A Look At Nevada's Down Ballot Races

Oct 9, 2018

This November, every constitutional office in Nevada is up for grabs. And while most people may be concentrating on the who is running for Governor, it'll be up to voters to decide who will also take over the down ballot positions in the executive branch. KUNR's Paul Boger sat down with our reporter Paolo Zialcita to discuss those elections.

Paolo, we've heard a lot about the governor's, the lieutenant governor's and the attorney general's races, but we haven't heard much about the down ballot positions in the executive branch. What offices are up for grabs?

We’ve got the secretary of state, the treasurer and the controller’s office all up for grabs. Currently, all are held by Republicans, so Democrats are eager to take back some offices in the executive branch.

Out of the three, only one race is an open election, meaning the incumbent isn’t seeking reelection.

Alright, why don't we start off at the top of the list. Take me through the secretary of state's election.

Secretary of state is the third highest ranking state official. Their primary responsibility is to be the chief elections officer. That means maintaining campaign financial records, as well as maintaining official records of the state legislature and the executive branch.

This year, we have Democrat state assemblyman Nelson Araujo facing off against Republican incumbent Barbara Cegavske. Cegavske, running for her second term, has been in state government since 1997. She fought off a challenge in the primary, but handled it pretty easily. Araujo is District 3’s state assemblyman. He’s running with an endorsement from the Human Rights Campaign. This is his first statewide election.

An interesting point of contention in this race is voter fraud and voter ID. Last year, Cegavske opened an investigation against the DMV about alleged voter fraud. Araujo has been critical of her lack of communication on the investigation. Also, Cegavske has voiced her support on voter ID, a hotly debated topic in the state. Araujo hasn’t taken a stance yet, but he’s stated he will take a closer look at the issue.

What about the treasurer’s office?

The state treasurer is essentially the chief financial officer of Nevada. They are responsible for maintaining the state budget. Incumbent Dan Schwartz chose to run for governor, leaving Democrat Zach Conine and Republican Bob Beers to vie for the office.

Conine ran for a State Assembly seat in Las Vegas back in 2016, but lost in the primary. Bob Beers is much more experienced in government, having served since 1999. His last held office was on the Las Vegas City Council, which he served in from 2012 to 2017, when he lost a re-election campaign.

Both candidates have tackled the issue of marijuana banking and are mostly in agreement that dispensaries need to stop handling large amounts of cash and have easier access to banks.

And finally, tell me a little more about the controller’s office.

The controller is essentially the state’s chief accountant. They’re responsible for the state’s final audit and settling claims made against the state.

Ron Knecht is the current controller, he’s seeking re-election. He took office in 2014 after winning fairly easily, given his experience in the public and private sectors. He’s being challenged by Democrat Catherine Byrne, who ran unopposed in the primary. She’s worked as a C.P.A. in the private sector, but this is her first foray into government.

The main difference between their platforms is that Byrne supports collective bargaining for state employees, while Knecht opposes it. Given the nature of the position and the historical data, Knecht shouldn’t have any trouble keeping his seat.

One thing that all of these races have in common is that they're all down ballot races. There's going to be a decrease in the number of voters in each race. How do you think that's going to affect the results come election day?

Voters are going to turnout for governor, senate and serious ballot questions. That being said, you’re very likely to see that drop off in each race past governor. And that’s where democrats will likely find themselves in trouble. Large voter turnout usually favors democrats, if the number of voters drops off dramatically, it may become difficult to determine the outcome.