Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak files his candidacy for governor at the Grant Sawyer State Office Building in Las Vegas on Monday, March 12, 2018. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

A new poll shows well-funded Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak has a comfortable lead in Nevada’s contentious Democratic gubernatorial primary, pulling ahead of his commission colleague Chris Giunchigliani 44 percent to 16 percent, with 40 percent of likely voters saying they are undecided.

On the Republican side, Attorney General Adam Laxalt has an even more commanding lead in the primary. He leads his closest opponent by 51 percentage points, according to the survey from The Mellman Group that took Nevadans’ temperature in the high-stakes race to replace termed-out Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. Still, 38 percent of Republican primary voters are undecided.

Democrats are still favored for the governor’s seat in a matchup between frontrunners Sisolak and Laxalt. They’re also in the lead in races for attorney general, secretary of state and lieutenant governor, although many voters remain undecided.

The results unveiled Tuesday come from a statewide survey that was commissioned by The Nevada Independent and conducted among 400 Republican voters and 400 Democratic voters from April 12 to 19 for the primary samples, and 600 likely voters for the general election numbers.

Republican gubernatorial primary

Adam Laxalt, Republican candidate for Nevada governor, during a campaign event at the Veterans House in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Jan 24, 2018. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Poll results show there’s little contest in the Republican primary — 55 percent of Republican respondents would vote for Laxalt if the election were held now. By contrast, 4 percent of respondents said they would choose Treasurer Dan Schwartz as governor, and 2 percent said they would vote for bike shop owner and political newcomer Jared Fisher.

Aside from Laxalt, others in the race are largely unknown. Eighty-one percent of likely Republican primary voters said they either hadn’t heard about Schwartz or didn’t know enough about him, even though he holds a statewide office and ran for Congress before that. That figure was even higher — 88 percent — for Fisher.

By comparison, 30 percent said they hadn’t heard of Laxalt or didn’t know much about him.

Laxalt has far outraised his opponents, cornering donations from the Adelson family that owns the Las Vegas Sands, Station Casinos and their owners, the Fertitta family. He has more of a structural advantage, garnering endorsements from sheriffs across the state, opening campaign offices and mobilizing large teams of volunteers. He also counts on support from outside groups such as Freedom Partners, part of a network run by conservative billionaires the Koch Brothers, which has paid for $1 million in ads to introduce Laxalt to Nevada voters.

Treasurer Dan Schwartz in a Winnemucca cafe on his rural campaign tour on Dec. 13, 2017. Photo by David Calvert

Schwartz, on the other hand, vowed not to take corporate donations and counts mostly on loans from himself, with contributions from family and friends to supplement.

Fisher, a political newcomer who is running a grassroots campaign for “A Healthy Nevada,” is likewise almost entirely self-funded.

Democratic gubernatorial primary

Forty-four percent of Democrats polled this month said that if the election were held today, they would choose Sisolak, who describes himself as a moderate. His more liberal opponent took 16 percent in the survey, although a full 40 percent said they hadn’t decided.

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani during the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Texas Station on Friday, July 21, 2017. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Name recognition remains a challenge for Giunchigliani, a special education teacher and former longtime state lawmaker who only started running TV ads this week. Fifty-five percent of Democratic respondents said they either had never heard of her or didn’t know enough about her to have an opinion.

As for Sisolak, a fundraising titan who has massive banners alongside major Las Vegas highways and has been running commercials for weeks, even buying coveted airtime during Golden Knights hockey playoff games — 32 percent said they hadn’t heard of him or didn’t know enough about him to make an opinion.

Sisolak also appears to be the candidate more likely to beat Laxalt in the general election. In a theoretical matchup between the two, Sisolak took 42.7 percent to Laxalt’s 36.9 percent. Some 20.4 percent of voters said they were undecided.

In a theoretical matchup between Laxalt and Giunchigliani, the conservative attorney general garnered 39.9 percent of the vote compared with commissioner’s 37.9, with 22.2 percent undecided.

Attorney General

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford. Photo by David Calvert.

Democrats hold an advantage in the race to replace Attorney General Adam Laxalt. Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford has 36 percent of the vote in a theoretical matchup against former assemblyman and Laxalt deputy Wes Duncan.

Duncan has 27 percent of the vote in the theoretical matchup, while 37 percent of voters are undecided. Duncan has outraised his opponents in the race, including Ford, but also must clear a primary that includes Republican attorney Craig Mueller.

Attorney Wes Duncan. Photo by Jeff Scheid.

Both men are virtual unknowns to the pool of likely voters, though. Ninety-one percent of respondents said they hadn’t heard of or didn’t know much about Duncan, while 85 percent said that about Ford.

