CARSON CITY – Danny Tarkanian narrowly beat out state Sen. Barbara Cegavske in the 4th Congressional District GOP primary today, surviving a tough challenge in the contest to see who will face Democrat state Sen. Steven Horsford in the November general election.
The son of former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, Tarkanian overcame bad publicity surrounding news that he and his family face a $17 million judgment in a civil real estate case out of California.
The race was close, with Tarkanian ending up with 32 percent of the vote to 28 percent for Cegavske. Cegavske won the more populous Clark County in the district which also stretches across much of rural Nevada. Tarkanian made up the difference with strong showings in the rurals, including Esmeralda, Lyon, Mineral and White Pine counties.
But Tarkanian faces an uphill battle in the new congressional district created in Nevada as a result of the 2010 census. The district, composed of parts of Clark County and several rural counties, has a 113,000 to 90,000 Democratic voter edge as of the close of the primary.
The big surprise of the night may have been the overwhelming defeat of state Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, in the Democratic primary against newcomer Patricia Spearman. Spearman had 63 percent of the vote to 37 percent for Lee.
The contest is expected to be decided with Spearman’s primary victory because of the strong Democratic voter edge in the district.
Progressive activists targeted Lee because of his conservative stand on some social issues. Spearman’s victory, however, won’t alter the political landscape as Republicans and Democrats face off in several other Senate districts in the effort to take control of the 21-member house in 2013.
The Nevada Priorities PAC, which supported Spearman in her underdog challenge, said Lee was their initial target because of his weak voting record on issues relating to education, civil rights, the environment and women’s choice.
“Voting records have consequences,” said Priorities PAC spokesperson Annette Magnus. “When we have a so-called friend abandon us on issue after issue, we were left with little recourse but to launch an independent campaign to educate primary voters.”
Lee raised more than $208,000 for his re-election bid, while the Nevada Priorities Political Action Committee raised $86,000. Spearman raised less than $14,000.
The statewide primary featured very low turnout by registered voters statewide. Fewer than 20 percent of active voters cast ballots in the primary.
There were no surprises in the other state Senate primary battles, with the toughest challenge in the GOP Senate District 9 contest, where Mari Nakashima St. Martin fended off Brent Jones. The race featured allegations of “partying” by St. Martin, while Jones was questioned about whether he took advantage of a mentally disabled man more than a decade ago by selling him two ostrich eggs for $30,000 to establish an ostrich farm.
The race pitted GOP Senate Caucus favorite St. Martin against Jones, an avowed opponent of new taxes. St. Martin had 54 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Jones.
A similar GOP primary battle occurred in Senate District 18, where Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, defeated Assemblyman Richard McArthur, R-Las Vegas, and Conrad Vergara. Hammond was the GOP Senate Caucus choice who voted to continue a package of expiring tax hikes in 2011, while McArthur ran as a no taxes candidate who opposed the package.
Hammond had 56 percent of the vote to 41 percent for McArthur.
For Democrats, Kelli Ross defeated Donna Schlemmer in state Senate 18 and will face Hammond in a district that has a Republican voter registration edge.
The Senate races are critical to both Republicans and Democrats to determine who controls the Senate in the 2013 legislative session. Democrats currently have an 11-10 edge.
The other three state Senate races in play between the parties are Senate 5, 6 and 15. The party primaries in Senate 5 and 6 had no surprises. Senate 15 in Reno had no primary. Republicans need to win four of the five races to take an 11-10 edge in 2013.
In some of the other races and issues facing voters around Nevada, the Laughlin incorporation vote went down to defeat. Residents of the community 90 miles south of Las Vegas rejected the idea of forming their own city by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.
There were no surprises in the other congressional races. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., both won their primaries in the Senate contest.
Former Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., had no opponent in the 1st Congressional District. She will face Republican Chris Edwards in November.
Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., won his primary in the 2nd Congressional District and will face Democrat Samuel Koepnick.
Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., was easily winning his primary in the 3rd District and will face Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, in November.
In the two State Board of Education races, Allison Serafin and Ed Klapproth, were leading among five candidates in District 3 in Clark County, with 31 percent and 21 percent of the vote, respectively. Both will appear on the November ballot.
In the District 2 race in Northern Nevada among five candidates, current board member Dave Cook had 31 percent of the vote and Donna Clontz had 25 percent. Both will be on the November ballot.
Former Lt. Gov. and Regent Lonnie Hammargren had just over 50 percent of the vote in the race for the Board of Regents in District 12. Andrea Anderson was second in the four person race with 28 percent of the vote.
The only other upset in the legislative races occurred in Douglas County in a three-way Republican primary, where incumbent Kelly Kite lost to challenger Jim Wheeler. Kite was targeted for his vote in 2011 to continue a package of expiring taxes.