ELKO – Nevada’s political landscape is changing dramatically after the 2018 election.
Republican Assemblyman John Ellison and State Sen. Pete Goicoechea expressed their disappointment in the outcome of key legislative races, as well as other state and federal results.
“We lost some good people, working hard for the state,” Ellison said, referring to Sen. Dean Heller’s loss to Jacky Rosen, among others.
With Republicans a minority in the Assembly, Ellison said he would have to work hard to fight tax increases, gun control and water issues in order to keep promises to those who elected him to represent District 33.
“We’ve got to get in and roll up our sleeves and get going for our people who voted us in,” Ellison said.
Goicoechea agreed with Ellison, noting that future legislative actions would be difficult for Republicans, and barely possible in the Assembly.
“We have a long couple of years in the Legislature,” Goicoechea said. “The process is not going to be easy given the fact we don’t have a super minority in the assembly that can’t stop a tax deal that requires two-thirds of the vote.”
Pointing to one state Senate race in Clark County currently in “limbo,” Goicoechea said Republicans will hold a “thin majority” with at least seven to eight GOP senators in the upper chamber.
Although the defeat of Question No. 3 was “the only bright spot” in the election, according to Goicoechea, both he and Ellison said the returns highlighted the increasing disparity among rural and urban voters in the state.
“My constituents in rural Nevada didn’t vote the way the election turned out,” Goicoechea said, “and I’m very concerned we’re going to pay the price.”
Ellison blamed outside factors for the way some of the races turned out.
“I’m unhappy with interest groups that piled that amount of people together to get them to the polls,” he said.
Goicoechea said he sees a Nevada trending toward rural California’s type of problems with the polarized political climate that has sharply divided the state between southern California Democrats and northern California Republicans.
“We’re rapidly approaching what northern California is going through, and we’re headed that way in a hurry,” he said.
The results were welcomed by Elko County’s relatively small Democratic Party.
“I was pleasantly surprised with the results in Nevada,” said Elko County Democratic Party Chairman Steve Anderson. “As a whole, Nevada had a little bit of a blue wave compared to some of the other states.”
Anderson said local party officials were “a little disappointed in some of the Senate races, but we’ll just have to try again in two years.”
“We’re going to continue to meet monthly and have fundraisers and get-togethers like we have done in the past and build toward 2020.”
Lee Hoffman, chairman of the Elko County Republican Party, said he was very disappointed for Nevada and rural Nevada in particular.
“I think that it’s very hard for rural counties to overcome a 78,000-vote difference in Clark County,” he said. “I’m very concerned that control of the state government is going to be dominated by urban areas.”
Despite that, Hoffman said local Republicans “will soldier on.”
“I want to thank Elko County for turning out and supporting our Republican candidates because we did pretty much everything we could do here,” he said.
City Councilman Reece Keener, who was elected to the nonpartisan office of mayor, said he was “really disappointed as a longtime Republican.”
“I think it should be very concerning to us out here in rural Nevada because … you have to look far and wide for friends now, and we will not have a governor’s veto pen, so whatever the Nevada Legislature wants to do, I think they’ll be able to push through without much friction at all,” he said. “And really a concern for mining, for ranching, and you know for all of our recreational assets.”
Mining officials also addressed the pending change in leadership.
“The voters have spoken and with the election now in the history books, the important work of governing begins,” said Dana Bennett, president of the Nevada Mining Association. “As we always have, NvMA will continue to champion the twenty-first century mining industry with Tuesday’s winners.”
Elko and Spring Creek administrators also considered potential areas of cooperation.
Jessie Bahr, general manager and president of the Spring Creek Association, said she saw the election as an opportunity for new people to introduce “plans and actions to improve Elko County and address key issues.”
“There were many hard fought races, and we thank those who stepped up to make our communities better places,” Bahr said.
Because the election draws attention to rural Nevada, Elko City Manager Curtis Calder said he saw the changes in several key offices presenting an opportunity to “develop positive working relationships with federal and state elected representatives, regardless of party affiliation,” adding that he hoped the newly elected officials will tour Elko County.
“I think it is incumbent for those taking office in January to visit rural communities and listen to citizen concerns,” Calder said.
Regarding the changes in City of Elko leadership, Calder expected a smooth transition between current Mayor Chris Johnson and Keener, but not without challenges ahead.
“Mayor-elect Keener will pick up where Mayor Johnson left off,” Calder said, “leading the City of Elko forward, despite a challenging political landscape.”
“I’m nervous that I didn’t hear a lot about downtown redevelopment during the election,” said Catherine Wines, an architect who serves on the city’s Redevelopment Advisory Board and is chair of the city’s Arts and Culture Advisory Board. “Downtown is the cultural and financial heart of our city. I hope our leaders will make it an important part of our future.”
John Lemich, owner of Machi’s Saloon and Grill, said he was happy with most of the local races but disappointed in the state results.
“I just think we are moving a little too far left,” he said. “It’s sad that two counties can control the whole state. We are getting like California where San Francisco and Los Angeles control their state. And all these Californians are moving to our state to get out of all their high taxes and high housing prices and they are coming to our state and bringing their laws with them.”
“Nevada is Nevada,” Lemich said. “Nevada has always been free. We run things the way we want to run things. We have cathouses and 24-hour casinos and we run bars all night long and we’re still The West. But, we’re sophisticated, too. We’re not a bunch of Okies out here. There are people in the mining industry and other industries here that have been all over the world and seen all kinds of things going on in different countries that are just not right.”
Delmo Andreozzi, who ran unopposed to retain his seat on the Elko County Board of Commissioners, noted a disconnect between urban voting areas such as Clark and Washoe counties and rural Elko County.
Commissioner Jon Karr also noticed the rift.
“It’s kind of disheartening,” Karr said.
Some of the statewide winning candidates seemed to show a lack of care for rural Nevada, Karr said, calling out governor-elect Steve Sisolak and incoming U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen for not campaign in Elko.
Andreozzi said he welcomes any of the statewide electors to visit Elko County to discuss with the board concerns relevant to northeastern Nevada.
Despite the flip of many seats to Democrats, at least one county commissioner held out hope for the future.
“It’s a good thing Adam [Laxalt] is a young man, and I look forward to supporting him again in four years,” said Demar Dahl.
Commissioner Cliff Eklund, who also ran unopposed for another term on the board, bemoaned the statewide results, saying, “I just wish we had more opportunity to get more representation in rural Nevada.”
County commissioners will swear in Aitor Narvaiza as the new sheriff in January, after the sergeant won the election against incumbent Jim Pitts, who served for eight years.
“I like both men a lot, and Jim has done an outstanding job,” Andreozzi said. “He’s been a long and dedicated public servant and peace officer. I wish Aitor much success. He’s got a lot of enthusiasm.”
Karr said both candidates were talented professionals.
“The winner was Elko County no matter who won,” Eklund said.
“My constituents in rural Nevada didn’t vote the way the election turned out, and I’m very concerned we’re going to pay the price.” — State Sen. Pete Goicoechea