Lieutenant Governor

In the race for lieutenant governor, Democrat Kate Marshall is ahead with 39.7 percent of voters supporting her in a general election matchup against Republican state Sen. Michael Roberson. Marshall served two terms as state treasurer and also mounted an unsuccessful bid to represent Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District in a 2011 special election.

State Sen. Michael Roberson. Photo by David Calvert.

Roberson, who has held top-ranking posts in the state Senate but lost a 2016 Republican congressional primary to Danny Tarkanian, garnered 27.5 percent in the poll. 32.9 percent of respondents were undecided.

Eighty-two percent of respondents said they either had never heard of or didn’t know much about Roberson or Marshall.

Roberson must first clear a primary that includes former Assemblyman Brett Jones, an outspoken foe of taxes including the business levy Roberson helped usher through the Legislature in 2015.

Secretary of State

Nevada Assemblyman Nelson Araujo. Photo by Daniel Clark.

Democratic Assemblyman Nelson Araujo had a slight edge over Republican incumbent Barbara Cegavske when voters were asked who they’d choose in that matchup for secretary of state. Almost 36 percent of respondents said they’d vote for Araujo, while 31.1 percent said they’d vote for Cegavske and 33.1 percent said they were undecided.

Still, most people know very little about either. Eighty-eight percent of the 600 voters polled hadn’t heard of Araujo or didn’t know much about him, while 79 percent said that about Cegavske.

Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske.

Cegavske had a long career in the state Legislature before nabbing the post of top elections officer in 2014. Araujo, who at 30 has served two terms in the Assembly, is highlighting the fact that he could be the first Latino and the first openly gay politician to hold statewide office.

Disclosure: Station Casinos, Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani have donated to The Nevada Independent. You can see a full list of donors here.

The Mellman Group is an opinion research firm that has done polling for former Sen. Harry Reid, Rep. Steny Hoyer and other political and corporate clients, including many in Nevada. FiveThirtyEight gives the group a “B” grade in their ranking of pollsters and says their polls historically tilt slightly Democratic.

Editor Jon Ralston explains why The Nevada Independent hired Mellman in a blog post here.

For the poll’s full crosstabs and Ralston’s blog on the latest Independent Poll click here.

 

