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On to the general: Lombardo, Laxalt advance to November with hopes to unseat Democrats

AP Photo/John Locher

Clark County Sheriff and Republican candidate for Nevada governor Joe Lombardo speaks at an election night party Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Las Vegas.

While the results are not yet official, it appears we now know who will represent their respective parties heading into this fall’s general election.

Joe Lombardo, sheriff of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, easily defeated his opponents and will face Governor Steve Sisolak.

Adam Laxalt won and will face Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto for one of Nevada’s two U.S. Senate seats.

In Clark County, Kevin McMahill, the former Metro undersheriff, won the sheriff’s job outright with more than 50% of the vote against two challengers.

What’s it all mean going forward?

Jon Ralston, the CEO of The Nevada Independent, said it’s dangerous to make predictions for the general election based on the primary. “But Adam Laxalt is going to run against Joe Biden more than he is going to run against Catherine Cortez Masto,” he said.

He said the incumbent senator isn’t going to want to talk about Biden, “whose numbers are terrible in this state and elsewhere,” or the economy. 

Will abortion be a top issue in fall?

Ralston said it’s going to be prominent for many people, but not as big as the economy. 

“But again, it’s June 15,” he said.

Laxalt made his opinion clear on abortion, that he’d like to see more restrictions. He was also a major face in the Nevada movement that tried to say the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. 

“I think that the hardcore MAGA group that Laxalt has wrapped up … I don’t think they’ll move no matter what the Jan. 6 committee uncovers in the coming weeks and months,” Ralston said. “He is going to be tarred with that, if not by Catherine Cortez Masto, by outside groups.”

He said he thinks all three congressional seats are in play for Republicans, especially following redistricting. “At least, the national Republicans think they are.”

He said Mark Robertson in Congressional District 1, to face Dina Titus, is decent, and in District 3, April Becker “has raised a lot of money.” Sam Peters, who looks to face Steven Horsford, “is an election denier and has all kinds of strange views.”

In the governor’s race, Joey Gilbert won Washoe County, and has pull in Nevada’s rural counties, which Ralston said could be a warning sign for Lombardo in the governor race. The question is how Lombardo will do in an environment where there’s a ton of money spent against him.

“He’s never been in a race like this,” Ralston said.

Down ballot, Jim Marchant appears to be the GOP lead for secretary of state. 

Ralston said he’s “the most dangerous of all of them, because he’s not just an election denier … he has QAnon ties … I think even Republicans who are not MAGA see that. … If Jim Marchant manages to win that race, we are really in trouble here in Nevada, in terms of free and fair elections.”

If Jim Marchant manages to win that race, we are really in trouble here in Nevada, in terms of free and fair elections.

Dan Lee, a political science professor at UNLV, said Trump’s endorsements in some races is “a little bit of a mirage.” Lombardo, for example, was already poised to be the frontrunner when the endorsement came. 

Lee said we’re in a different day and age for fringe candidates, who are winning positions post-Trump, but just a decade ago, wouldn’t have been successful. 

The rise of identity politics, he said, is what will motivate voters, rather than specific issues.

“This is definitely a swing state and one of the swing Senate seats, so we're gonna get a lot of attention, a lot of outside money,” Lee said. “So we're gonna see a lot of ads this fall. It's gonna be a pretty negative campaign, I think as well.”

In Clark County, it’s likely McMahill will not face a run-off in November. 

“There's still going to be some ballots that can come in over the next couple days. … There doesn't seem to be enough ballots out there to make a difference in that race,” said Colton Lochhead, a politics reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. 

With sheriff races, the winner in Clark County has almost always been endorsed by their predecessor – in this case, Lombardo. 

“You go back more than two decades and having that support seems to be a pretty big indicator of who the next sheriff will be,” Lochhead said. 

In the north, incumbent Mark Amodei was challenged by Danny Tarkanian, who was crushed in the early results. KNPR’s Paul Boger said it was “bold” of Tarkanian to run, but Amodei is well-liked and well-respected in his district. 

While the top races will catch national attention, Boger said he’s particularly interested in Marchant in the secretary of state race. 

“I think that’s going to be incredibly important,” he said.

Jon Ralston, CEO, The Nevada Independent; Dan Lee, political scientist, University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Colton Lochhead, politics reporter, Las Vegas Review-Journal; Paul Boger, Northern Nevada reporter and producer, KNPR

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Paul serves as KNPR's producer and reporter in Northern Nevada. Based in Reno, Paul specializes in covering state government and the legislature.