Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2017

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Jon Ralston:

The primary winners and losers

Emptying the reporter’s notebook (and my mind) at week’s end, here are some primary winners and losers in your Friday Flash:


Danny Tarkanian: If you are keeping score at home, the coach’s son is now 3-1 in races ... to become the GOP nominee. You can say he wouldn’t even be a factor if he weren’t Jerry’s kid, but Little Tark was a better U.S. Senate candidate than Sue Lowden and Sharron Angle in many ways (he just didn’t have the Tea Party) and he was by far the best public contender in the Republican primary for the new district. (Check out the “Face to Face” debate if you don’t believe me.) I find it hard to get over the irony that his last name is gold in Clark County, yet he lost the South by 500 votes and won the race because of his rural county cultivation. He is a prohibitive underdog in the general in this 9-point Democratic district, but I bet Steven Horsford isn’t relishing facing him.

Progressives: I was hearing the week before the balloting that Patricia Spearman was up 2-to-1 in voter canvassing over state Sen. John Lee, but I found it hard to believe. No harder than Lee on Election Day, when the man who spent the campaign (his career?) figuratively patting the left on the head and patronizing anyone who came near him, especially women, received his comeuppance by that margin. I have chided progressives many times for fulminating and ranting without accomplishing much. But this time, a small cadre of folks, led by former journalist Erin Neff and some dedicated volunteers, showed grass roots can beat money — at least in a primary. And that’s where they, perhaps, should curb their enthusiasm. Moving 2,000 voters in a low-turnout primary against a Republican in Democratic clothing is a far cry from having influence on policy or in November. But credit where it’s due: Any other legislative Democrats who feel like taking the Lee road might want to look at that light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a progressive bonfire.

State Sen. Michael Roberson: He was worried about his anointed choice in Senate District 9, Mari St. Martin, becoming a Tea Party victim. But she held on despite a shadowy and sexist campaign run against her and now gives the Republicans a shot — she is still a slight underdog — in a district they may need to take control. Roberson rightly believes he is now well positioned to win four out of the five races he needs to become majority leader.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: I know what you’re thinking: Why him? Didn’t he endorse John Lee? He did. But much more importantly, the meddler-in-chief helped ease Lee out of the CD4 primary, and he also ushered state Sen. Ruben Kihuen out of the CD1 primary (after encouraging him to get in), sparing the party primary carnage in both races. Prince Harry always wins.


Steven Horsford: The Democratic hope in the new district has shown nothing more than DNC talking points so far, even going so far as to ludicrously label the GOP field “Tea Party extremists” (notice fellow Democratic congressional contender John Oceguera uses identical verbiage). He was hoping state Sen. Barbara Cegavske would win, but he now has an aggressive, undaunted foe in Tarkanian, who will have no problem bringing up a $1.2 billion proposed tax increase or the state Senate majority leader’s PokerStars junket to Nassau. Horsford has behaved during the campaign as he did in Carson City — arrogantly imperial and completely unimaginative. (Did I also mention he won’t come on “Face to Face” because he doesn’t want to hurt himself?) Don’t get me wrong: He’s a heavy favorite, but only because of the demographics.

Barbara Cegavske: The state senator took a flier, secured the establishment backing and seemed like a favorite — until Little Tark got in. She didn’t learn the issues, was Oceguera-like in two TV appearances and was creamed by Tark in a “Face to Face” debate. She only ended up close because of targeting by expert Billy Rogers, but if she was looking to set herself up for a statewide bid, she’s now at the back of the line.

Dan Schwartz: The political newcomer seems like a smart guy, and he has ideas. But he never had any path to victory in this multi-candidate field, and he threw six-figures onto television bludgeoning Tarkanian, only to finish a distant fourth. All that money for 2,728 votes? Painful.

John Lee: He took himself more seriously than the challenge from the left and now has no chance to try to challenge Mo Denis as Democratic leader (you know that was coming). With his greatness unrealized and unrecognized, Lee still has a future ... in the Republican Party.

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