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November 20, 2018

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Election 2016: An early look at who’s favored in Nevada — and who’s not

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L.E. Baskow

Republican Rep. Joe Heck celebrates his victory over Democrat Erin Bilbray in the 3rd Congressional District during a Republican party at Red Rock Resort on Election Night on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. In he 2016 election, Heck is seeking the seat being vacated by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

From the race to replace Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid to the battle for control of the Nevada Legislature, the 2016 election in Nevada will offer far more than a choice of presidential candidates.

While many of the campaigns have been in the works for months, the opening of the filing window for candidates in Nevada on Monday marked the official start to primary season. Candidates for nonjudicial offices have until Friday to file for office.

The higher-profile races in Nevada include competition for Reid's seat, which he's vacating by retiring after five terms, and a slew of Nevada Senate and Assembly positions that Democrats are fighting to regain after Republicans gained majorities in both chambers during 2014.

Nevada Republicans Election Night Watch Party

Sen. Mark Hutchison is pumped up as Nevada Republicans gathered to help celebrate his win as Lt. Governor at the New Nevada Lounge in the Red Rock Casino on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. Launch slideshow »

As the filing deadline approaches, here are some of the more prominent races here in Nevada and what to expect in the months to come:

U.S. Senate: There’s a long list of names running for U.S. Senate, but it’s essentially a battle between Democratic former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican Rep. Joe Heck.

Democrat Election Night at MGM Grand

Congressional candidate Erin Bilbray gets a hug from her sister Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod after a concession speech during an election-night party for Democrats at MGM Grand on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. Her husband Dr. Noah Kohn is at left. Bilbray was challenging Republican Congressman Joe Heck. Launch slideshow »

It’s already been a heated race between the two candidates, and analysts have deemed it too close to call. Ads supporting the two candidates recently hit the airwaves in Nevada even though the primary isn’t until June and the general election in November. Also seeking the seat are:

• D’Nese Davis, Republican: artist and business owner

• Tony Gumina, Independent: doctor and U.S. Navy veteran

• Eddie “Trumblican” Hamilton, Republican: small-business operator

• Tom Jones, Independent American: former chairman of the Clark County Independent American Party

• Robert Leeds, Republican: armed forces veteran

• Bobby Mahendra, Democrat

• Liddo Susan O’Briant, Democrat

• Carlo “Mazunga” Poliak, Republican: former congressional candidate

• Juston Preble, Republican

• Thomas “Tom” Sawyer, Independent: veteran and retired railroad conductor

• Jarrod Williams, Independent

Nevada’s 1st Congressional District: Rep. Dina Titus is expected to coast to victory in this Democrat-heavy district. She announced her plans in May to run for re-election instead of seeking to replace Reid in the Senate. The district, which includes parts of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, has more than double the number of Democratic voters than it does Republican ones. Also seeking the seat:

• Kamau Bakari, Independent American: former congressional candidate and electrician

• Jeff Miller, Republican

• Mary Perry, Republican: lawyer and Air Force veteran

Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District: Like Titus, Rep. Mark Amodei is projected to win his re-election bid in his Republican-majority district. "Although the district doesn’t feature as wide of a spread between Republican and Democratic voters as Titus’ does, Republicans still hold a 40,000 voter registration advantage. Competing against Amodei are:

• Vance Alm, Democrat: doctor and Army veteran

• Chip Evans, Democrat: radio talk show host

• Drew Knight, Independent

• Rick Shepherd, Democrat: businessman

Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District: With Heck vacating the position to run for Senate, the 3rd Congressional District is wide open. The district, which includes Henderson and the southern portion of Clark County, has essentially the same number of Democratic and Republican registered voters.

The Republican side features an already crowded primary, with at least six candidates expected to vie for the nomination. A debate of the Republican candidates this month kicked off the heated primary battle, with the governor’s tax package for education passed by the Legislature last session emerging as a central issue for the candidates.

On the Democratic side, political newcomer Jacky Rosen, the president of a Henderson synagogue, is running with the backing of the Democratic establishment in the state, although she faces primary challenges from a few other Democrats. Other candidates are:

• Kerry Bowers, Republican: Air Force veteran

• Michele Fiore, Republican: assemblywoman

• Andy Matthews, Republican: former president of the Nevada Policy Research Institute

• Barry Michaels, Democrat: ex-felon and businessman

• Michael Roberson, Republican: state Senate majority leader

• Jesse Sbaih, Democrat: lawyer

• Steven Schiffman, Democrat: U.S. foreign service officer and lawyer

• Alex Channing Singer, Democrat

• Danny Tarkanian, Republican: businessman and commercial real estate developer

• Annette Teijeiro, Republican: doctor

Nevada’s 4th Congressional District: Rep. Cresent Hardy, R-Nev., is projected to face an uphill battle in his re-election campaign in this majority Democratic district, home to 131,000 Democrats and 103,000 Republicans. Hardy won the seat in an upset against Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, and Democrats are already fighting hard to take it back.

The district, created as a result of the 2010 Census, covers northern Clark County and several rural counties.

Four Democratic candidates have been jousting for several months already ahead of the primary in June: former Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, philanthropist Susie Lee and former Assembly Speaker John Oceguera.

Last week, former longtime Assemblyman Morse Arberry Jr. unexpectedly joined the race. The Nevada Attorney General’s Office filed six felony counts against him for depositing $120,000 of campaign checks into his personal account, though he later pleaded guilty in 2011 to a misdemeanor offense. Other candidates are:

• Dan Rolle, Democrat

• Mike Schaefer, Democrat: disbarred lawyer and apartment building owner

• Rodney Smith, Democrat: retired Air Force veteran

• Wayne Villines, Republican

Nevada State Senate: The biggest focus in the Senate races will be on Senate Districts 5 and 6 and, to a lesser extent, Senate Districts 15 and 18, as the Democrats try to recapture the majority.

