By SAM METZ AP/Report for America
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Republicans are closely watching the outcome of Tuesday’s primary in Nevada’s 4th and 31st Assembly districts, which they hope to flip as the party looks to try and regain the majorities in both houses in November.
The two races offer comeback attempts for former Assemblyman Richard McArthur and Assemblywoman Jill Dickman, but the Assembly Republican Caucus has endorsed neither.
McArthur is running for his old seat in Clark County’s District 4, but the caucus endorsed newcomer Donnie Gibson instead. In District 31, Dickman is hoping to regain the seat she held for one term, but faces two opponents, including Washoe County Republican Party Treasurer Sandra Linares. The caucus’ endorsed candidate Jake Wiskerchen never filed papers to enter that race.
The outcomes will position each party for the November general election, when Republicans will try to regain the majorities they lost in the 2016 election in both chambers and Democrats will try to win the state Senate supermajority they were 24 votes shy of clinching in 2018.
Tuesday’s election will be the first in the state to be held predominantly by mail-in ballot — over coronavirus concerns — and has been marred by controversy and legal challenges from conservative groups claiming voter fraud potential and from Democrats over ensuring access to all voters.
Nevada has more than 1.8 million registered voters. All of the state’s active voters — generally those who participated in recent elections — received ballots in the mail.
As of Friday, the Nevada Secretary of State reported that 309,813 ballots had been cast since early voting began on May 25, with the vast majority returned by mail. In the 2018 primary, the state received a total of 183,567 advanced ballots by election day.
Democrats have returned 43.3% of ballots mailed this election and Republicans have returned 40.7%.
Turnout figures, both for voters casting ballots by mail and in person, will offer a preview for the November election in the longtime swing state.
Democrats have been the majority party in both Nevada chambers since 2017 and currently hold 13 out of 21 seats in the Senate and 29 out of 42 seats in the Assembly.
McArthur’s comeback attempt comes two years after Democratic Assemblywoman Connie Munk squeaked out an 120-vote victory and unseated him. For Dickman, a primary victory would grant her a fourth chance to take on Sparks Democrat Skip Daly. Republicans enjoy a 5 percentage-point advantage in voter registration over Democrats in the Washoe County district and the two candidates have run against each other in every general election since 2014.
In the primary, Dickman faces tech consultant David Espinosa and Linares, who has continued door-to-door canvassing amid the pandemic, the Reno Gazette Journal reported.
In the reliably blue 7th Senate District, three well-known Democrats hope to succeed retiring Sen. David Parks. The primary battle pits Assembly colleagues Ellen Spiegel and Richard Carrillo against each other and former state party chair Roberta Lange. The primary will conclude the race and determine Parks’ replacement as no Republican has filed to run for the seat.
Four Democrats and five Republicans hope to succeed six-term Republican Assemblyman John Hambrick in Nevada’s 2nd Assembly District, where Republicans hold a thin 3 percentage-point advantage over Democrats.
With support and an endorsement from the Assembly Republican Caucus, real estate broker Heidi Kasama hopes to defeat businessman Erik Sexton, retired civil servant Jim Small, Taylor McArthur and Christian Morehead to advance to November in the Clark County district. The Democratic race features electrician Jennie Sherwood, biologist Radhika Kunnel, fertility doctor Eva Littman and Joe Valdes.
All ballots must be postmarked by June 9 to be counted, but can be received by county registrars up to seven days after the election. Voters can also drop ballots off in-person before 7 p.m. on election day.
Although Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske announced in March that Nevada would hold its primary almost entirely by mail to prevent the spread of coronavirus, in-person voting will take place at three locations in Clark County, two in Nye County and one in Nevada’s 14 other counties. More information on in-person voting and drop-off locations is available on the Secretary of State’s website.
Sam Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.