Friday, September 07, 2018

Nevada Governor- Race of the Day

60 Days Until Election Day

Nevada Governor

Status: Republican Open
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (West)

Outlook: Tossup (R)

This is one election where there are truly multiple factors pulling conventional wisdom in different directions as to who might win. It had been though that this was a prime pick-up opportunity for Democrats, but polling data is showing that is far from certain, and while many states often want a change in parties for their Governor every eight years or so, the fact is that in a state where Democrats do pretty well in federal elections, Gubernatorial ones are another story. The last time a Democrat won the Governorship was back in 1994 and four years earlier than that for a non-incumbent.

After two terms, Republican Governor Brian Sandoval is term-limted. He was once counted as among the party's many rising stars from an Hispanic background, but he passed up opportunities to seek a greater national spotlight by running for the U.S. Senate. Within the past few months, he has gotten divorced from his wife of 27 years, and perhaps in what might not be too surprising in a state that contains Las Vegas, he has already gotten remarried, as of last month. While the multiple marriage thing might be similar to Donald Trump, the Governor is not a fan of the current President, refused to support him in 2016, after wavering back and forth publicly for months, and has been critical of many of his policies. Sandoval appears to be closely aligned politically with his Gubernatorial colleague John Kasich of Ohio. Furthermore, Nevada's current Republican Governor has decided not to endorse the nominee of the party to succeed him and has said he will remain neutral in the race.

In Nevada, many candidates qualify for the ballot and there is even a "None of these candidates" option, but in both parties, there were really only two serious contenders each in the June primaries. Democrats picked Steve Sisolak, the 64 year old Chairman of the Clark County Commission. He had considered running for Governor in 2014, but waited four years for his first try at a statewide race. Sisolak is a native of Wisconsin, who went to business school at UNLV and got involved in politics years  later. About seven years ago, the divorced Sisolak had a nasty breakup with a girlfriend, a Henderson City Councilwoman, that involved lawsuits, allegations of extortion, and a claim that Sisolak carried on an improper relationship with the underage daughter of the ex-girlfriend. The lawsuit on behalf of the woman was eventually dropped and then she is alleged to have attempted suicide.

His Democrat primary opponent this election was the Vice Chair of the same Clark County Commission. Chris Giunchigliani, whom is known politically as "Chris G." is also a transplant to Nevada, and had long been involved in politics including serving in the State House and a failed 2011 run for Las Vegas Mayor. She ran as a more progressive alternative to Sisolak, and utilized the campaign help of her endorser, recent Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Public financing, achived by Sisolak for the new Raiders' football stadium appeared to be a major issue. It seemed as if the race would be close, and the back and forth over the airwaves was pretty brutal, but Sisolak's establishment support and hefty financial advantage enabled him to win 50-39.

The GOP primary was far less competitive as State Treasurer Dan Schwartz, who ran as an opponent of the stadium deal was only able to muster 9 percent of the vote. The easy winner with nearly 72 percent was the state's now 40 year old Attorney General Adam Laxalt. He had primary and financial support up and down the party establishment, and from figures ranging from Sheldon Adelson to Donald Trump.

Laxalt has a famous name in Nevada politics that he used to his advantage to win statewide office in 2014, after having served in the United States Navy and State Department and Congressional aide before returning home to practice law and enter politics. His grandfather was Paul Laxalt, who served four years as Governor of the state after being elected in 1966, where he would befriend a freshman Governor from a neighboring state, and would continue the friendship with Ronald Reagan in Washington D.C. where he was a U.S. Senator for 12 years. Reagan had wanted to make Laxalt his 1980 running-mate but was persuaded not to, and in 1988, the recently retired Senator made a brief run for the GOP Presidential nomination, but found that a long personal friendship with the Gipper was not considered a qualification enough on par with others in the field.

The former Governor and Senator passed away last month at the age of 96 and received numerous plaudits from people from both parties in Nevada and all across the country. He also played a very big part in the upbringing of his grandson Adam, who was born under somewhat unusual circumstances. Laxalt was raised by a single mother, the daughter of the Senator and a Republican activist. What the public did not know was that he was the result of an affair between his mother and her father's Senate colleague, the married Pete Domenici of New Mexico. All involved kept this a secret and the two U.S. Senators served for years together. Senator Domenici and Michelle Laxalt acknowledged this in 2013 apparently under belief it was going to be revealed anyway. The biological father of Adam Laxalt passed away a year ago.

Another twist to this race is that Ryan Bundy, a son of the recently infamous Bundy ranchers and "Sovereign Citizen" activists is running as an Independent. He could take right-wing rural votes that could hurt Laxalt in a razor-thin election, especially considering that the party might already be further splintered depending on what the pro-Sandoval moderate wing of the party does. Even before Laxalt got into the race for Governor, he had some clashes on policy with Sandoval.

Nonetheless, Laxalt's GOP primary victory was unmistakable. He immediately went after Sisolak, who might not be as vulnerable as "Chris G." might have been on the ideological scale, but whom could possibly be painted as someone with questionable ethics, in a state that has a shady reputation as it relates to many politicians in both parties.

Before the primary, polls seemed to show a narrow Sisolak lead over Laxalt, but since the first round of voting, the polls now resemble a tied race, or one with Laxalt very narrowly ahead. Affection or nostalgia from older voters for the recently deceased Paul Laxalt may play a part, but it remains to be seen if that can last all the way until Election Day. For some reason though, Democrats have failed to win the Governorship of Nevada for two decades plus, even when the contests have been open, and there have been some Republican victory blowouts included. Ticket splitters could play a role in this race, the other competitive state executive contests, as well as a very high profile U.S. Senate race, and a couple very competitive open U.S. House races. Donald Trump did not win Nevada and in theory could be a drag on Laxalt, but wedge issues like illegal immigration, especially as it relates to sanctuary cities, and gun control could work against Democrats. As is always the case in the Silver State, Las Vegas is pretty heavily Democrat and unionized, the rural areas are quite conservative, and the fast growing Las Vegas suburbs and exurbs are where the race will be decided.

This is another one that could truly go either way, but Laxalt's youth and narrative, including service as Attorney General, may present a better contrast in relation to his opponent. If past is prologue in terms of Nevada Gubernatorial elections, Laxalt has to be considered a slight favorite.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

10 D  (2 Safe, 1 Likely, 4 Leans, 3 Tossup) 
11 R   (2 Safe,  4 Likely, 3 Leans, 2 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

17 D (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Likely, 4 Leans, 3 Tossup)
18 R (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 4 Likely, 3 Leans, 2 Tossup)


At 2:51 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Corey: The NV Dems are desperate to win back the NV Governor's Mansion.


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