Nye County voters bucked statewide trends in two races higher up the ticket in Tuesday’s primary election.
Local Republicans went for Tea Party candidate Niger Innis in the congressional District 4 race over establishment favorite Assemblyman Crescent Hardy, R-Mesquite, by 1,458 votes to 1,135, a margin of 40.45 percent to 31.5 percent. Statewide Hardy outpolled Innis 63 percent to 33 percent; Hardy faces first-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev. in November.
Hardy was endorsed by Gov. Brian Sandoval and in a series of last-minute robo calls by State Sen. Pete Goicoechea, who represents this district in the state senate. Innis correctly predicted Pahrump and the smaller rural counties would be pivotal to his campaign and they were. Innis won the smaller counties like Lincoln, Mineral, White Pine and Nye counties by a combined 2,130 votes to 1,667 for Hardy, but that was vastly eclipsed by Hardy’s win in pivotal Clark County by 2,689 votes, 8,203 to 5,514.
Innis railed against “a western European-style socialist system” in campaign speeches in Pahrump and pledged to be Horsford’s worst enemy as a fellow African American who would campaign hard in Horsford’s home town of North Las Vegas. Innis moved to Las Vegas from New York City in 2007; he was a conservative television commentator and member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
A fifth-generation Nevadan, Hardy said he worked well with Democrats in Carson City and called the 2013 legislative session the most productive in state history. Hardy sold his construction company to run for the assembly. He has served on hospital boards in Boulder City and Mesquite, the Southern Nevada Water Authority, Mesquite City Council, Clark County Regional Transportation Commission and Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
“I appreciate that Niger jumped in and fought hard,” Hardy said after the Associated Press called him the winner of the race. “I’m proud to say the voters supported me and they’re looking for a change in Washington, D.C.”
Horsford, easily defeated his little known primary opponent, Mark Budetich, by nearly 80 percentage points.
“If these numbers hold up, the biggest winner tonight is Steven Horsford,” Innis said, refusing to concede on election night. His campaign team chalked up the results to competing against a “career politician.”
Hardy said he will “hit the ground running” Wednesday in what he said would be an uphill battle in unseating Horsford.
“The people are tired of the partisan bickering,” Hardy said. “It is time for those personal ambitions in Washington, D.C., that leave behind what is good for the health of the hard-working people of the state of Nevada to end.”
Horsford is the favorite to win re-election in November. Other CD4 candidates are Libertarian Steve Brown and Russell Best of the Independent America Party.
Likewise, Nye County Republican voters went for the more conservative former State Sen. Sue Lowden, in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor, by 1,863 votes to State Sen. Mark Hutchison’s 1,463 votes, a margin of 48.44 percent to 38.04 percent. But Hutchison won the overall statewide vote, 53.76 percent to Lowden’s 36.13 percent.
Hutchison will go on to face Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, and Independent American Party candidate Mike Little. The race is being keenly watched amid speculation Gov. Sandoval may vacate his seat in 2016 to run for the U.S. Senate against Harry Reid. Current Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki is term-limited and can’t run for reelection.
Besides her 400-vote margin of victory in Nye County, Lowden only won Elko County by 22 votes and by one vote in tiny Eureka County, as the rest of the state went for Hutchison. Lowden, the former Nevada Republican Party chairwoman, lost in the 2010 U.S. Senate Republican primary to Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle.
Lowden commented about the low turnout at her election night rally. But she plans to support Hutchison in the November general election.
Pahrump Town Board member Harley Kulkin failed to carry his own county in his loss to Flores in the Democratic lieutenant governor primary. Flores out-polled Kulkin 1,011 votes to 484 in Nye County, a margin of 53.69 percent to 25.7 percent; statewide Flores won 71.48 percent of the vote.
“I’m bucking the system, right? I’m a one-horse operation going against a huge political machine headed by Harry Reid, who put out a mandate publicly that all unions and all Democratic party officials throughout the state should push for my opponent,” Kulkin said of Tuesday’s results. “A guy who spends $10,000 of his own money to get elected with no connections and only a few people who knows him? It’s a wonder I got any votes.”
Kulkin reported $10,879.81 in expenditures on his campaign, including $5,150 to the Nubrand Agency and $3,000 to the publication Las Vegas Israelite.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal contributed to this report.