LAS VEGAS (AP) — With no senators up for re-election and a Gov. Brian Sandoval all but guaranteed a second term, Nevada's upcoming midterm elections promise to be a bit of a snooze. But a swing congressional district and a contentious tax proposal that would fund schools promise to add a little zest to the upcoming campaign season. Here's what you should know as the campaigns kick into high gear:
First-time candidate Erin Bilbray, a Democrat and daughter of a former Nevada congressman, was already struggling with a steep fundraising disadvantage in her battle to unseat two-term GOP Rep. Joe Heck. Things continued to look shaky this month when she announced her second campaign manager was leaving and she was moving on to her third. The 3rd Congressional District is one of the country's few remaining true swing districts, with similar registrations for Democrats and Republicans and about 19 percent of active voters registered as nonpartisan. But it will be tough to turn out the Democratic masses during a midterm election with few major races.
RISING STAR FACES HURDLES
Lieutenant governor candidate Lucy Flores' compelling turnaround story, from a juvenile offender to state Assemblywoman, has garnered national attention and backing from Democratic and women's groups. But her support closer to home is less certain. She scraped by with an endorsement from the Latin Chamber of Commerce — thanks to help from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. But she lost an endorsement from the Asian Chamber of Commerce. Lawyer Mark Hutchison, meanwhile, enjoys the influential support of Sandoval. A turning point could come when the two candidates debate Sept. 3.
The rhetoric is flying over a ballot initiative to raise taxes on business gross margins to fund schools, and two competing studies have vastly different predictions about the measure's impact. Conservative think tank NPRI says The Education Initiative would kill more than 3,000 private sector jobs. A competing study recently released by UNLV's Center for Business and Economic Research came to an opposite conclusion — that the margins tax would create about 13,000 jobs.
The state assembly is squarely in the hands of the Democrats, but Republicans hoping to score veto power have their sights set on the senate. All eyes are on the seat of incumbent Justin Jones, a relatively conservative Mormon Democrat who won his seat in 2012 by 301 votes. Republicans hope Jones' sponsorship of a bill requiring background checks in private firearm sales will push voters in favor of lawyer opponent — fellow Mormon Becky Harris.
Gov. Brian Sandoval enjoys approval ratings so high that no serious Democratic candidate dared to challenge him. In the primary, the virtually unknown Bob Goodman topped a crowded field, coming in behind "none of these candidates" to win the nomination. Goodman, who headed Nevada's economic development efforts in the 1970s, has vowed to run a competitive campaign, but his chances are dim. At a recent roundtable with reporters, Reid said stumping for Goodman would be a waste. "Bob spends most of his time in China," Reid said.