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Sisolak Elected Governor, Rosen Defeats Heller In Senate Race

Clark County Commission Chair and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak greets supporters Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Las Vegas.
(AP Photo/John Locher)

Clark County Commission Chair and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak greets supporters Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Las Vegas.

The Democratic "blue wave" hit up and down the ballot in Nevada on Tuesday, toppling an incumbent Republican U.S. senator, keeping two open U.S. House seats in the Democratic column and giving the party its first Nevada governor in nearly two decades.

Nevadans elected a new governor. Democrat and Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak beat Republican and Attorney General Adam Laxalt. 

Sisolak will be Nevada's first Democratic governor since 1999.  Kate Marshall won the lieutenant governor spot. And the Legislature will stay in Democratic hands.

The state is getting a new senator. Democrat Jacky Rosen beat incumbent Republican Senator Dean Heller.

Democrat  Rosen celebrated her win to Nevada's U.S. Senate seat by saying that though "Donald Trump said that he was on the ballot in this election," she was proud that Nevada "responded accordingly."

In other important races, Nevada voted for Democrats.

Democrat Susie Lee defeated GOP's Danny Tarkanian for Congressional District 3.

Nevada Democratic US Rep. Dina Titus beat GOP's Joyce Bentley in Congressional District 1.

Democrat Steven Horsford has defeated Republican and fellow former Congressman Cresent Hardy in the battle for Congressional District 4.

Unsurprisingly, Rep. Mark Amodei R-NV. won District 2, which covers Northern Nevada handily. 

Political commentator for KLAS-TV Channel 8 and longtime political reporter Steve Sebelius told KNPR’s State of Nevada that Sisolak won because he ran a strong campaign.

“He ran a fairly good campaign,” Sebelius said.

Sebelius said Sisolak’s ads that featured him talking directly to the camera helped and the fact that he is known as one of the most accessible county commissions also helped.

Laxalt, on the other hand, has been known to be barely accessible to the media. Plus, his ads didn’t feature him looking for talking directly to the camera.

Longtime political reporter and Nevada Independent founder Jon Ralston agreed.

“His campaign handlers were awful,” he said, “They are awful…This is actually very simple and it doesn’t always happen this way but it did this time. Sometimes the better candidates win and the better campaigns win.”

Ralston believes Laxalt was not qualified to be governor and that is why his campaign “hid” him from the public eye.

It wasn’t just the campaigning in Sebelius book, he believes people saw through Laxalt’s message on education spending.

“You had Adam Laxalt saying that he was going to put $500 million more dollars into education, but that he wasn’t going to raise taxes,” he said, “On top of that, he favored a repeal of the commerce tax, which would have put less money into the budget. There is no way you can come up with that money – it just isn’t there.”

Steve Sisolak wasn’t the only Democrat to win. All of the statewide elected officials, except for Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, who is a Republican and was re-elected, are Democrats.

Ralston believes that success can be credited to the Democratic Machine in Nevada, which has also been dubbed the Reid Machine because of former Senator Harry Reid’s involvement in setting up and maintaining a solid ground game for Nevada Democrats.

“There was a lot of anti-Trump, meaning anti-Republican, voting going on,” he said, “You have to credit the Democratic Machine, the so-called Reid Machine… they did that.”

Beyond that, Ralston believes the Blue Wave that hit Nevada is also due in large part to the changing demographics of Washoe County.

“It’s not the massive Democratic machine that helped both Adam Laxalt and Dean Heller go down to defeat,” he said, “It is the changing Washoe County. Where Washoe County has a slight Republican plurality, it is a moderate county.”

With Democrats holding all the levers of power in Carson City, it seems like it will be simple for them to get their agenda through the Legislature.

However, Ralston pointed out that in reality, Governor-Elect Steve Sisolak is more of a moderate than many people elected to the Legislature.

“It is not going to be smooth sailing for the governor even though he has a Democratic legislature,” he said, “How some of those progressive ideas get through the legislative meat grinder when you have groups that are going to be going up there thinking they’re finally going to get stuff passed that they’ve been waiting to get passed.”

He said it will be interesting to watch how all of it shakes out.

The other race that everyone in Nevada had their eyes on last night was for Senate. Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen beat Republican incumbent Sen. Dean Heller.

Rosen talked to KNPR’s State of Nevada this morning. She said

She believes she won because Senator Heller changed his tune in Washington and really stopped paying attention to what people in Nevada wanted, especially when it comes to health care.

“I feel that people wanted someone who was present, who was listening, who was going take their stories and take them to heart,” she said, “People really wanted someone who was paying attention to Nevada and Dean’s been paying more attention to Washington in these last few years.”

Sebelius believes Heller attaching himself to President Trump did not help him in Nevada.

“I think he motivated the people in the Democratic base to get out,” he said, “They couldn’t vote against Trump, but Trump very helpfully told people on the campaign trail – all across the country – ‘pretend I’m on the ballot. A vote for X person is a vote for me.’ And I don’t know if that worked out the way he intended.”

Ralston believes Heller, Adam Laxalt and Michael Roberson, who lost his bid for Lieutenant Governor, ran as if this midterm was just like other midterms, where someone can fire up the party base and win.

“Where if you are able to drive up the base turnout and nobody can drive the base as Donald Trump can… that the turnout would be low enough that even though they had a registration disadvantage the Republicans could win,” he said, “That turned out to be a very bad gamble because the turnout was so large because the Democrats did what they had to do.”

Ralston also believes Laxalt should’ve embraced out-going Governor Brian Sandoval and his policies. Sandoval is one of the most popular governors to serve the state.

In statewide ballot questions, Nevadans rejected a constitutional amendment that would have deregulated the state's energy system. 

Other ballot measures passed easily. Voters approved Question 1, which enshrines certain rights for victims in the State Constitution; Question 2, which eliminates taxes on tampons and sanitary napkins; Question 5, which automatically renews voter registration through the DMV; and Question 6, which expands the state's renewable energy portfolio. 

The polls closed at 7 p.m. around the state but results did not start to roll in until past 11 p.m.

The results took so long because of the long lines at several polling stations in Clark, Washoe, Lyon and Elko counties. 

The longest lines were in Washoe County. The Secretary of State's office wouldn't allow the results to be released until everyone in line to vote got a chance to cast a ballot.

.(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

For more results:

Clark County Election Center

Secretary of State Elections

NPR Live Election Coverage


Jon Ralston, founder, The Nevada Independent; Steve Sebelius, political commentator, KLAS-TV Channel 8

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