Election 2024

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Republican challengers, legislative showdowns: What to watch as Nevadans head to the polls

The Nevada Independent explains the trends and races that we’re watching in the primary and what the results could portend for the general election.
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Gabby Birenbaum
Gabby Birenbaum
Eric Neugeboren
Eric Neugeboren
Rocio Hernandez
Rocio Hernandez
Election 2024GovernmentLocal GovernmentState Government

Nevada’s primary election will set the stage for November’s battle for party control of a U.S. Senate seat in a purple state, the governor’s veto power over the Legislature, the next mayor of Nevada’s largest city and school board seats that could allow outside groups to shape the curriculum. 

Fewer than 12 percent of registered voters have cast their ballots early, and fewer than 30 percent of them voted in person, according to data from the secretary of state’s office. Election officials said in early May that they expected mail voting to continue to grow in popularity this year, which may affect how Clark County allocates in-person election workers in the future.

Staff at The Nevada Independent explain the trends and races that we’re watching in the primary and what the results could mean for the November general election.

Who will win the GOP Senate primary?

The Republican U.S. Senate primary pits Army veteran Sam Brown against a field of lesser-funded challengers in the race to take on vulnerable Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV). If a Republican flips the seat, the GOP is essentially guaranteed control of the U.S. Senate — a majority that has eluded it since 2020.

Brown, who mounted an unsuccessful bid against eventual nominee and former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt in 2022, is running this time with the support of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, several sitting senators and well-funded outside groups.  

His biggest challenger is Jeff Gunter, a dermatologist and former ambassador to Iceland during the Trump administration. Gunter, who is independently wealthy, has funded his own campaign and aired television ads that relentlessly attack Brown as being an establishment creature. 

Brown, however, has stayed above the primary fray, choosing only to criticize Rosen. In an interview Monday, he rejected an opportunity to compare himself to other Republicans in the race, saying his pitch to voters is centered on “a clear contrast from Jacky Rosen.”

Gunter, meanwhile, has pitched himself as the more Trump-aligned candidate, despite losing out on his endorsement. But he argued that his longer tenure working in Nevada — 28 years running a dermatology practice in the state — and lack of support from the Republican establishment make him the better choice. He also said a frequent hit against him — that he was previously a registered Democrat — would boost his appeal with the nonpartisan voters critical to winning a general election.

“I spent my entire life taking care of people and being able to work with them,” Gunter said, mentioning that he’s served patients of all political stripes. “I think it’ll be no different when I’m the U.S. Senator from Nevada…that message will resonate well with independent voters.”

Other primary candidates include former Assemblyman Jim Marchant (R-Las Vegas) and Air Force veteran Tony Grady.

Former President Donald Trump endorsed Brown on Sunday. Before his announcement, Nevada had been the only competitive Senate race in which he had not weighed in during the primary.

Will Lombardo’s favored candidate win the CD3 primary?

The Republican Congressional District 3 primary — typically the most competitive general House race in the state — is dominated by several self-funded candidates vying to take on Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV).

The field includes video game composer Marty O’Donnell, former state Treasurer Dan Schwartz, tax analyst Drew Johnson and former state Sen. Elizabeth Helgelien.

O’Donnell has the endorsement of Gov. Joe Lombardo (R) and is working with the same consulting team that powered the governor’s 2022 victory. He’s loaned his campaign hundreds of thousands of dollars — as have Schwartz and Johnson.

A first-time candidate, O’Donnell would be one of the wealthiest members of Congress if elected. 

Schwartz has run in this district, for governor and for lieutenant governor since his term as treasurer ended, but never advanced through the primary.

Who will win the CD4 primary?

In Congressional District 4, former North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee has the endorsements of Trump and Lombardo in his bid to win the Republican primary and take on Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), who has won his last three elections.

Lee served as a Democrat in both chambers of the Nevada Legislature and for most of his two terms as mayor. He changed parties in 2021 before an unsuccessful run for governor in 2022.

The other major candidate, retired Air Force lieutenant colonel David Flippo, has continually dinged Lee for not endorsing Trump until late May and for refusing to debate. Flippo is endorsed by five members of Congress and the last two Republican candidates for the seat, both of whom lost in the general election.

Will the Culinary Union prevail in legislative races? 

The Democratic primaries in Southern Nevada’s Senate District 3 and Assembly District 17 are widely seen as a test of the Culinary Union’s power in legislative politics. 

The union — which represents 60,000 members across the state and is a politically powerful force in Nevada — is backing two candidates running against Democratic establishment picks. 

Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge said in a May interview that the union backed Geoconda Hughes for Sen. Rochelle Nguyen’s (D-Las Vegas) Senate District 3 seat, and union leader and server Linda Hunt in Assembly District 17, as a way to offer voters “an opportunity to choose better Democrats.” Hughes is the daughter of former Culinary Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Argüello-Kline.

Specifically, the union targeted Nguyen after she supported SB441, a bill that removed pandemic-imposed requirements placed on the gaming industry, including daily hotel room cleaning. The union made daily room cleaning part of the five-year contract negotiations with major Las Vegas resorts that began in earnest after the legislative session.

What is the outcome of the three legislative races that will be decided in the primary?

Three of the legislative seats up for election this cycle (two Senate seats and one Assembly seat) only drew candidates from one party. 

The outcome will determine who will be going to Carson City for the 2025 legislative session in the following districts:

  • Assembly District 7, where Assembly Democratic Caucus-endorsed candidate Tanya Flanagan is squaring off against James Melvin Fennell.
  • Senate District 4, where incumbent Sen. Dina Neal (D-North Las Vegas) will face Regent Laura Perkins.
  • Senate District 19, where former Assemblyman John Ellison (R-Elko), Nye County School Board member Chelsy Fischer, and health care executive and military veteran William Hockstedler are competing in a three-way GOP primary. 

Will Lombardo-backed legislative candidates succeed in their primaries?

Democrats already hold a 28-seat supermajority in the 42-member Assembly and are one seat shy of the 14 seats needed for a two-thirds supermajority in the 21-member state Senate — an outcome that would prove dire for the political relevance of Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo.

For Lombardo, maintaining his veto power rests entirely on Republicans not losing any more ground. Lombardo has endorsed and supported candidates with his campaign machinery.

In placing his thumb on the scale, Lombardo has calculated that his endorsement and support will make a difference in legislative primaries — but we’ll have to wait until the general election to see if he maintains his veto power. 

Will Democratic establishment-backed candidates win in Northern Nevada’s legislative races?

The outcome of the Assembly District 27 Democratic primary could signal how much sway the Assembly Democratic Caucus holds in Northern Nevada.

Assembly Democratic Caucus-backed candidate Alex Velto, an attorney, is facing off against Heather Goulding, a senior project manager at an energy research and evaluation firm.

In Senate District 15 Assemblywoman Angie Taylor (D-Reno) is battling with Reno City Councilwoman Naomi Duerr for the seat that is open after Sen. Heidi Gansert (R-Reno) decided not to run for re-election. 

Who will prevail in the Las Vegas mayoral race?

The race for Las Vegas mayor — the first in 25 years to not feature a member of the Goodman family — is widely seen as a contest between three candidates competing for two general election slots.

The top two candidates will advance to the general election in November, as long as no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, which appears unlikely because more than a dozen candidates are running.

Three candidates have outpaced the field in money raised: Former Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), City Councilwoman Victoria Seaman and City Councilman Cedric Crear.

Berkley has been away from office for a dozen years after losing a high-profile bid for U.S. Senate in 2012 that ended her 14-year career in Congress. Crear and Seaman, meanwhile, have served on the city council since 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Though the mayoral position is nonpartisan, Seaman, a Republican, has openly appealed to GOP voters, while Crear and Berkley are Democrats.

Who will win the Washoe County District 4 Commission Republican primary?

Republican Clara Andriola, who was appointed to the Washoe County Commission by  Lombardo in April 2023, is now facing six challengers for her seat, including Republicans Tracey Hilton-Thomas, Trista Gomez, John L. Walter II and Mark Lawson. 

Though Andriola has Lombardo’s support, election skeptic and wealthy far-right activist Robert Beadles has targeted Andriola this election cycle.

Beadles has prioritized overhauling public boards, including helping fund a campaign that successfully ousted a commission incumbent in the 2022 primary. 

Will Moms for Liberty influence the Clark County School Board elections? 

With only one Clark County school trustee running for re-election, there’s guaranteed to be a shake up on the board next year. 

Among the long list of contenders vying for the four seats up for grabs are candidates backed by the Moms for Liberty Clark County chapter that formed last August

  • Rachel Puaina in District A; 
  • Lydia Dominguez in District B; 
  • Frank Friends in District C; 
  • Lorena Biassotti, the chapter’s vice chair and co-founder of My Children’s Advocate, a local group that like Moms for Liberty believes public schools are indoctrinating students through curriculum related to race and LGBTQ+ communities, in District E. 

Other candidates include Board President Evelyn Garcia Morales (District C) as well as Anna Binder (District A), Russ Burns (District B), Kamilah Bywaters (District E) and Tameka Henry (District C), who are supported by local and statewide educator unions, and Karl Catarata (District A), who has gotten support from state lawmakers including Assemblywoman Erica Mosca (D-Las Vegas). 


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