INDY FAST FACTS Danny Tarkanian Job: Businessman Party: Republican In current office: None Birthdate: Dec. 18, 1961 Education: University of Nevada, Las Vegas (B.A.) University of San Diego (J.D.) Other public offices held: None Total Donations: $3,443,619 (8/18/04-12/31/17) Top Donors: Danny Tarkanian $528,440 Stations Casino $74,550 Las Vegas Sands Corp $38,900 Domain.com $26,600 Maloof family $18,000
INDY FAST FACTS Kate Marshall Job: Lawyer Party: Democrat In current office: None Birthdate:  July 22, 1959 Education: University of California, Berkeley (B.A. and J.D.) Other public offices held: State treasurer (2007-2015) Total donations: $1,062,447 (1/4/07-12/31/17) Top donors: MGM Resorts International $45,000 South Point Casino/F&M Advertising $17,500 Boyd Gaming $15,500 Int'l Brotherhood of Teamsters (DRIVE Committee) $15,000 Todd Marshall  $14,975
INDY FAST FACTS Barbara Cegavske             Job: Secretary of state Party: Republican In current office: 2015-present Birthdate: August 27, 1951 Education: College of Southern Nevada (attended) Other public offices held: State senator, District 8 (2002-2014) Assemblywoman, District 5 (1996-2001) Total donations: $649,213 (10/22/10-12/31/17) Top donors: Cort Christie/Zenith/Corporate NV Svc  $44,199 Las Vegas Sands Corp. $30,000 Bill and Cynthia Brady $20,000 Allegiant Travel/Maury Gallagher $14,000 Wynn Resorts $13,000
INDY FAST FACTS Nelson Araujo Job: Assemblyman, District 3 Party: Democratic In current office: 2015-present Assistant majority floor leader, 2017 Birthdate: October 24, 1987 Education: University of Nevada, Las Vegas (B.A. and M.P.A.) Other public offices held: None Total donations: $363,384 (1/28/14-12/31/17) Top donors: Campaign Committee for Jason M. Frierson $11,000 Citizens for Justice $11,000 MGM Resorts International $11,000 Nevada Realtors PAC $11,000 LVPPAM Inc PAC $10,000
INDY FAST FACTS Wes Duncan Job: Attorney-Hutchison & Steffen Party: Republican In current office: None Birthdate: December 26, 1980 Education:  Columbia College (A.A.) University of California Berkeley (B.A.) Ohio State University Mortiz College of Law (J.D.) Other public offices held: Assemblyman, District 37 (2012-2014) Total donations: $826,909 (11/6/11-12/30/17) Top donors: Las Vegas Sands Corp. $40,000 Station Casinos/Zuffa $24,000 Keystone Corporation $22,500 Republican Assembly Victory Fund & Leaders Caucus $20,000 Starpoint Resort Inc.  $20,000
INDY FAST FACTS Michael Roberson Job: State senate minority leader Party: Republican In current office: 2010-present Senate Republican leader since 2015 Birthdate: June 20, 1970 Education: University of Kansas (B.S.) University of Kansas School of Law (J.D.) Other public offices held: None Total donations: $1,692,296 (5/28/10-12/29/17) Top donors: Las Vegas Sands $55,000 Station Casinos/Zuffa $47,500 Boyd Gaming $35,000 MGM Resorts International $25,000 Wynn Resorts $22,000
INDY FAST FACTS Steve Sisolak Job: Clark County commission chairman Party: Democrat In current office: 2009-present Commission chairman since 2013 Birthdate: December 26, 1953 Education: University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee (B.S.) University of Nevada, Las Vegas (M.B.A.) Other public offices held: Nevada System of Higher Education Regent (1999-2009) Total donations: $7,869,927 (1/12/11-12/31/17) Top donors: MGM Resorts International $174,359 Station Casinos/Zuffa: $90,000 Las Vegas Sands $75,000 Fidelity National $61,600 Marnell Companies LLC $55,000
INDY FAST FACTS Dan Schwartz Job: State treasurer Party: Republican In current office: 2015-present Birthdate: July 28, 1950 Education: Princeton University (B.A.) Columbia University (M.B.A.) Boston University (J.D.) Other public offices held: None Total donations: $1,127,567 (9/16/13-12/31/17) Top donors: Dan Schwartz $1,000,353 Pritzker (Anthony, Karen, Jenny) $20,603 Schwartz (Stephen, Yanan, Dana) $15,000
INDY FAST FACTS Chris Giunchigliani Job: Clark County Commissioner Party: Democrat In current office: 2007-present Birthdate: November 27, 1954 Education: Avila College (B.A.) University of Nevada, Las Vegas (M.A.) Other public offices held: State Assemblywoman, District 9 (1991-2006) Total donations: $1,920,870 (5/08/13-12/31/17) Top donors: Giunchigliani (Chris, Jeanne, JM, Larry, Myrna, Ellen): $65,000 MGM Resorts International $43,165 Caesars Entertainment $35,000 Buck and Aurora Wong $30,000 South Point Hotel & Casino/F&M Advertising $30,000
INDY FAST FACTS Aaron Ford Job: State Senate Majority Leader Party: Democrat In current office: 2012-present *Senate Democratic Leader since 2015 Birthdate: May 24, 1972 Education: Texas A&M University (B.A.) George Washington University (M.A.) Ohio State University (M.A., J.D., Ph.D.) Other public offices held: None Total donations: $1,740,836 (1/01/10 - 12/31/17) Top donors: Station Casinos $30,000 MGM Resorts International $28,500 Boyd Gaming $20,500 Nevada State Education Association $20,032 Citizens for Justice Trust $18,000 Caesars Entertainment $18,000
INDY FAST FACTS Adam Laxalt Job: Nevada State Attorney General Party: Republican In current office: 2015-present Birthdate: August 31, 1978 Education: Georgetown University (B.A.) Georgetown University Law Center (J.D.) Other public offices held: None Total donations: $5,985,508 (1/08/14 - 12/31/17) Top donors: Station Casinos/Zuffa/Fertitta $208,500 Las Vegas Sands $75,000 Marnell Properties LLC $42,500 Starpoint Resort Group/Partners $40,000 MGM Resorts $35,000
INDY FAST FACTS Brian Sandoval Job: Nevada Governor Party: Republican In current office: 2011-present Birthdate: August 5, 1963 Education: University of Nevada, Reno (B.A.) Ohio State University (J.D.) Other public offices held: U.S. District Court Judge (2005-2009) Nevada State Attorney General (2003-2005) Nevada Gaming Commission Chair (1999-2001) Nevada Gaming Commission Member (1998-2001) State Assemblyman, District 25 (1994-1998) Total donations: $4,984,248 (1/07/11 - 7/5/17) Top donors: Caesars Entertainment $245,000 Station Casinos $158,072 MGM Resorts International $160,000 Wynn Resorts $80,000 Marnell Properties LLC $70,000
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