Las Vegas Sun

May 24, 2024

Highest number of candidates ever file to run in Nevada

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Nevada voters can’t claim they don’t have choices this election season.

A record number of candidates, reflecting populist discontent, turned out over the past two weeks to put their names on the ballot, longtime Nevada election observers say.

In Clark County, 379 candidates filed with the office of Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax. Additionally, Nevada’s secretary of state’s office received 108 candidates. The office was still tallying figures from Nevada’s other counties.

Lomax said in 2006 and 2008, between 300 and 350 candidates in total filed.

“I don’t think there’s any question that this is the most candidates we’ve had in the 12 years I’ve been here,” Lomax said.

Deputy Secretary of State Matt Griffin said, “We’re going to have a very full ballot.”

Fred Lokken, professor of political science at Truckee Meadows Community College, said the ballot is a reflection of the unpredictable and unsatisfied mood in the country.

“It’s kind of like the people on watch seemed to have screwed up,” he said. “A lot of people think they would’ve done a better job, they could do a better job.”

Candidate filing closed Friday. While some candidates can still withdraw, the outlines of June’s primaries appear set.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, left, introduces President Barack Obama at a town hall meeting Feb. 19 at Green Valley High School in Henderson.

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Senate candidate Sue Lowden talks with Leslie Beach after a Lincoln Day dinner in Fallon Saturday, February 20, 2010.

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Danny Tarkanian

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Sharron Angle

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Senate candidate John Chachas makes a phone call outside of the Hide-A-Way Steak House in Battle Mountain during a swing through Northern Nevada on the Lincoln Day dinner circuit Saturday, Feb. 20, 2010.

U.S. Senate

No race typifies the high-volume, raucous contests expected this election season better than the Republican primary showdown for the right to face Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the general election.

The previous record for names on a Nevada U.S. Senate primary ballot was set the last time Reid faced re-election, six year ago, according to the book “Political History of Nevada.”

Six Republicans were on the 2004 primary ballot. This year, there are 13.

This creates an unpredictable jumble in which a winner could emerge by capturing a fraction of Republican primary votes.

The candidates will be forced to spend money to stand out from the pack. And dark horse candidates with strong bases, such as former Reno Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, have a potential path to victory.

This is all good news for Reid’s re-election hopes even though the reason so many are eager to take on the most powerful Democrat in Congress is he’s vulnerable.

While Reid will have no problem winning his party’s nomination, he does face four Democratic challengers, a reflection of his unpopularity, even among some Democrats.

Even after June’s primary there will be more than a binary Democratic/Republican choice for U.S. Senate. Four nonpartisan candidates, including a candidate from the newly formed Tea Party of Nevada and conservative Independent American Party, will be on the ballot.

Ryan Erwin, a GOP political consultant who’s working for investment banker and U.S. Senate candidate John Chachas, pointed to Reid’s low poll numbers. “They’ve been there for years. He has spent a lot of money and not moved the numbers. That’s encouraging to anyone who thinks they can do a better job.”

Sue Lowden, Danny Tarkanian, Angle, Chachas and even Assemblyman Chad Christensen could all clear a path to victory, he said.

Tarkanian spokesman Jamie Fisfis said that while he believes a small number of candidates will have the resources to run competitive campaigns, the crowded field creates opportunities for lesser-known hopefuls to pick off parts of the electorate and shape the debate.

In other words, the long-shots can create headaches for the more traditional, well-financed campaigns.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul, for example, courted the libertarian vote in the Republican presidential primary in 2008, peeling off considerable support from party nominee John McCain in Nevada.

“It definitely increases the opportunity for the unexpected,” Fisfis said. “When I hear there are more candidates getting in, I think, ‘That’s just more information that I need to get.’ Lesser-known candidates can be wild cards. They can lob a charge at you in a debate and you have to respond.”

Robert Uithoven, campaign manager for Lowden, considered by many to be the front-runner, tried to put a good face on the crowded primary.

“I don’t think there’ll be a problem unifying around a nominee,” Uithoven said. “People are so energized, like never before in this state, to finally retire Harry Reid from the Senate. Frankly, it’s not so surprising that so many people filed against Harry Reid.”

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Gov. Jim Gibbons speaks to the media after what he described as a "cordial" meeting with Republican leaders to discuss differences during Day 3 of the special legislative session Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010, in Carson City.

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Brian Sandoval

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Michael Montandon

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Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid speaks at a news conference detailing his cost cutting proposals for the county Monday, January 4, 2010.

Governor’s race

Gov. Jim Gibbons is in despite his low approval rating and a tough primary opponent in former federal judge Brian Sandoval, who has attracted many of Gibbons’ previous financial backers.

This will pit Gibbons, who has run as an anti-tax conservative, against Sandoval, who is perceived as a moderate but who attacked Gibbons for signing higher fees on mining and banking into law this month.

Also in the mix is former North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon, who’s running a campaign based on the argument that he works hard and is a conservative. Left unsaid is the implication that Gibbons is not a hard worker and Sandoval is not a true conservative.

But political races usually come down to money. And Sandoval has it, while Gibbons and Montandon began the year broke.

If one of them can get enough money to break through the noise, this race could be competitive. But even though the incumbent doesn’t have money, Sandoval’s camp seems to be taking him seriously.

Also consider, each dollar Sandoval has to spend on the primary leaves him with less to spend in the general election, when he will likely face Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid.

The younger Reid, who began the year with a clear financial edge against all comers, drew only one challenger in the primary, a political unknown.

Down-ticket statewide races

Republicans dominated statewide offices early last decade, sweeping the six constitutional offices in 2002.

Republicans held the Governor’s Mansion and lieutenant governor’s office in ’06, but Democrats made key inroads, taking secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer and controller.

It appears there won’t be much upheaval in those ranks this election season. Political observers say Republicans failed to field top-flight candidates in the races for secretary of state, treasurer, controller and attorney general.

Of the major Republican challengers to Democrats, only former controller Steve Martin is widely known in political circles. He will challenge Treasurer Kate Marshall in November.

Democrats will hold a contested primary for the lieutenant governor nomination. That’s the good news for incumbent Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki. The bad news? Krolicki will also face a rematch with Barbara Lee Woollen, a self-financed candidate from 2006 who spent millions of her fortune running against Krolicki.

Still, it’s not all bad news for the GOP.

Uithoven noted the national mood favors Republicans because of the economy and widespread discontent with incumbents. He compared to Nevada 2008, when President Barack Obama beat John McCain by 12 points.

“You now have Sue Lowden up double digits and Brian Sandoval up double digits against their Democratic opponents,” Uithoven said. “The biggest Republican optimist in the state could not have predicted that type of turnaround. That is a remarkable turnaround in just a short period of time.”

Sun reporter Michael J. Mishak contributed to this story.

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