The 2014 political season is winding down and the debates are heating up ahead of early voting beginning Saturday. The two-week early voting period continues through Oct. 31, the Friday before Election Day.
The contest everyone seems to be talking about is the Nye County Sheriff’s race between Assistant Sheriff Rick Marshall and Sharon Wehrly, an investigator for the Nye County District Attorney’s office who enjoys police union support. Their long-awaited debate at the Veterans of Foreign Wars building Oct. 9 drew a packed house that had both sides’ supporters claiming victory.
Marshall and Wehrly emerged from the 10-candidate primary field in June as the top two vote earners, with Wehrly taking 23.8 percent of the vote with Marshall grabbing 16.3 percent. That leaves the candidate approximately 60 percent of primary voters to woo.
Nye County had 23,626 registered voters through September, according to statistics released by the Nevada Secretary of State office. Republicans hold a healthy lead in the county with 10,487 active registered voters compared to 7,240 active registered Democrat voters. The rest are split between nonpartisan (4,007), Independent American (1,603) and Libertarian (190).
In the primary, 6,935 county voters cast ballots, 6,864 casting ballots in the sheriff’s race, by far the highest percentage.
Nye County accounts for about 2 percent of the state’s 1.2 million active registered voters, where Democrats outpace Republican voters by 62,525. But Republicans, who tend to be older, also tend to turn out in higher numbers than Democrats in midterm elections, or non-presidential years. So the big challenge for Democrats is to get out their voters to counter the expected GOP strength.
But the sheriff’s race is not the only contest to be decided. The race with the highest probability of seeing an incumbent defeated is in the Nye County Assessor race where Shirley Matson is being challenged by Sheree Stringer, who took 43 percent of the primary votes. Matson finished with 29 percent in the five-candidate primary.
Other local races include Nye County Commission District 5, district attorney, county clerk, public administrator, District 5 Court Judge and a couple of school board trustees.
Getting voters to the polls for statewide elections may be a challenge considering the race at the top of the ballot is a foregone conclusion, no offense to governor’s race challenger and Pahrump resident David Lory VanDerBeek.
GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval is expected to easily (understatement) win his second term against challengers VanDerBeek and Democrat Robert Goodman. Goodman won the primary, but came in second to “None of these candidates.”
But that doesn’t mean the state races will be without drama. With speculation that Sandoval could be called to Washington, D.C. or challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2016, the lieutenant governor’s race is being whispered (loudly) as a defacto governor’s race.
State Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas, holds a comfortable lead in the polls with the support of Sandoval against Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas. Reid is backing Flores. Mark Little of the Independent American Party also is running.
In other statewide contests drawing a lot of attention, the race for attorney general with Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat, vying for the office against attorney Adam Laxalt, a Republican, has been contentious. A recent SurveyUSA poll showed Miller narrowly leading Laxalt, 44-39, or just outside the margin of error.
Both Miller and Laxalt come from political legacies: Miller’s father is former Gov. Bob Miller and Laxalt’s grandfather is Paul Laxalt, a former governor and U.S. senator.
Another close state contest should be the secretary of state’s race with state Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, running against state Treasurer Kate Marshall. The SurveyUSA poll showed the race in a statistical dead heat, 43-42, giving Cegavske the edge.
In the 4th Congressional District contest, Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., is seeking re-election against Republican Assemblyman Cresent Hardy, Libertarian Steve Brown and Russell Best of the Independent American Party. The district covers northern Clark County, Nye County, Esmeralda County and all or part of six other rural counties.
Three state questions also are on the ballot:
— Question 1 would create an appellate court in Nevada to ease the workload of the state Supreme Court.
— Question 2 would lift the constitutional cap of 5 percent on taxing the mining industry.
— Question 3 would impose a new 2 percent margins tax on businesses to fund education.
It is election season, and if you are reading this you are probably one of the nearly 30 percent in the county that was active in the primary and will vote in the General Election. But get a friend involved. Take them to a debate and offer a ride to a polling place.
This election, every election, is too important to sit on the sidelines and let other people decide your future.
Review-Journal reporter Laura Myers contributed to this report.