The primary

Democrats split, Republicans trumped

Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Kate Marshall and her husband, economist Elliott Parker, kept watch on returns and texts on primary election night.

Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Kate Marshall and her husband, economist Elliott Parker, kept watch on returns and texts on primary election night.


Chris Giunchigliani is soft on child sexual predators, is “out for herself,” voted to raise her own pay, and “funneled” cash to her late husband.

Or so said Steve Sisolak on his way to beating her for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Thus, the Democratic Party is now burdened with a major split.

“They always do this,” said a longtime Democratic woman activist. “They take the base for granted and run conservatives to peel off Republicans. Well, I have somewhere to go—straight from U.S. Senate to lieutenant governor [on the ballot].”

That option—skipping the governor’s race in November—is one that was used heavily in 2016. The Trump/Clinton choice was so unpopular that 1.7 million people in 33 states cast a ballot but skipped the presidential race, an unheard-of development.

Women have been the most active grassroots organizers since Trump was appointed president, and many Nevada women leaders wanted Giunchigliani at the top of the Democratic ticket so the party could ride the Women’s March movement this year. They believed any credible Democrat could beat Republican Adam Laxalt, who carries a lot of political baggage, but that Giunchigliani was ideally suited to excite turnout. A woman organizer who is more interested in the U.S. Senate race than the governor’s race said, “We needed turnout for Jacky [Rosen]. Giunchigliani’s charisma would have provided it.”

While women in the Democratic Party are upset with Sisolak, they are deeply angry at another Democrat.

“We had an exciting candidate who knew state government inside-out and could have brought Democrats to the polls in droves, and Harry saddled us with a lump of clay,” said a woman who attended a recent Nevada Women’s Lobby meeting. Former U.S. senator Harry Reid endorsed Sisolak over Giunchigliani early on. Reid and fellow Sisolak endorser Dina Titus are also receiving heavy criticism for remaining silent while Sisolak savaged Giunchigliani.

The damage to Giunchigliani’s reputation by Sisolak’s attacks concerns many of her friends, who believe it will undercut her effectiveness in public life.

“I hurt all over,” a Giunchigliani supporter in a Washoe unincorporated precinct said on primary night.

Some Democrats at an election night party at Cathexes expressed concern that Nevadans now have a 2016-style choice—two unpopular candidates, Sisolak because of his primary election tactics, Laxalt as a result of his blunders in office.

Sisolak’s unrestrained attacks also landed on others not even in the race. In two mailings sent out statewide, Sisolak claimed Giunchigliani “voted to allow unreported gifts from lobbyists,” and the mailings displayed the 1999 legislation at issue so readers could see Giunchigliani’s name as co-sponsor highlighted in yellow—along with the names of 28 other co-sponsors, many of them popular, even beloved figures: Dawn Gibbons, David Parks, Bonnie Parnell, Bob Price, plus the now-deceased Bernie Anderson, John Carpenter, Marcia de Braga, Harry Mortenson, Roy Neighbors, and chief sponsor Gene Wines Segerblom.

Columnist Andrew Barbano said Sisolak’s nomination means “Nevada will, as always, be ill-positioned for the looming recession. Taxes will remain low while corporate welfare will only grow. Like the 2017 legislature, organized labor will remain on the outside looking in, even as politicians expect and receive worker support this year.”

Amid talk of glass ceilings, an African American Democratic activist at the Dolores Feemster memorial service last weekend pointed out that Reid also declined to support Clark County Sen. Joe Neal when Neal was the state’s first black nominee for governor.

Women have won or are virtually assured of winning several nominations for governor this year, including in Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island and South Dakota. The Georgia nominee is an African American woman, and the New Mexico nominee is a Native American woman.

While Nevada Democrats licked self-inflicted wounds, Republicans faced a different but just as rough general election challenge. In an election in which turnout is expected to be a determinant, an NBC/Wall Street Journal survey taken June 1-4 showed 63 percent of Democrats but only 47 percent of Republicans looking forward to voting in November.

The way Donald Trump is dragging Republicans down was shown in another part of the survey. After months of Republicans trying to attach themselves to Trump’s alleged appeal, the poll found that 48 percent of voters are more likely to support congressional candidates who pledge to curb Trump, with only 23 percent saying they would be less willing to support such a candidate. And a flat majority of 53 percent say they are less likely to vote for candidates who support Trump on most issues.

A Nevada candidate who may have difficulty on this basis is Danny Tarkanian, running for the U.S. House seat currently held by Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jacky Rosen. He now faces a general election with Trump round his neck.

Tarkanian began this election year with five unsuccessful races behind him. Now, before a vote had been cast, it is six unsuccessful races. Tarkanian first filed for the U.S. Senate primary against fellow Republican Dean Heller. While he was in that race, he kept saying he was a stronger Trump supporter than Heller. Then on the final day of filing, he switched races to the third U.S. House district.

Tarkanian didn’t even get credit for making that decision himself. For some reason, he (1) requested that Trump ask him to switch races before he would make the change, prompting Trump (2) to issue one of his tweets saying “it would be great” for Tarkanian to get out of the race, whereupon (3) Tarkanian obediently switched to the House race, (4) making himself appear a Trump puppet. A reader comment on a story at the Nevada Independent about the switch read, “Danny’s a real independent thinker, isn’t he?”

Tarkanian will face Democrat Susie Lee, who has been single-mindedly running for the House—and only the House.

Speaking of Trump and Nevada, in the middle of the afternoon on primary election day, Trump sent out a tweet saying he endorsed Adam Laxalt for governor. It was a little like someone stopping at a gas station to buy a gift on the way to a birthday party. Laxalt has been the de facto GOP candidate for governor for months. The late-in-the-day endorsement just drew attention to the fact that Trump had not endorsed Laxalt earlier.

In one race watched more by national news entities than inside the state, incumbent Republican state legislator James Oscarson was challenged by brothel owner Dennis Hof, who calls himself “the Trump from Pahrump.” In Nye County, print advertising is a bigger factor than in the urban areas, and Hof has been running full-page attack ads against Oscarson week after week. In the last pre-primary issue of the Pahrump Valley Times, the two candidates ran five full-page ads—three positive ads for Oscarson and one positive ad and one negative ad for Hof. Hof won.

In the northern House district, normally a safe GOP seat, incumbent Republican Mark Amodei will face Democrat Clint Koble. Amodei chaired Trump’s Nevada campaign in 2016, but said he cast only a reluctant vote for Trump after the release of the Billy Bush tape.

Oh, and a prosecutor named Mueller lost the GOP primary for state attorney general.