Feet on the ground
Ambivalence is the Democrats’ word of the week
Nevada Democrats and liberals won sweeping victories in the 2016 election, but their pleasure at the wins was sharply reduced by the election of Donald Trump as president.
It is the first time since 1976 that Nevada went against the national presidential result.
Nevada voters gave Democrats easy wins for a U.S. Senate seat, three of four U.S. House seats, the Nevada Assembly majority, and eight of 11 Nevada Senate seats up for election.
At press time, a ballot measure providing for background checks in some gun purchases was leading, though more than 500 precincts—many of them in the small counties—out of 1,883 were still unreported. Measures dealing with public utilities and taxation of medical devices held commanding leads. A measure to regulate legal marijuana which drew opposition from nearly everyone with an official title in the state and attracted $2 million in opposition from billionaire Sheldon Adelson nevertheless prevailed with ease. Washoe sales tax and Clark gas tax increases passed with comfortable margins.
In a closely watched and bitter Reno City Council race, incumbent Jenny Brekhus led her opponent by a comfortable six percent, overcoming opposition from developers and fellow city councilmembers.
In one Washoe County Assembly race, former Democratic assemblymember Richard “Skip” Daly appeared to have reclaimed his seat from Republican incumbent Jill Dickman by three votes out of 31,355, or 0.009 percent of the total, possibly teeing up a recount.
The resurgence of Democrats in the Nevada Legislature portends trouble for initiatives pursued by Republicans, who scored historic gains in the 2014 election. At the time, when the GOP at the 2015 legislative session enacted some of its base’s favored programs such as school grants to parents who took their children out of public school, Democrats said they would reverse or repeal those initiatives when they returned to power. They will likely be closely watched now to see if they follow through.
Clinton’s win by about two percent of the vote followed opinion surveys showing her and Trump nearly tied in the Silver State. Her ground game—getting out the vote—worked at top efficiency as volunteers walked door to door in droves. “I’ve had another Clinton worker in my apartment complex every day for a week,” said a Reno college instructor. Trump had little ground game, relying mostly on paid media, an innovation which Nevada political analyst Fred Lokken said could change the way U.S. politics is run.
In Las Vegas, the Nevada AFL-CIO said “union volunteers and staff were knocking at a rate of nearly 15,000 doors per day” for a total of half a million households.
In Reno, a coalition of several groups said they had knocked “on more than 29,000 doors in Washoe County this election cycle.”
The Culinary Union said nationally, its “members knocked on over 338,000 doors and talked to over 74,000 voters. The North American hospitality workers union sent nearly 400 members from 25 union locals in 17 states to battleground states.” In Nevada, the number of households contacted by Culinary precinct workers was not known but 300 members walked precincts in Reno and Las Vegas over the past 10 weeks.
A Politico survey found 17 percent of voters had been contacted by the Clinton campaign, only eight percent by the Trumpets.
With 91 percent of normally Republican Washoe County’s votes counted, Clinton led by 1.2 percent. She led by more than 10 percent in Clark County, which contains most of the state population.
One action by the Trump campaign against Las Vegas Latino precincts drew wide attention. A lawsuit filed in a Nevada district court asked for records from four early voting sites that reportedly stayed open the evening of Nov. 4 to allow everyone to vote be impounded and preserved. Trump also asked for the names of polling place workers.
Judge Gloria Sturman, who seemed incredulous that someone would sue over people being able to vote, gave Trump’s lawyers a lecture on privacy. “Do you watch Twitter?” Sturman asked as viewers across the nation watched the hearing. “There are internet trolls who could get this information and harass people who just want to help their fellow citizens vote. Why would I order them to make available to you information about people who work at polls when it’s not already a public requirement to do so, so that those people can be harassed for doing their civic duty?”
The dispute gave headline writers a field day. Wired, the technology magazine, posted a story headlined “Let’s Cheer This Badass Nevada Judge Who Understands Twitter Harassment.” The Washington Post story ran under the headline “The Trump campaign just basically got laughed out of a Nevada courtroom.” In the Times of Israel it was, “Trump lodges unsuccessful bid to throw out Nevada votes.”
Trump made vague claims about rigged voting machines across the country but did not provide substantiation. “It’s happening at various places today. It has been reported,” he said. “In other words, the machines you put down a Republican, and it registers as a Democrat. They’ve had a lot of complaints about that today.” He did not identify the “various places,” and he did not name those he was referring to when he said “they’ve.” He did not say where “it has been reported.”
In Florida—where Trump and Clinton were tied 48.5 to 48.5 percent at about 9:15 Florida time, raising for a time the possibility of another recount—Marco Rubio won back his U.S. Senate seat against U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. Murphy won the Democratic nomination after Nevada’s Harry Reid intervened in the primary campaign to attack combative U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and help Murphy. After Rubio beat Murphy, Grayson tweeted, “Rubio reelected. Told you so, @SenatorReid.” Accompanying that message was an animation of Homer Simpson burning a bridge.
Reid, who is retiring from public office after a public career lasting half a century that carried him from hospital trustee through state legislator and lieutenant governor to the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, watched as voters this year gave his party gains in the Senate but not a majority.