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October 21, 2014

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Your guide to this month’s primary election

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Steve Marcus

Sergio Rueda, 61, votes at the Meadows Mall Monday, June 2, 2014. Early voting for the 2014 primary election continues through Friday June 6 at 83 sites.

Quick, can you name every candidate on the Clark County primary ballot?

Yeah, we couldn’t either.

No surprise. The ballot has a lot in common with a phone book. It’s long, dry and almost everyone’s a stranger.

Like most primary midterm elections, Nevada’s June 10 faceoff lacks star power or a marquee race. But like all elections, this one matters because it will decide which politicians control billions of taxpayers’ dollars, which judges administer child-custody cases and which constables serve papers on foreclosed homes.

THE RACES YOU SHOULD WATCH

You’ll find dozens of candidates on your ballot, but there are only two hotly contested races: U.S. House race and the lieutenant governor’s race.

There are a variety of local races for judge, constable and legislator, but most of those have only one candidate or one candidate who is clearly out in front of the pack.

WHAT VOTERS WILL DECIDE

• National: The primary election will be a litmus test for the Tea Party and GOP, just as it has been this spring for primary elections across the country. If mainstream Republicans can beat their far-right opponents, the victories will signify party stability after almost four years of infighting.

• State: The key race to watch is the Republican primary for lieutenant governor. Moderate Republican Mark Hutchison and far-right candidate Sue Lowden have fought about a lot of issues — especially about who hates Obamacare most.

• Local: The Clark County sheriff’s race is the hottest in Clark County. Sheriff Doug Gillespie is stepping down after two terms, and four candidates with strong experience are competing to take his place.

WHAT'S A DONE DEAL

Gov. Brian Sandoval will coast to the Republican nomination and a second term.

Democrat Lucy Flores will become the party pick for lieutenant governor.

Most, if not all, of the incumbents in Congress, the Legislature and the courts are expected to sail to primary victories.

MANY PEOPLE DON'T VOTE

The statistics don’t lie. Nevadans ­— even registered voters — don’t care much about elections.

In 2006 and 2010, there was a 30 percent turnout. In 2008, it was 18 percent. This year, the turnout is projected to be 15-20 percent.

And they care even less about primary elections.

Why are voters so much less engaged in Nevada?

The reason for the apathy is simple: Nevada’s population, compared with other states’, is transient. People move here, then move away. Nevada has the highest percentage of residents who plan to leave the state within the next 12 months, according to a recent Gallup Poll.

“There’s no culture of voting in Nevada,” said Eric Herzik, a political science professor at UNR. “The underlying base has never been one of high voter turnout, and then situational factors are not in line to bring people to the polls.”

Turnout in this year’s primary is expected to be worse than normal because there is no big-name Nevada race. The governor’s race normally would rally voters to the polls, but Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval faces no credible opposition from Republicans or Democrats.

In primaries, the major parties typically thin out the competition so the party backs only one serious candidate.

For Democrats, the party’s picks for treasurer, secretary of state and controller all are safe bets — even if Democrat voters don’t know their names.

U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

• What’s the position: 435 members represent specific geographical areas. The number of representatives from each state is determined by the state’s population. Nevada’s fourth representative was added in 2012 after years of rapid population growth.

• Why it matters: District 4 is the only federal race Clark County voters need to worry about in the primary.

• The candidates: Assemblyman Cresent Hardy and political consultant Niger Innis are competing for the Republican nomination. The winner will challenge incumbent Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford in the November general election. District 4 encompasses the northern valley and parts of rural Nevada.

GOVERNOR OF NEVADA

• What’s the position: The governor is CEO of the state.

• Why it matters: The governor leads more than 15,000 state employees and a $6 billion biennial budget while setting the political agenda for the Legislature.

• The candidates: Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval faces 13 challengers, but none have the support or money to offer a serious threat. Democrats couldn’t find even one serious candidate. Sandoval will cruise to the Republican nomination in June and will win the position in November.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR

• What’s the position: The No. 2 executive behind the governor but with fewer powers.

• Why it matters: This is the hottest primary race in Nevada. That’s because of speculation that Sandoval might leave the governor’s office in 2016 to challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. If he does, whoever wins the lieutenant governor’s race will take over the top job.

• The candidates: The primary fight is between Republicans Mark Hutchison and Sue Lowden. Hutchison is the pick of Sandoval and the Republican establishment. Lowden, formerly a center-right Republican, has moved to the far right to challenge Hutchison. Whoever wins will face Lucy Flores, Reid’s hand-picked Democratic candidate who will breeze to a primary victory.

STATE SENATOR

• What’s the position: 21 members represent geographic districts.

• Why it matters: The June primary is uneventful. But on November’s general ballot, three Clark County elections will shape the political landscape in the Legislature’s upper chamber for the next four years. Democrats hold the Senate majority by one seat, and Republicans have identified three districts where they have the best shot of taking Democratic seats.

• The candidates: Four Republicans in Senate District 9 are fighting in a primary to boot Democrat Sen. Justin Jones, the assistant majority whip. Expect a lot of outside money to funnel into this race. Conversely, Democrats have their eye on Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson’s District 20 seat.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

• What’s the position: The lawyer for state government and protector of Nevada consumers.

• Why it matters: To political insiders, AG — short for attorney general — also means “Almost Governor.”

• The candidates: Both candidates, Ross Miller and Adam Laxalt, are descendents of former Nevada governors: Laxalt’s grandfather Paul and Miller’s father, Bob. Miller faces $500,000 in attack ads funded by an out-of-state group.

CLARK COUNTY SHERIFF

• What’s the position: Metro Police’s top cop.

• Why it matters: The sheriff oversees 2,000 officers and a $500 million annual budget and is responsible for protecting the city and unincorporated areas of the county. That includes the almost 40 million tourists who visit the Strip each year and billions in casino and hotel developments.

• The candidates: Sheriff Doug Gillespie is stepping down after almost eight years in office. Nine candidates filed to replace him; four stand out based on their experience — Lawrence Burns, Robert Gronauer, Joseph Lombardo, Ted Moody.

CLARK COUNTY COMMISSIONER

• What’s the position: A seven-member board that oversees the county’s operations and spending.

• Why it matters: The commission’s control of the Strip makes it the most powerful elected board in Southern Nevada. It oversees a $4.3 billion annual budget that includes the county’s only public hospital, its detention center and McCarran International Airport. The county also provides fire, roadway, parks and other municipal services to 900,000 residents living in unincorporated areas.

• The candidates: Of the seven members, three are seeking re-election to four-year terms this year.

JUDGE

• What’s the position: District Court judges serve six-year terms and handle criminal, civil and family cases for the county’s highest court.

• Why it matters: Whether you’re suing someone or arrested, you’re most likely to interact with a judge than any other elected official.

• The candidates: There are 34 races this year, but only 10 are contested.

CLARK COUNTY RECORDER, COUNTY CLERK AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATOR

• What’s the position: These department heads hold the top positions in Clark County government.

• Why they matter: The clerk’s office issues marriage licenses. The recorder maintains public land records and financial documents. The public administrator oversees the estates of dead people without heirs or a will.

• The candidates: The incumbent public administrator and county recorder face challengers in the Democratic primary. Two newcomers will square off in a Democratic primary for the county clerk’s office.

CONSTABLES

• What’s the position: Constables work with Justice Court officials to serve civil documents such as subpoenas, property liens, court summonses and wage garnishments. They are not police officers.

• What they matters: Constables decide how to handle difficult personal situations for residents.

• The candidates: Only three of the positions in nine townships are contested this year: Goodsprings, Henderson and North Las Vegas.

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