Get thinking about that vote

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It’s time to start making up your mind.

In just two short weeks, early voting begins, after a lackluster campaign season. Although legislative races in the north have been a snoozefest this year, the candidates for the major constitutional offices offer a sharp contrast.

The office of lieutenant governor in Nevada is a part-time gig, with little power or prestige. We’ve had a lounge singer (Lorraine Hunt), a neurosurgeon/memorabilia collector (Lonnie Hammargren) as well as notable Nevadans who went on to succeed in bigger and better office, like Sen. Harry Reid and Supreme Court Justice Bob Rose.

The “excitement” around the race this year centers on Gov. Brian Sandoval’s possible plans to challenge Senator Reid in 2016, providing an opportunity for the lieutenant governor to move on up.

Half-term state Sen. Mark Hutchison is the Republican candidate, a man desperately trying to launch himself into higher office as Sandoval’s handpicked successor despite his arrogant conservatism and short fuse, a dangerous combination. Democrats initially struggled to find a candidate, but are united now behind two-term Assemblymember Lucy Flores, a strong campaigner who is expected to motivate women and Latinos to go to the polls.

Hutchison performed poorly in a primary debate, and has avoided a replay with Flores, who has exceeded expectations on live TV with articulate answers and a captivating personality that has attracted national attention. Flores better represents the dynamic and inclusive Nevada I want to live in and will get my vote.

The attorney general contest features scions of two Nevada political families, the Laxalts and the Millers. Republican Adam Laxalt, the grandson of former U.S. senator and governor Paul Laxalt, seems to be an appealing and attractive candidate, until he starts talking. In a recent debate before the Nevada Press Association, he gave an appalling performance, confusing Nevada’s open meeting law with the public records law, while giving rambling answers to unasked questions.

His opponent, Ross Miller, son of former Gov. Bob Miller, serves as secretary of state and came to the forum better prepared. Laxalt is attacking Miller for the $60,000 in gifts he’s accepted—and reported—over the past five years, but neglects to mention that he’s one of the very few elected officials to take the disclosure law seriously. Sure, the Legislature should pass a “no gifts” law to outlaw the golf games and free tickets, but Miller deserves credit for proposing much stronger disclosure and transparency legislation. He’s been thwarted by a bi-partisan consensus to keep gifts just as they are—hidden.

Laxalt has had to contend with the release of a very poor job performance evaluation from a law firm whose evaluators referred to him as a “trainwreck” and wondered if he was worth retaining. The cluelessness of his self-evaluation is astounding to read. Nevada needs an attorney general prepared to serve, and Miller is the clear choice.

Term-limited state Sen. Barbara Cegavske is running on the Republican ticket for secretary of state against state Treasurer Kate Marshall, a Democrat. During her legislative years, Cegavske proved to be reliably conservative in her worldview, but rigid and unmovable on many subjects. In the days before term limits, freshmen Democratic legislators were cautioned to avoid signing on to any Cegavske bill, known to sound so innocuous and uncontroversial just before exploding into an American Legislative Exchange Council-inspired mess.

Marshall has done a solid job as state treasurer over the past eight years and seems to have rebounded from a doomed candidacy for the U.S. House during a special election in 2011 when she morphed into an unrecognizable Republican/Bush tax-cutting persona. She’s smart, hard-working, and tenacious. The secretary of state oversees the conduct of elections. If you want Nevada’s elections to be fair and open to all, vote for Marshall.