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Early voting in Nevada starts Saturday: What you need to know

FILE - A person places mail-in ballots at a mail-in ballot drop box at the Clark County Election Department, Oct. 29, 2020, in Las Vegas.
John Locher
FILE - A person places mail-in ballots at a mail-in ballot drop box at the Clark County Election Department, Oct. 29, 2020, in Las Vegas.

Early voting starts this Saturday for Nevada's primary elections. Election day is June 11.

Some races, typical of primaries, are long lists of names and people most of us know nothing about. But once elected, they have the power to guide what's taught in our schools, what laws we must follow, and how those laws get interpreted in court.

One such race is the Republican Senate Primary, in which 12 candidates are vying to unseat incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen.

As reported by The Nevada Independent, current polls suggest that former Army Capt. Sam Brown leads the field with 52 percent support. Brown's chief rival, dermatologist and former Icelandic Ambassador Jeff Gunter is polling at 14 percent. In that vein, Gunter has released a barrage of attack ads against the former Army captain.

"Jeff Gunter is really trying to kind of play offense a little bit [with] those attacks ads," said Jessica Hill, a politics reporter at the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Another critical aspect of this race is former President Donald Trump's support. She says that could help make or break a candidate at this point in a campaign.

"I think one important aspect of this… is Donald Trump's endorsement," Hill said. "Both are trying to paint themselves as the 110% pro-Trump candidate — that's something Jeff Gunter calls himself. Both are trying to win over Trump supporters."

Primarily, Gunter has focused his attacks on Brown's connections with establishment Republicans, going so far as to call his opponent the "newest creature to emerge from the swamp" about Brown's endorsement from the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Outside of that, GOP candidates have largely focused on immigration and border security as their top concerns, but that could soon change.

"I expect inflation rhetoric is going to come up pretty soon," said UNLV Assistant Professor of Political Science Ken Miller. "We're in the primary right now. So they're trying to win over their own core voters. So they're talking about immigration. But once they move into the general election, and now they want to talk to the broader electorate, they're not going to be talking about immigration as much anymore. And they're going to start talking about inflation because they think that that's a big winner for them with potential undecided voters."

On the other side of the aisle, Democrats will likely have to address concerns over the United State's involvement with the Israeli government's military operations in Gaza. Miller told State of Nevada it's a significant issue for students.

"It's an issue that comes up a lot, even in the courses that I teach," Miller said, "and I don't teach anything that has anything to do with Gaza or foreign policy or anything else. I focus on elections and media and things like that. And it still comes up. It's a big motivating issue for younger voters. For a lot of younger, more left-leaning students. It's something that's given them pause in their support for Biden, so that's something he needs to knit back together."

Down ballot, more than two dozen candidates are running for one of the four Clark County School Board seats up for election in November.

April Corbin Girnus is deputy editor of the Nevada Current, where she focuses on education. She said a slew of political newcomers are on this year's ballot.

"You're seeing a lot of first-time candidates or people who are running for the school board again," she said. "So, there are a lot of familiar faces in terms of people who ran against ran previously for school board, but it's a lot of what would be first-time elected officials. It's a lot of people who are far more grassroots and less establishment."

According to Corbin Girnus, the Clark County School District and its school board are in transition. The district needs a new superintendent, and relationships between the district, teachers, parents, and the community are at an all-time low. The next school board will have to face those issues head-on. However, those conversations are not always at the top of people's minds during elections.

"We all know that the numbers, performance, and academic rankings in CCSD are not stellar," she said. "People are always concerned about that, but how that translates into what they can specifically do as a candidate is less certain a lot of the time, just because of the way the board is structured. And these are very, very big issues, probably issues that are honestly beyond an individual school board trustee, but obviously those are all things that people are talking about right now."

Guests: April Corbin Girnus, deputy editor, Nevada Current; Ken Miller, assistant professor of political science, UNLV; Jessica Hill, politics reporter, Las Vegas Review-Journal

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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.