Published Tuesday, June 12, 2012 | 8:33 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, June 12, 2012 | 10:47 p.m.
In a race that will likely determine his political future, Danny Tarkanian nosed his way to victory in a crowded Republican primary, winning the chance to take on Democrat Steven Horsford in Nevada’s newest congressional district.
Despite waging a tough campaign from a sizeable financial deficit, state Sen. Barbara Cegavske was unable to overcome Tarkanian’s ironclad name recognition throughout the district, which stretches from North Las Vegas through the state’s southern rural counties.
Cegavske, a conservative state senator, relied on a targeted voter identification campaign that propelled her to victory in Clark County. But Tarkanian crushed Cegavske in the rural counties, indicating her much weaker turnout effort in that part of the district.
Tarkanian, a Las Vegas lawyer and businessman, has staked his political future on this campaign, saying he likely wouldn’t be able to run again after four straight losses — a record his primary opponents used against him.
Kenneth Wegner, a perennial candidate with some tea party backing, came in third. Las Vegas businessman Dan Schwartz, who spent much of his own money on the race, trailed in fourth place.
Tarkanian will compete with Horsford in November.
In an opening volley within minutes of the Republican primary results, Horsford sought to frame the race along traditional Democratic lines.
“While my opponent will stand by wealthy Wall Street executives during these difficult times, I’ll always stand by Nevada,” Horsford said in a statement. “I believe we must work together to create jobs, stop foreclosures and speed up Nevada’s economic recover.”
Although voter registration in the district favors Democrats by 9 points, Republicans hope they will outperform those statistics on Election Day. The district stretches from urban North Las Vegas — where Democrats often struggle to get voters to the polls — through the southern rural counties — where Republicans vote almost religiously.
Tarkanian demonstrated his strength in those counties in his primary victory. Tarkanian more than doubled Cegavske’s showing in rural Nevada.