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Establishment-backed candidates have financial lead in key legislative primaries

The establishment-backed candidate in all but one of the important primaries identified by The Nevada Independent had a fundraising lead in the first quarter.
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Eric Neugeboren
Eric Neugeboren
Election 2024GovernmentState Government

With less than two months to go before Nevada’s June 11 primary, establishment-backed candidates in key legislative races generally have the financial edge over their opponents heading into the final pre-election stretch.

In nine legislative races tracked by The Nevada Independent, all but one of the candidates backed by either Gov. Joe Lombardo (R) or their party’s caucus in their respective chamber held a significant lead in money raised from January through March, according to an analysis of first quarter campaign finance reports released last week.

Though 10 state Senate races and 42 Assembly races are on the ballot in 2024, The Nevada Independent identified nine potentially competitive or notable races where either the winner is effectively guaranteed to prevail in November because of a lopsided party registration breakdown in the district, or because the winner will take part in a closely watched general election that could determine whether Lombardo keeps his veto power.

Democrats control 13 seats in the 21-member state Senate (one short of a two-thirds supermajority needed to override a veto) and 27 seats in the 42-member Assembly. 

The campaign finance reports released last week are the last reports legislative candidates will have to file before the state’s June 11 primary — the next quarterly reporting deadline is in July, about a month after the election.

Financial advantages do not necessarily lead to electoral success, but more money raised allows candidates to spend more on anything from advertising to campaign supplies. A Nevada Independent analysis found that more than two-thirds of winners in close legislative elections since 2016 had a fundraising lead at the start of the election year.

Here’s how the money breaks down in the key legislative primaries in the first quarter, separated by races that will be effectively or actually decided in the primary and those likely to be competitive in the general election. 

Values above $1,000 have been rounded to the nearest $100. The partisan lean was determined based on voter registration data and prior election results.


Senate District 1 Democratic primary

Michelee "Shelly" Crawford

  • Money raised: $27,200
  • Money spent: $4,300
  • Cash on hand: $101,000

Assemblywoman Clara Thomas (D-North Las Vegas)

  • Money raised: $3,200
  • Money spent: $11,100
  • Cash on hand: $3,200

Crawford, who’s endorsed by the Senate Democratic Caucus, raised almost nine times as much as Thomas in the open North Las Vegas state Senate seat held by termed-out Sen. Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas).

Crawford, a regent and principal, received $5,000 from a Southern Nevada building trades union and Citizens for Justice, the political arm of the Nevada Justice Association, a trade association for trial lawyers. She also received $2,500 from the New Day Nevada PAC, a group tied to Democratic consultants, and $100 from former state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse (D-Las Vegas).

Thomas, meanwhile, only reported raising around $3,000 in the first quarter. She received $1,000 from North Las Vegas City Councilman Scott Black, $500 from North Las Vegas Mayor Pamela Goynes-Brown and $500 from Las Vegas mayoral candidate Shelley Berkley.

The election winner will likely be decided in the primary because of the district’s heavy Democratic lean.

Assembly District 27 Democratic primary

Alex Velto

  • Money raised: $32,500
  • Money spent: $24,300
  • Cash on hand: $50,600

Heather Goulding

  • Money raised: $29,800
  • Money spent: $11,100
  • Cash on hand: $25,800

Velto, an attorney endorsed by the Assembly Democratic Caucus, had a slight fundraising lead over Goulding, a longtime Northern Nevadan who has done work with community organizations focused on breast cancer and high school dropouts. 

Velto’s top donor was Citizens for Justice, which donated $7,500. He also received $3,000 from Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) and $1,000 donations from Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui (D-Las Vegas), Assemblywoman Elaine Marzola (D-Las Vegas) and Assemblywoman Brittney Miller (D-Las Vegas).

Goulding had a much higher share of small-dollar donations, including $120 from former state Sen. Yvanna Cancela (D-Las Vegas).

Democrats have a voter registration advantage in the northern Reno district, so the primary winner will likely be elected in November. The seat is open after Assemblywoman Angie Taylor (D-Reno) decided to run for the open Senate District 15 election.

Senate District 3 Democratic primary

Sen. Rochelle Nguyen (D-Las Vegas)

  • Money raised: $72,300
  • Money spent: $67,800
  • Cash on hand: $222,200

Geoconda Hughes

  • Money raised: $6,900
  • Money spent: $3,800
  • Cash on hand: $6,000

Nguyen raised $65,000 more than Hughes, a nurse practitioner who is backed by the Culinary Union.

