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Nev. Candidates Officially Gearing Up For June Primary

Tom Arthur
Wikimedia Commons

In less than 90 days, Nevadans will be heading to the polls to choose the Democratic and Republican candidates for the 2018 general election in November. To get a rundown of who is in the race, KUNR’s News Director Michelle Billman sat down with our Political Reporter Paul Boger to get the latest.

Just to get some orientation, where are we in this 2018 election cycle?

Last week was the state’s deadline to file for candidacy. It’s the period that everybody has to officially declare to run for statewide, legislative and local offices. It really marks the first hurdle to making it to the general election in November. Mind you, it’s not a major hurdle, but it does separate those who actually want to see their name on the June primary ballot and those who may be just considering a run.

So, who’s officially running for what?

Well, to put it simply, a lot of folks…

For brevity, let’s start off with the most high-profile statewide race, the one for governor. Officially, there are 17 individuals running for the state’s top job, but we really only need to focus on five of them.

In the Republican camp, sitting Attorney General Adam Laxalt is facing a challenge from Treasurer Dan Schwartz. So far, Laxalt has out-fundraised his opponents on nearly every front and will likely breeze through the primary.

On the Democratic side, Clark County Commissioners Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani are likely to duke it out for the next couple of months. Sisolak is a fairly moderate Democrat, but he’s influential and has a pretty deep war chest when it comes to funding. Giunchigliani, however, tends to be far more liberal, but that may help her in an election year, when pollsters are predicting this “Blue Tsunami” in response to the Trump presidency.

Then there is Ryan Bundy, the son of infamous Southern Nevada rancher, Clivern Bundy. Officially running as an independent, Bundy won’t be on the primary ballot, but he could cause some serious problems for the Republican nominee. I mean, despite their controversial “anti-government activism” – to put it lightly – Bundy could get a lot of votes, especially from folks in rural parts of the state. Those are areas where Republicans need a strong turnout to fend off the more Democratic-leaning Clark County.

As for the state’s other constitutionally elected offices, those races are more likely going to go to whoever gets name recognition.

That being said, it’ll be interesting to see who makes it out of the primary, namely, whether controversial Senate Minority Leader, Republican, Michael Roberson of Las Vegas will face Democrat and former treasurer Kate Marshall for lieutenant governor or whether Senate Majority Leader, Democrat, Aaron Ford will make it to the general election against Republican Wes Duncan for Attorney General.

And of course there’s the Senate race…

There was a bit of a shakeup last week in the U.S. Senate race, right?

Absolutely, and this is probably the most interesting development at this point in the election. Perennial Republican candidate Danny Tarkanian, who was challenging incumbent Senator Dean Heller, dropped out of that race in order to run for Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District.

That’s the same seat he ran for in 2016 against now Congresswoman Jacky Rosen, who is vacating the position to run for Senate against Dean Heller.

So, why exactly did Danny Tarkanian do that?

That is a really interesting question. Tarkanian has been an outspoken critic of Senator Heller, and a number of politicos and other news agencies thought Tarkanian stood a real chance in unseating Heller in the primary. Heller has repeatedly been targeted as the most vulnerable Senate Republican up for reelection this year.

Well, Tarkanian has, so far, run his campaign based solely on his support of President Trump. When he spoke to me last year after announcing his candidacy for the Senate position, Mr. Tarkainan laid out an agenda that was essentially whatever the President wanted he’d vote for.

So, when officials with President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign reached out to him last week asking him to switch races in the name of party unity, it may have seemed like a no-brainer.

Then on Friday, President Trump sent a tweet essentially endorsing both Tarkanian for the House and Heller for Senate.

So now, Heller faces only nominal opposition in the primary against relatively unknown opponents.

What else do we need to look out for?

Well, of course, there are dozens of races throughout the state this election cycle.

All of the state assembly seats are up for grabs, and there are a number of interesting races to watch. There’s also a number of state senate races as well as a ton of local seats up for grabs including those for mayors of Reno, Sparks and Elko.

There’s also Northern Nevada’s only congressional race, where incumbent Mark Amodei faces a challenge from former Assemblywoman and Tea Party-backed candidate Sharron Angle. Amodei remains incredibly popular across the district, and it’s very unlikely Angle will be able to unseat him.

That being said, it all depends on who comes out to the polls in June and whether they’re satisfied with how things are going politically.

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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