Las Vegas Sun

December 1, 2015

Currently: 35° — Complete forecast

election 2012:

It’s almost over! Here’s what to watch for as polls close tonight


Steve Marcus

Voters wait in line at an early voting site at the Chinatown Mall on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012.

Election Day Voting in Las Vegas 2012

Stanley Hollman, a bartender at the Mandalay Bay, votes on election day at the Fremont Middle School gym Tuesday, November 6, 2012. Without a ride but determined to vote, Hollman set off to the polls on his skateboard. A co-worker in a car spotted him on the way and gave him a ride for part of the journey, he said. STEVE MARCUS Launch slideshow »

After today, it’s over.

Nevada voters have had to endure a marathon this election cycle, with a constant Democratic campaign machine on one side and that extended Republican primary — oh, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, how we miss you — on the other.

Both sides have spent an unprecedented amount nationally. President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney have raised about $1 billion apiece. In Nevada, where a concerted battle has played out for our six presidential electoral votes, we’ve seen more than our share of candidate visits and television ads.

Piled on top of that have been a brutal U.S. Senate race waged on television, two highly competitive congressional races and five state Senate races across the state. So much mail was sent, you’d think the U.S. Postal Service would now be flush.

So, after more than a year of campaigning, here’s what to watch for on Election Day in Nevada.

Will the “Harry Reid Machine” hold up?

President Barack Obama enters Election Day as the favorite to win Nevada.

With 90,000 more active registered Democrats than Republicans, that’s perhaps no surprise. But how did we get here? Nevada leads the nation in unemployment, underwater houses, bankruptcy. It would seem to be a prime spot for the old campaign mantra, “throw the bums out.”

One of the main reasons for Democrats’ strength in Nevada is the state Democratic Party organization, which has been able to capitalize on changing state demographics to register likely Democratic voters — including a big outreach in the growing Hispanic community — and turn them out.

As a result, the party has been able to build an early voting “firewall” of 50,000 voters over Republicans.

But Republicans believe they can overtake them on Election Day by driving turnout and winning nonpartisan voters — who make up about 20 percent of the electorate.

If Republicans can capture Nevada’s six electoral votes for Romney, it will be one of the biggest upsets in Nevada history. Headlines will likely read: "Parachuting GOP machine defeats vaunted organization built by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid."

If Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley can weather her ethics scandals well enough to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Heller — one of the Nevada Republican Party’s few golden boys — it will be because of the Democratic machine.

When Nevada polls close at 7 p.m. ...

Around 7:30 p.m., early vote results will be posted by the Nevada Secretary of State and county registrars.

Because the majority of voters have cast ballots, early voting results will tell us a lot about who will have a strong showing on election night.

When the first numbers hit, look for three key indicators:

• How big of an advantage does Obama have over Romney in Clark County? In early voting turnout, Democrats had an almost 70,000 voter advantage. If that advantage translates to actual votes, or if nonpartisans added substantially to that total, Obama likely has the state wrapped up.

• What are the results in Washoe County? Turnout was virtually even in the swing county. If Romney can win it by any significant margin, he may be able to use strength in the rurals and Election Day turnout to punch a hole in the Democrats' firewall.

• Also watch whether Obama voters punched the ticket for the president and then stopped, or whether they trickled down ballot and supported Berkley. Heller acknowledged Monday he needs Obama voters to vote for him. And he also needs to win heavily in Northern Nevada.

And what about the rest of the nation? Polls on the East Coast start closing as early as 4 p.m. Pacific time, including in the key swing states of Ohio, Virginia and Florida. Vote counting will likely take time — especially in Ohio, which is expected to come down to a razor-thin margin.

Even if the count goes quickly, however, networks generally hold off calling the presidential race until polls close on the West Coast.


Nevada has four congressional races, two of which are competitive.

In the 3rd Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Joe Heck, a Republican, is facing Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, a Democrat. The race is perhaps even more caustic than the Berkley-Heller race.

The district has about 8,000 more Democrats than Republicans, but Heck is still the favorite in this race.

The real House drama will be in the 4th Congressional District, where Republican Danny Tarkanian has launched his fourth bid for office. His opponent: Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford.

The new congressional seat’s voter registration advantage heavily favors Democrats, by about 40,000 voters. But Tarkanian has a recognizable last name (he’s the son of UNLV’s iconic former basketball coach, Jerry Tarkanian) and Horsford’s past missteps have clearly hurt him.

The eclectic district is home to quintessentially urban North Las Vegas as well as vast swaths of rural Nevada — making it a difficult one to peg.

By any available metric Horsford should be running away with this race, but polls indicate he’s doing anything but.

This will be one of the most closely watched races of the night.

State legislative races: Money or voter registration?

They might not have the same exposure as the national races, but these state legislative races arguably have a more direct effect on the state’s education system, taxes and other policy (no talking on your cellphone while driving, for example) than federal races.

The top stake: Which party controls the state Senate?

Republicans and many business interests have invested heavily in taking control of the state Senate, where Democrats hold an 11-10 lead. All Republican candidates have outraised their Democratic counterparts, and Gov. Brian Sandoval has raised more than $800,000 to help them.

But in most of the races, Democrats have voter registration advantages and are banking that the state Democratic Party machine pushes them over the finish line.

For Republicans to take the majority — and give Sandoval a foothold in the Legislature — they will have to win four out of five of the competitive Senate races. To retain their majority, Democrats need to win two of the races.

Those races are:

Senate District 18, which pits Republican Assemblyman Scott Hammond against Democrat Kelli Ross. With the voter registration statistics, this is the safest Republican seat and most unlikely for Democrats to win.

Senate District 15, where Republican Sen. Greg Brower is trying to fight off Sheila Leslie, who resigned her safe Democratic seat midterm to challenge Brower and help the Democratic field. This is one of the most expensive legislative races in state history, with Brower spending $700,000 this year and Leslie spending $500,000.

In Senate District 6, Democratic businessman Benny Yerulshalmi, in his second bid for the state Senate, is running against Republican Mark Hutchison, an attorney who represented the state against Obamacare and is looking to raise his profile.

Senate District 5 pits Democratic former state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse against former Henderson City Councilman Steve Kirk, a Republican.

Senate District 9, where attorney Justin Jones is going against former GOP spokeswoman Mari Nakashima St. Martin.

The Nevada Assembly will almost certainly stay in Democratic hands — they held a 26 to 16 advantage in 2011 — but Republicans hope they can expand their numbers into the high teens.

But Assembly Republicans have invested heavily to take out Assembly Majority Leader Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas. An upset here would have huge implications for legislative leadership next year.

Anjeanette Damon contributed to this story.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy