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The Nevada Independent

Legislature: Handful of caucus-backed candidates lose in primaries

Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Riley Snyder
Riley Snyder
Election 2022Legislature
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With the primary election dust starting to settle, legislative race results began to shed light on which candidates will be in the spotlight come November, along with multiple upsets against caucus-backed candidates.

Primary results also underscored the massive turnover facing the Legislature come 2023. Three of four caucus leaders left their leadership positions after 2021, and nearly a third of legislative incumbents are either termed out of office or declined to run for re-election.

Democrats control 12 of 21 state Senate seats, and 26 of 42 seats in the Assembly. The party shored up their advantages in swing districts after the state’s 2021 redistricting process, but the looming possibility of a red wave in 2022 could see several of those seats flip. Republicans have not controlled either legislative house since 2015.

Though only one incumbent was defeated in the primary election, three of five state Senate Republican candidates backed by caucus leadership fell short of victory. In the Assembly, two of seven candidates endorsed by the Assembly GOP caucus were either losing or in races still too close to call on Monday.

On the Democratic side, state teacher union-backed Selena La Rue Hatch upset an Assembly caucus-endorsed candidate, while two progressive incumbents fended off primary challenges backed by business groups.

The bulk of the election results are in, but as counties tally up the last of the primary votes and conduct the final signature curing of ballots, voting totals could shift in the coming days. Exact tallies will be available and updated on The Nevada Independent’s Election Results page based on the official canvass of the vote by county commissions throughout the state, a process that starts on Monday, June 20 and runs through Friday, June 24.

Senate

Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner (R-Reno) won a tight four-way battle to represent Northern Nevada’s Senate District 16, narrowly overtaking appointed incumbent Don Tatro and right-wing radio host Monica “Jaye” Stabbert.

The four-way primary, which also included health care businessman Tim Duvall, has been one of the most expensive down-ballot primaries, with Krasner and Tatro (endorsed by the state Senate GOP) both taking the relatively rare step of running television ads for a legislative primary.

Initial results showed Tatro, appointed to the seat last year, leading in Carson City, but Krasner gained enough leads in Washoe County to win the race. The district’s heavy Republican lean in voter registration means that Krasner is expected to easily cruise to victory in the general election.

Assemblywoman Robin Titus (R-Wellington) defeated Assemblyman Jim Wheeler (R-Minden) in the Republican primary to represent Senate District 17. The rural district includes Churchill, Lyon, Douglas, Mineral, Esmeralda and Nye counties. 

Though Wheeler garnered more support in Douglas County and Nye County, Titus — endorsed by the state Senate GOP caucus — led the polls in the remaining counties. 

The crowded Republican primary to take on incumbent Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop (D-Las Vegas) in Senate District 8 saw former casino executive and entrepreneur Joey Paulous lead the eight-person field with more than a quarter of the vote.

Paulous posted a several hundred vote lead against opponent Joshua Dowden, a financial services businessman. Jennifer Fawzy, a real estate agent backed by the Republican state Senate caucus and several incumbent state senators, is in fourth place.

Dondero Loop, who was first elected to the state Senate in 2018, did not face a Democratic primary opponent. The district encompasses portions of Summerlin, including the Peccole Ranch area.

In Senate District 9, Republican Tina Brown coasted to victory over Tina Peetris, carrying more than 70 percent of the vote. Brown was endorsed by the Senate GOP caucus, and will face off against incumbent Sen. Melanie Scheible (D-Las Vegas) in the general election for control of this southwestern Las Vegas district.

A competitive Democratic primary in Henderson’s Senate District 12 saw caucus-backed Julie Pazina prevail over Clark County School District Trustee Lisa Guzman, who was backed by the state teachers’ union. Pazina, who narrowly lost a state Senate bid in 2018, has captured more than half of the vote. The district encompasses large parts of Henderson — a geographical area represented by Republican Keith Pickard, who is not running this cycle. 

On the Republican side, Cherlyn Arrington won comfortably against GOP caucus-backed April Arndt, capturing more than half of the vote in the Republican primary for state Senate District 12. She’ll face off against Pazina in the general election.

Incumbent state Sen. James Ohrenschall (D-Las Vegas) trounced his opponent Jacqueline Alvidrez (a Trump supporter) in Southern Nevada’s Senate District 21 Democratic primary, carrying a double-digit percentage point lead. Fellow incumbent Fabian Donate (D-Las Vegas) also cruised to a primary victory over opponent Jack “JT” Absher in state Senate District 10.

In Senate District 2, represented by termed-out state Sen. Mo Denis (D-Las Vegas), Assemblyman Edgar Flores (D-Las Vegas) will face Republican Leo Henderson in the general election. Henderson defeated his two opponents with almost 40 percent of the vote.

In Northern Nevada, former Democratic Assemblyman Skip Daly won the state’s open Senate District 13 Democratic primary with nearly two-thirds of the vote. The Senate Democratic Caucus-endorsed defeated progressive community organizer Nnedi Stephens, who was endorsed by the Nevada State Education Association. 

The district was represented by former state Sen. Julia Ratti (D-Sparks) until she resigned in November, citing a decision to move outside the boundaries of her state Senate district.

If he succeeds, Daly will face the only Republican candidate: retired Air Force Colonel Matthew Buehler, who ran for Washoe County treasurer as a Democrat in 2018 but lost in the general election. 

Assembly

Retired detective sergeant Brian Hibbitts won a close four-way Republican primary in Assembly District 13 which is open following Assemblyman Tom Roberts’ (R-Las Vegas) unsuccessful bid for Clark County sheriff. Dental anesthesiologist Steven DeLisle and far-right candidate Vem Miller trailed the front-runner.

In the district’s Democratic primary, life coach Will Rucker emerged victorious with almost half of the vote. But Rucker faces an uphill battle in a district that continues to favor Republicans, even after redistricting.

Teacher-union-backed educator Selena La Rue Hatch defeated Democratic Assembly caucus-endorsed veteran Alex Goff in Northern Nevada’s Assembly District 25 Democratic primary, carrying almost two-thirds of the vote. 

La Rue Hatch will square off against conservative author and former Washoe Republican Party Chair Sam Kumar in the general election. Kumar was endorsed by former attorney general and Republican Senate nominee Adam Laxalt. Represented by Assemblywoman Jill Tolles (R-Reno), who announced in October that she would not be running for re-election, the formerly red district now leans slightly blue. It is considered a toss-up in the general election.

Geologist and natural resource manager Richard “Rich” Delong led a crowded field of Republican candidates with almost a third of the vote in Assembly District 26’s Republican primary. Chief Hydrologist for Kinross Gold Jay Dixon came in second, followed by emergency medical physician Greg Juhl. 

With no Democrats running for the seat, Delong will be the district’s next representative.

Washoe County School District trustee Angie Taylor dispatched primary election opponent Brian Lee, executive director of the state teacher’s union, in the Democratic primary for Reno-area Assembly District 27, represented by termed-out Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson (D-Reno). Benitez-Thompson endorsed Taylor.

Taylor won more than two-thirds of the vote. She’ll face off against Republican Carmen Ortiz in the general election.

Two Democratic legislative incumbents easily survived primary challenges from candidates boosted by business groups and outside money. 

In Henderson’s Assembly District 29, incumbent Lesley Cohen easily dispatched primary challenger Joe Dalia. In the 2021 legislative season, Cohen drew the ire of natural gas utility Southwest Gas through proposed legislation to transition away from fossil fuel gas in new construction. The gas utility funded an outside group that produced mail pieces attacking Cohen, while another business-aligned PAC called Nevada Rising also got involved in the race on behalf of Dalia.

Fellow Democratic incumbent Cecelia Gonzalez also easily defeated primary challenger and former court administrator Chuck Short in the Assembly District 16 Democratic primary, in spite of similar business-backed outside support for Short. 

Cohen’s general election opponent is still unknown as of mid-day Wednesday — Assembly Republican Caucus-backed Rhonda Knightly holds a slim lead over primary opponent Natalie Thomas. 

Gonzalez will face Jesse “Jake” Holder in the general election, after he nearly cleared more than half of the vote in the district’s three-person Republican primary.

Lyon County Commissioner Ken Gray also took down GOP Assembly caucus-backed candidate Blayne Osborn in the Republican primary for Assembly District 39, a seat being vacated by Republican Assemblyman Jim Wheeler. The district’s heavy Republican voter registration advantage means Gray will almost assuredly win the general election. 

Gray, who headed the initiative to rename Lyon County’s justice building in honor of former President Donald Trump, won about 52 percent of the vote, boosted by a strong showing in Lyon County. 

Updated: June 20, 2022, at 2:40 p.m. with the most recent primary election results.

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