a robust direct mail campaign. She is endorsed by Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., the House Republican Conference chairwoman and cited as a candidate of note by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

In addition, Air Force veteran Sam Peters has touted his conservative bona fides and endorsements from Trump acolytes, including Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar, both Arizona Republicans. Two years ago, Peters finished second behind Jim Marchant in the GOP primary in the expansive congressional district, which sweeps through Mesquite, North Las Vegas,Pahrump and into portions of central Nevada.

5. Which races will be decided outright in the primaries?

While most races in the primaries will determine who faces off in November’s general matchups, there are some races that could be decided now.

In nonpartisan races in Nevada, such as those for judicial seats and municipal offices, candidates who receive more than 50 percent of the vote are elected outright. (Judicial candidates who get more than half the votes still appear unopposed on the general election ballot.)

The most prominent of those races is for Clark County sheriff where three Metropolitan Police Department veterans are vying to replace Lombardo — former Undersheriff Kevin McMahill, Assemblyman Tom Roberts, who retired as an assistant sheriff, and Stan Hyt, a retired Metro sergeant with 30 years of experience.

In those races, if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers in the primary will move on to face each other in the general election in November.

Contact Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter. Contact Nick Robertson at NRobertson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @NickRobertsonSU. Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Joey Gilbert’s election contest lawsuit dismissed by judge

A Carson City judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by Reno attorney Joey Gilbert, contesting his loss of the June 14 primary election to Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo.

Harris touts inflation, computer chip bill in Vegas visit

Vice President Kamala Harris promoted recent Biden administration accomplishments in a daylong visit to Las Vegas on Wednesday, including a bill to ease inflation and another to make computer chips in the United States.