Strange days

All your primary questions can be answered here:

It’s already a strange election year in Reno. Twenty people signed up to run for Mayor, and the two City Council races attracted 15 more. If you’re a Reno voter, that means you’ll have 35 people to choose from in those three races on June 10. In another month or so, we’ll start sorting out who’s serious, who’s in it for five minutes of fame, and who just filed for fun.

What about the other races should progressives be paying attention to during the early campaign months? Without a presidential or U.S. Senate race on the ballot, one would expect some excitement for a congressional seat or in the governor’s race, but both of those are noncompetitive this cycle.

Washoe County belongs to Congressional District 2, a district where no Democrat has ever won, despite having superior candidates in many years. Let’s face the facts: Rural Nevada is not going to vote Democratic any time in the foreseeable future, and the leftward swing in the urban parts of the district hasn’t been strong enough to counteract that unfortunate truth.

Instead we’re stuck with decent people like Mark Amodei who go to Washington to represent us and immediately become unrecognizable right-wing zealots to avoid being Sharron Angled in their next primary race. It’s sad, really.

Democrats also lack a viable candidate to challenge Gov. Brian Sandoval. He’s a nice enough man, who has found middle ground on some issues such as expanding Medicaid and implementing Obamacare, but too often hews to his party’s far-right philosophy and makes some bad decisions. These include vetoes of several voting rights bills along with a compassionate common-sense bill to ensure hungry children get fed at school.

There are nine mostly unknown Democrats who signed up to run for governor, five random Republicans and one Independent American Party candidate so there’ll be an opportunity for a protest vote. But without access to sufficient campaign funds to be competitive, a vote for these candidates is only that, a protest.

The real top of the ticket this year is the lieutenant governor’s race. The Republicans have a huge intra-party feud brewing between “chicken lady” Sue Lowden and half-term state Sen. Mark Hutchison. Both have separate factions of the Republican party as supporters so it all depends on exactly who shows up to vote on June 10, usually the most fervent, most conservative Republicans. The “let them barter for health care with chickens” lady may well triumph.

The likely Democrat in the race is two-term Assembly member Lucy Flores, a dynamic young Latina who will give either of the Republicans some strong competition. Fully bilingual, with an inspirational life story, she’ll help draw out the progressive and minority vote, which may help other Democrats further down the ticket, though there are not many exciting races down there either.

In Washoe County, legislative races will be decided mostly in the primary. Minority Leader Pat Hickey and Assemblymember Randy Kirner have each drawn conservative Republican primary opponents who are working hard to offer Republicans a choice. Unfortunately, the rest of us will have to live with the primary voters’ decision, as it’s virtually impossible for a Democrat to win in those districts.

The only Democratic legislator with a bit of a race is Assembly member Skip Daly in Sparks with two Republican opponents who will need to battle through a primary before they get to him. But Daly is a tireless campaigner with two terms of solid performance for his district backing him up.

These primary races and others for sheriff, county commissioner and the school board will be very important in narrowing down the field. Ignore the primary at your peril. Your preferred candidate may get bumped because you decided to skip the election.