We are now only months away from what will probably be one of the most competitive and interesting primary elections in Nevada history. Both parties have multiple candidates running for the state’s top political job, and several other races will be worth watching, especially in Southern Nevada.
While most political observers see Rep. Jim Gibbons running away with the Republican nomination for governor, there are enough candidates in the race to force his hand on issues and make him run a fairly aggressive primary campaign.
State Senator Bob Beers continues to needle the front-runner on issues such as taxes and Beers’ own statewide ballot initiative, TASC (Tax and Spending Control). Gibbons has said he will not support TASC, as have numerous candidates on both sides of the political aisle. But the proposal, which would impose strict spending limits on local governments, is popular among the voters and could give Beers a boost in a low-turnout primary.
Lieutenant Governor Lorraine Hunt is also in the race. While she has put up signs and continues to campaign throughout the state, it is doubtful she will get enough money to put up a serious challenge to Gibbons, other than making him spend a few dollars that he would love to keep for the general election.
On the Democratic side, the race for the nomination continues to be a spirited contest between State Sen. Dina Titus and Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson. Both have launched attacks and counter-attacks in the free media, but have yet to put on any paid advertisements. Titus continues to have a lead in most polls, but Gibson has more money and should be able to cut into that voter advantage with good messaging.
Titus is vulnerable in Northern Nevada, where there aren’t as many Democrats. As a senator, she fought hard for Clark County to gain a fair share of tax revenues. In doing so, however, she made several disparaging remarks about the north, and voters there will no doubt be reminded of them by the Gibson campaign.
The race for secretary of state will also have a primary on the Republican side, with local GOP favorite Brian Scroggins taking on Danny Tarkanian, son of UNLV coaching legend Jerry Tarkanian. Scroggins will have the Republican regulars on his side because of his work with the party. Tarkanian, however, will use his Nevada roots to garner support and has already received press coverage on his campaign proposals. The winner will likely face Democrat Ross Miller, who as of press time did not have any serious opposition.
A couple of primaries will be contested in state senate races in Southern Nevada, and at least one could be quite competitive.
In the District 8 seat, Sen. Barbara Cegavske will face a contest with attorney Tim Cory, who ran unsuccessfully for county commission in 2002. Cegavske has apparently mended fences with the industries she upset during the 2003 tax debate, and shouldn’t have any serious challenges from third-party efforts, as did her former colleague Ann O’Connell in 2004.
Cory is a tough campaigner who will draw some support from the right wing of the party (which is interesting, since he was a Democrat until a short while ago). But Cegavske should prevail to face whomever the Democrats put up against her.
One incumbent who won’t have an easy primary is Sen. Sandra Tiffany (Clark-5). Beset by an attack from the Ethics Commission on her business dealings during the last session of the Legislature, she will face a challenge from businessman John Jackson, who has the money to self-fund his campaign. He also has the support of U.S. Sen. John Ensign, which should help in GOP circles. Tiffany has proven resilient in the past, but she’s never gone into a race with so much potential baggage, facing an opponent with the dollars to broadcast it to the world.