“The Republican Party is having a hard time finding a focus, and the Democrats in both the Assembly and Senate are focused — laser-focused on our policies and focuses,” said Senate Minority Leader Aaron Ford.

In Senate District 6, a seat left open by Republican Sen. Mark Lipparelli, the Senate Democratic caucus is backing Nicole Cannizzaro, Clark County deputy district attorney. Two Republican Assembly members, Erven Nelson and Victoria Seaman, are expected to face off in a heated primary in which taxes likely will be a key issue. Nelson voted for the governor’s tax package to fund education, while Seaman opposed it.

“At this point, it’s shaping up to be the most competitive primary that we have to deal with,” Assistant Majority Leader Ben Kieckhefer said. “But we are 100 percent behind Erv Nelson and believe that he will not only win the primary but poses by far the best option in the general.”

The Senate Republican caucus also is trying to win Senate District 5, currently occupied by Democratic Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, who is running for re-election. Republicans are backing Carrie Buck, principal of Pinecrest Academy, in that race.

“She’s already out there knocking doors, making phone calls,” Ford said of Woodhouse. “She’s incumbent protection priority No. 1.”

Kieckhefer said the Republicans caucus felt confident about the races in Senate District 15, where Republican Sen. Greg Brower opted not to seek re-election, and in Senate District 18, where incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Hammond announced he would run for another term. The Republican caucus is backing Heidi Gansert in Senate District 15 over GOP candidate Eugene Hoover, a small-business owner.

“I understand that Sen. Ford is telling people he’s going to expand the playing field,” Kieckhefer said. “If he wants to waste his money in Senate District 15, I welcome him to do so. But Heidi Gansert is going to be the senator.”

The Democrats have put forward attorneys Devon Reese in Senate District 15 and Alexander Marks in Senate District 18.

“Admittedly, the Republicans have a registration advantage in those seats, but we think we’re within striking distance,” Ford said. “That gap could certainly close or be slimmed by the time Election Day comes around.”

No other candidates had filed as of 5 p.m. Monday.

Nevada State Assembly: The biggest fight in the state Assembly races will be over six seats the Democrats want to capture in Democratic-leaning districts currently held by Republicans. Sixteen seats held by Republicans and 17 held by Democrats are considered safe. In addition, there are three seats for which Democrats will fight but Republicans won't. Those positions are held by Seaman, who is vacating her spot in the Assembly to make her Senate run, Republican Assemblywoman Shelly Shelton and Libertarian Assemblyman John Moore.

The Democrats need to capture five seats to achieve the majority in the Assembly.

“We’re here very hopeful and optimistic that we will regain that majority back,” said Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz at a news conference held by the Democratic Assembly caucus last week. “Unfortunately, the Republicans had a very different perspective and very different priorities.”

One of the six positions that Democrats plan to pursue is Assemblyman David Gardner’s seat in District 9. The Democrats are running Steve Yeager, a public defender, in that race.

The Assembly Democratic caucus also is supporting Monte Carlo bartender and shop steward Rory Martinez in his bid for Assembly District 5, the seat left vacant by Nelson, who is running for state Senate.

Republicans plan to put up a fight in those races, too. Assembly Majority Leader Paul Anderson’s Growth and Opportunity PAC has endorsed Gardner in his re-election bid and is supporting Artemus "Art" Ham IV for District 5.

But Anderson said that more of his focus was on primary battles than the general election. For instance, his Growth & Opportunity PAC is supporting small-business owner Tiffany Jones in her primary bid against incumbent Brent Jones in Assembly District 35.

“Part of that is because you have an incumbent who’s funding 13 other primaries against other incumbents,” Anderson said. “We feel compelled to make a statement there.”

The Assembly Democratic caucus has endorsed local attorney and business owner Justin Watkins in that race.

Another key primary focus for Anderson is Assembly District 9, between incumbent Gardner, who Anderson is supporting, and challenger Diana Orrock. Anderson said that he plans to work candidates endorsed by the PAC to put together a strong ground operation utilizing database analysis to ensure primary victories.

“For me, it’s about getting legitimate, strong candidates out of the primary,” Anderson said. “The general election is easier for me than the primary.” The full list of candidates in key Assembly positions is as follows:

State Assembly District 5 (leans slightly Democratic):

• Tony Baca, Republican: businessman

• Shannon Churchwell, Democrat

• Brittney Miller, Democrat: teacher

State Assembly District 21 (leans Democratic)

• Derek Armstrong, Republican: assemblyman (incumbent)

• Ozzie Fumo, Democrat: defense attorney

• Ben Nakhaima, Democrat

• Vinny Spotleson, Democrat: worked in nonprofit sector

State Assembly District 29 (leans slightly Democratic)

• Lesley Cohen, Democrat: Henderson attorney and former assemblywoman

• Amy Groves, Republican: businesswoman

• Stephen Silberkraus, Republican: assemblyman (incumbent)

State Assembly District 35 (leans Democratic)

• Tom Blanchard, Republican: real estate agent

• Justin Watkins, Democrat: local attorney and business owner

State Assembly District 41 (leans Democratic)

• Paul Aizley, Democrat: retired UNLV professor

• Sandra Jauregui, Democrat: housing and real estate professional

• Nick Phillips, Republican: businessman and former political director of the Clark County Republican Party.

For a full list of Clark County candidates, click here.

For a full list of Washoe County candidates, click here.

For candidates who have filed with the Secretary of State’s Office, click here.

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