Nguyen received a $10,000 donation from Assemblyman Howard Watts (D-Las Vegas) and $5,000 from New Day Nevada PAC, a group linked to Democratic consultants.

Hughes raised less than $7,000 in the first quarter after announcing her candidacy just a few weeks before the quarter ended. She received $1,000 from fellow state Senate candidate Christian Bishop and $1,000 from her mother, Geoconda Arguello-Kline, the former secretary-treasurer for Culinary Local 226.

The Democratic primary winner of this deep-blue district in central Las Vegas is essentially guaranteed to win in November.

Senate District 4 Democratic primary

Sen. Dina Neal (D-North Las Vegas)

  • Money raised: $14,700
  • Money spent: $24,800
  • Cash on hand: $26,800

Laura Perkins

  • Money raised: $2,000
  • Money spent: $560
  • Cash on hand: $2,700

In the primary for Senate District 4, which covers portions of North Las Vegas, Neal outraised her primary competitor Perkins, a Nevada System of Higher Education regent, by more than $12,700. Neal also outspent Perkins and has a larger war chest of more than $26,800 in cash on hand.

Neal received $5,000 from the Citizens for Justice, $1,000 from T-Mobile, $1,000 from the New Day Nevada PAC and $1,000 from Anthem Blue Cross.

Perkins received donations from American Nevada Holdings LLC and LA Wireless.

The primary winner will likely be heading to Carson City because no other candidates filed to run in the heavily Democratic district.

Senate District 18 Republican primary

John Steinbeck

  • Money Raised: $69,500
  • Spent: $56,700
  • Cash on hand:  $104,400

Assemblyman Richard McArthur (R-Las Vegas)

  • Money raised: $21,000
  • Money spent: $15,800
  • Cash on hand:   $43,300

Josh Leavitt

  • Money raised: $17,900
  • Money spent: $35,100
  • Cash on hand: $47,000

Of the three Republican contenders in the open Senate seat in the northwestern Las Vegas Valley, Clark County Fire Chief John Steinbeck, whom Lombardo has endorsed, led the first quarter fundraising by more than $43,500. He was followed by Assemblyman Richard McArthur (R-Las Vegas), who supported himself with a $20,000 loan, and Josh Leavitt, the CEO and Founder of IONnovate, LLC, an application development firm. 

Notable donations to Steinbeck included $5,000 from Lombardo’s Nevada Way PAC, $5,000 from Golden Entertainment, $5,000 from Resorts World, $1,500 from Assemblyman Toby Yurek (R-Las Vegas) and $1,500 from Democratic Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson.

Steinbeck also outspent his competitors.

Three Democrats are also competing in the primary, though the Senate Democratic Caucus has not endorsed in the race. The district has a Republican voter advantage.

Senate District 19 Republican primary

John Ellison

  • Money raised: $12,700
  • Spent: $10,000
  • Cash on hand: $46,700

William Eric Hockstedler

  • Money raised: $2,500
  • Money spent: $1,300
  • Cash on hand: $1,000

Chelsy Fischer

  • Money raised: $350
  • Money spent: $310
  • Cash on hand: $40

In a Republican primary race that will determine who represents the ruby-red Senate district because no Democrat filed, Ellison — a former assemblyman — is the fundraising front-runner. The district covers a vast swath of rural Nevada, including Lincoln and White Pine counties and parts of Clark, Elko, Eureka and Nye counties.

Endorsed by Lombardo, Ellison raised $10,000 more than his nearest competitor, Hockstedler, an Army and Air Force veteran who unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2022. Hockstedler is mainly supported by an approximately $1,500 loan to himself.

Ellison’s highest donations include $5,000 from personal injury attorney Craig Kidwell, $2,500 from R&S Leasing and $1,500 from Nevada Auto Dealers.

Fischer, a Nye County School Board trustee, raised the least out of the three Republican contenders, reporting only a $350 loan to herself.


Assembly District 21 Republican primary

April Arndt

  • Money raised: $14,400
  • Money spent: $16,700
  • Cash on hand: $18,300

Jon Petrick

  • Money raised: $20,500
  • Money spent: $20,500
  • Cash on hand: $18,100

Arndt, a retired police officer endorsed by Lombardo last year, is the lone establishment candidate in a key primary with a financial disadvantage after raising $6,000 less than her primary opponent Petrick, a chiropractor and the CEO of a Las Vegas pain relief center. Arndt received $5,000 from the pro-Lombardo Nevada Way PAC ($2,500 coming last year) and donations from Assembly members Ken Gray (R-Dayton) and P.K. O’Neill (R-Carson City). 

Meanwhile, Petrick’s top donation ($5,800) came from Jon McMahon, a Las Vegas real estate agent. He also received $5,000 from James Thomson, a frequent Republican donor, and $2,500 from a development group in Henderson.

The primary winner will face Assemblywoman Elaine Marzola (D-Las Vegas) in the general election to represent this blue-leaning district primarily covering south central Las Vegas.

Senate District 5 Democratic primary

Jennifer Atlas

  • Money raised: $40,100
  • Money spent: $5,000
  • Cash on hand: $71,600

Christian Bishop

  • Money raised: $2,900
  • Money spent: $19,400
  • Cash on hand: $72,000

In swingy Senate District 5, which covers parts of Henderson and Paradise, two Democrats are squaring off in the primary for a chance to challenge the district’s representative, Sen. Carrie Buck (R-Henderson). 

The Democratic Caucus-endorsed candidate, Atlas, raised almost double that of her Democratic challenger Bishop in the first quarter. Bishop, however, outspent Atlas.

Bishop has a slightly higher cash-on-hand advantage over Atlas heading into the second quarter, but 34 percent of it consists of a $25,000 contribution he gave himself in December.

Atlas drew a $5,000 donation from the Citizens for Justice, $5,000 from Yeager’s Nevada Strong PAC and $2,500 from the Laborers International Union Local 169. She also drew $5,000 from Yeager and $1,000 from Jauregui. State Sen. Skip Daly (D-Sparks) donated $5,000 and Attorney General Aaron Ford (D) donated $1,000 to her campaign.

Bishop’s highest donations came from Las Vegas residents Minddie Lloyd, who donated $1,000 to his campaign, and Merila Tinio, who donated $500.

Senate District 15 Democratic primary

Assemblywoman Angie Taylor (D-Reno)

  • Money raised: $69,500
  • Money spent: $26,100
  • Cash on hand:  $163,000

Reno City Councilmember Naomi Duerr

  • Money raised: $28,800
  • Money spent: $11,200
  • Cash on hand:  $66,000

Johnny Kerns

  • Money raised: $1,000
  • Money spent: $695
  • Cash on hand:  $305

Three Democrats and three Republicans are competing in primary races in Northern Nevada’s Senate District 15, open after Sen. Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno) opted not to run for re-election. The district includes much of the northern and western edges of Reno and leans in favor of Democrats.

In the Democratic primary, Senate Democratic Caucus-endorsed Taylor outraised Duerr, a Reno city councilwoman, by more than $40,700. 

Duerr, a geologist by training, received $2,500 from the Reno Engineering Corps, $2,500 from the Atlantis Casino Resort, $2,500 from Nevada Mine Properties and $500 from Reno City Council candidate Kathleen Taylor. 

In her last election for city council, Duerr was outraised by her opponent, Jay Kenny, the owner of DoughBoys Donuts, but defeated him in the general election.

Taylor, who served on the Washoe County School Board for eight years before being elected to the Assembly last cycle, received $5,000 from the New Day Nevada PAC, $5,000 from the NV Resort PAC, $5,000 from Yeager, $2,500 from the Ferraro Group and $2,000 from the Nevada State Education Association.

Not much information is available on the third candidate, who is primarily supported by a self-donation of $1,000.

Senate District 15 Republican primary

Mike Ginsburg 

  • Money raised: $12,600
  • Money spent: $5,800
  • Cash on hand: $6,800

Sharron Angle

  • Money raised: $4,500
  • Money spent: $3,400
  • Cash on hand: $1,100

Charles Mark Neumann

  • Money raised: $0
  • Money spent: $729
  • Cash on hand: $271

Ginsburg, a longtime member of the Builders Association of Northern Nevada who spent more than 39 years working in the energy industry, raised about $8,100 more than the second-highest fundraiser during the first quarter. 

Though Lombardo has not endorsed Ginsburg, he did receive an endorsement from the Nevada Senate Republican Caucus, Lt. Gov. Stavros Anthony and Senate Minority Leader Robin Titus (R-Wellington). Ginsburg also gave himself a $1,000 loan.

His campaign finance reports list a $5,000 donation from Seevers Gansert. He also received a $5,000 donation from the NV First PAC, which Seevers Gansert established, and a $1,000 loan.

Angle served in the Nevada Assembly from 1999 to 2007 and rose to the national stage with the Tea Party movement during an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate against late Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) in 2010. She gave herself a $3,900 self-loan.

Angle’s reported spending centers around advertising and candidate filing costs similar to Ginsburg, who has focused on advertising and office expenses.

Neumann reported raising no money during the first quarter.


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