Even though our official primary date is June 12, voting in our primary actually begins today as early voting kicks off. So with that being said, I figured now's a good time to give you a heads up on all the important races and how they will be affected by this first opportunity for Nevada voters to choose Members of Congress and State Legislators in their new districts. So let's get to the races!
Since NV-01 & NV-02 are shaping up to be the safe seats with the likely winners already known (Democrat Dina Titus for 1, Republican Mark Amodei for 2), Nevada's political junkies will mostly be keeping a close eye on NV-03 and NV-04. In NV-03, we'll be monitoring how far above 50% incumbent Joe Heck (R-Henderson) and challenger John Oceguera (D-Paradise) finish in their respective primaries. In NV-04, Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) faces no primary, but the Republicans do. Danny Tarkanian has been considered the GOP frontrunner, but last minute momentum for State Senator Barbara Cegavske (R-Spring Valley) and "private sector guy" Dan Schwartz makes a surprise upset win for either of them very much possible.
Since we have several key Senate and Assembly races that will determine the balance of power in Carson City, we will be watching several primaries to see how the swing seat races are developing, as well as to see some dramatic primary challenges in what had been "safe seats" for certain incumbents and hand picked successors.
SD 1 (North Las Vegas)
This is the primary that Nevada's progressives are most excited about. Senator John Lee (D-North Las Vegas) has a history of bucking the party line and joining with Republicans on key budget votes and against environmental and anti-discrimination legislation. He's also anti-choice and against marriage equality. So in perhaps one of the most surprising moves of the election cycle, a coalition of pro-environment, pro-union, pro-women, and pro-LGBTQ equality activists teamed up to support military veteran, ordained minister, and out African-American lesbian Pat Spearman in challenging Lee. While Lee leads in the always important money race, progressives are not letting that deter them from their goal of getting a more reliable progressive legislator elected in this seat that will definitely stay in Democratic hands in November.
SD 5 (Henderson)
While SD 1 may be a safe seat in the general election, 5 is not. It's been redesigned as a 56% Obama/54% Reid district that Republicans are playing hard to win. However, they've run into a bit of a SNAFU here. Former Henderson City Council Member Steve Kirk (R) is the annointed party favorite, but the "tea party" is refusing to fall in line. Instead, local "tea partiers" are rallying around local doctor Annette Teijero. What makes this picture even uglier is that Nevada Republicans have tried desperately to drive a wedge between the Latino community and the Democratic Party, and to show Latinos that "los Republicanos" care about them. So for party leadership to give Teijero the shaft hurts there as well as with efforts to get the "tea party" to cooperate with them.
While Kirk likely has the upper hand here, Teijero has been working the field early and hard, and can't really be counted out. Whoever wins the GOP primary will go up against Democrat Joyce Woodhouse (who's uncontested on the Dem side) for the chance to succeed retiring Senator Shirley Breeden (D-Henderson).
SD 9 (Enterprise)
This may be the Senate seat most likely to change hands (from GOP to Dem) in November, but the primaries here haven't been too exciting so far. Democrat and star attorney Justin Jones is expected to move onto the general. Yet while former Nevada Republican Party spokesperson Mari Nakashima St. Martin has the advantage in her primary, she is being challenged by "tea party" darling Brent Jones (no relation to Justin). If there's any potential for an upset, it's likely on the GOP side.
The general election in this Southwest Vegas Valley district will determine the replacement of recently resigned State Senator (and newly minted Maxim model!) Elizabeth Halseth (R-Enterprise).
SD 11 (Spring Valley)
Senate 11 is turning out to be an odd duck of a race. The Nevada Senate Democratic Caucus recruited 2010 SD 12 candidate and rising "legal eagle" superstar Aaron Ford to run in this safe seat west of I-15 to succeed retiring Senate President Pro-tem Mike Schneider (D-Spring Valley). However, Senate Democratic leaders ran into a problem when Former Assembly Member and local environmentalist favorite Harry Mortenson (D-Spring Valley) also decided to run. Mortenson first positioned himself as "the true progressive" in the race by endorsing a corporate tax... Yet he's now endorsed by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce! Try to explain that.
Whoever wins, Democrats need not worry.
SD 18 (Las Vegas)
This newly created Northwest Vegas Valley district is a rarity in that it features hot primaries on both sides as well as a competitive general election. On the Republican side, Nevada Senate Republican Caucus endorsed Assembly Member Scott Hammond (R-Las Vegas) must face "tea party" favored Assembly Member Richard MacArthur (R-Las Vegas). Meanwhile on the Democratic side, businesswoman (and wife of Las Vegas City Council Member & Blue Dog Steve Ross) Kelli Ross must face former PTA education activist and progressive favorite Donna Schlemmer. It will be interesting to see here how the establishment picks (Hammond & Ross) fare against candidates more beloved to the grassroots base (MacArthur & Schlemmer).
AD 9 (Enterprise/Summerlin South)
This new Southwest Valley Assembly seat may be competitive in the fall, but so far Democrat Andrew Martin and Republican Victoria DeLaGuerra-Seaman now look like the favorites in their respective primaries, but there may still be potential for a surprise here, so this may be worth watching.
AD 10 (Las Vegas)
While this West Las Vegas district shouldn't give Democrats any problems come November, leadership must worry at least a bit about primary problems now. Assembly Member Joe Hogan (D-Las Vegas) is running for reelection, but he's run into recent legal trouble... And local HOA activist Jonathan Freidrich is taking advantage of it. While Hogan is still the favorite, an upset is now possible, depending on turnout.
AD 13 (Las Vegas)
This is another hot race all around. On the Republican side, Assembly GOP Caucus backed Paul Anderson is being challenged by "tea party" backed Leonard Foster. And on the Democratic side, Assembly Democratic Caucus backed construction workers union guy Lou DeSalvio is being challenged by progressive community activist Leisa Moseley.
The primary winners will go onto the general election to replace Scott Hammond, who's now running for Senate. (See SD 18 above.)
AD 20 (Paradise/Henderson)
This new Sunset Park, Green Valley North, and Whitney Ranch based Assembly seat will likely be decided in the Democratic primary, so what happens in the next two weeks determines everything. Former Assembly Member Ellen Spiegel moved to rub here, but she's being challenged by attorney Kent Ivey and Gloria Bonaventura. Spiegel has the Assembly Democratic Caucus' support along with several unions, but Ivey has deep pockets, some deep community support, and can't be counted out.
AD 21 (Henderson/Silverado Ranch)
Assembly Member Mark Sherwood (R-Henderson) is stepping down after one term, so this race is now wide open. On the GOP side, attorney & "PTA mom" Becky Harris has all the establishment support... But Swadeep Nigam is on the Clark County GOP executive board and is piling up "tea party" support as well. On the Dem side, attorney & "PTA dad" Steve Parke looks to be local progressives' favorite candidate, and he's going against Assembly Democratic Caucus endorsed Dr. Andy Eisen and retired carpenter union official Rick Wilkening.
AD 39 (Rural Northern Nevada)
Assembly Member Kelly Kite (R-Minden) shouldn't have anything to worry about theoretically in this safe GOP seat. However, he's being challenged from the far right by "tea party" backed candidate Jim Wheeler. Since they feel Kite is too "pro tax", "tea party" aligned groups are pushing hard for Wheeler. Whoever wins this primary is assured to win the general.
And that's all, folks! Happy Early Voting, and come back on June 12 to see what actually happens.