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Oscarson re-elected, Koenig wins county commission seat

As businessman and GOP nominee Donald Trump was upsetting polling models across the nation in a presidential race that was closer than many “experts” had forecast, Nevada and local races provided a mix of drama and easy victories.

After one of the most contested battles in the state, incumbent nominee James Oscarson emerged victorious over his opponent, brothel owner Dennis Hof, in the state Assembly District 36 race.

Oscarson captured 60 percent (14,674 votes) of the vote, in contrast to Hof’s 40 percent (9,871 votes).

“It’s an honor to win, to be able to continue to work for the district,” Oscarson said.

Although confident he would win, the large margin of victory was something Oscarson credited to the voters.

“I expected people to make good choices when they went to the poll and obviously they felt I was the better choice, by 20 points,” he said.

Oscarson explained the aggressive nature Hof showed during his campaign could have hurt him in the end.

“Certainly I’m not used to that type of campaign and I’ve never been in a campaign like that before,” he said. “We believe that we told the truth, we didn’t tell anything but the truth and that’s what I think people recognized.

“They recognize that I have substance and that I’ve been doing this and I explained to people what I wanted to continue to do. My track record pretty much spoke for itself.”

Now that the election is over, Oscarson said he will go around his district and visit with the voters, those who were in favor and those who were against him, to gauge their interest for his next two-year term.

“We’re going to get out there and thank all the people who were supportive to us and try and work together and reach out to those who didn’t vote for me and sit with them and see what they’d like to see in this next legislative session,” Oscarson said. “When you’re elected you work for everybody, not just a particular party. I look forward to working with the constituents in this district, as I’ve always enjoyed it and I am going to continue to do that.”

In the Nye County Commission District II race, Republican John Koenig easily defeated Democrat Harley Kulkin with 70 percent of the vote to capture the seat being vacated by Frank Carbone.

“I know I ran a positive campaign,” Koenig said after the results. “I was feeling both confident and nervous in the hours after the polls closed.”

Koenig, the former Pahrump Regional Planning Commission chairman, will join incumbents Lorinda Wichman of District I, and Donna Cox from District III, who won in the primaries, for a four-year term.

Federal Seats

The two federal races were called for the Democrats long before all the ballots were counted.

Democrat Ruben Kihuen unseated Republican Cresent Hardy for Nevada’s 4th Congressional District.

Kihuen, a former state senator, held 48.7 percent of the vote at 10:30 p.m., with Hardy, a freshman lawmaker from Mesquite, held 44.6 percent. But the margain was enough for the Associated Press to call the race for Kihuen.

The Associated Press also called the race for Harry Reid’s old U.S. Senate seat early too. Around 9 p.m., Democrat and former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto was named the winner over Dr. Joe Heck.

At 10:30 p.m., Cortez Masto had 47.5 percent of the vote to Heck’s 44.5 percent.

Ballot Questions

Three of the four state ballot questions were passed by Nevada voters with ease. Question No. 2, legalizing recreational marijuana will become law. Question No. 3, the Energy Choice Initiative, and Question No. 4, the Nevada Equipment Sales Tax Exemption also passed, but need to go back before state voters in 2018 before taking effect.

However, Question No. 1, involving background checks for most private gun sales and exchanges, was too close to call at press time.

Nye County’s lone ballot question, which would have allowed the county to use Fuel Revenue Indexing to raise money for county road projects, failed.

Smooth Day

Voting started quickly but smoothly at the polls Tuesday, which opened at the old Pahrump Valley High and Bob Ruud Community Center in Pahrump.

Dennis Crooks, a volunteer at the Pahrump Valley High polling location, said out of 1,600 people who cast their ballots across the county from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., 670 voted at the high school, which has nine precincts.

“I think that there’s definitely a bigger turnout, seems to be more excitement, especially in the early voting,” he said. “Today is probably comparable to what we had in 2012. I think it’s probably somewhat comparable.”

County Clerk Sandra “Sam” Merlino said last week she expects close to 75 percent of the county’s active voters by the end of Tuesday. That would be just more than a 6-percentage-point increase from 2012 when President Barack Obama won re-election against GOP challenger Mitt Romney.

Voter Nick Chapman said he was going to cast his ballot for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson for president this year. Chapman supported Bernie Sanders in the Primary Election and said he would have voted for Democrats if the Vermont senator was still on the ballot.

“I’m not going to vote Hillary or Trump,” he said. “I was a Bernie man but Democrats turned their back on him, and I turned my back on them.”

Voter Michael Bonini said he supports Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“I think she is the best out of the worst,” he said.

First-time voter Alexis Pena also cast her ballot for Clinton.

“I feel like she has better ideas on immigration laws and how to solve problems,” she said.

Amy Doney said she voted for Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“Even though they call Donald Trump a hothead, I think he is going to surround himself with people and align himself like he does in his business with key people that will give him the correct information, so that he can make an informed decision and he won’t hesitate when it comes to making those (decisions). I think that Hillary Clinton really hesitates too much,” she said.

“I like the fact that a lot of the world views him as a hothead because maybe they will think twice,” she said.

She also voted “no” on state Ballot Questions 1 and 2.

Joe Steidl also voted for Trump. He said Clinton is “too much of a politician.”

Steidl said he was also planning to vote for down-ballot Republicans.

“It’s so hard, this campaign is kind of sad because you don’t really hear issues. It’s all personal attacks and negatives,” he said.

“I’ve never seen an election where it’s like the lesser of the evils,” he said.

Early voting

The amount of voters who took to the polls ahead of Election Day was up significantly in Nye County.

At the close of the early voting period Friday, the county reported 11,850 early voters, representing 43 percent of the 27,381 active voters in Nye.

This is a large increase over previous presidential election years, as 2012 saw 8,188 (33 percent) early voters and 2008, which had 8,797 (34 percent) early voters.

County Clerk Sandra “Sam” Merlino said that the amount of voters, early and on Election Day, usually spikes in presidential election years where there is no party up for re-election.

Merlino said it is hard to prepare for presidential elections because the turnout is always an unknown.

“Things have gone pretty well,” Merlino said. “You know, there’s always little glitch here and there.”

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