Republicans lost control of the House but held onto the U.S. Senate as 2018 election results were mixed across the country, while here in Nevada the GOP was blown away by a blue tidal wave.
Rural Nevada officials are more than unhappy about it. They are worried.
In the days and weeks leading to Nov. 6 all eyes were on Sen. Dean Heller as he fought a challenger who had less than two years of political experience. Would a loss in Nevada push the Senate into Democrat control?
The question was moot before Nevada’s polls closed. By the time our secretary of state started releasing vote counts after 10 p.m. Tuesday, Heller was irrelevant. Elko Republicans who stayed up late were shocked to see him, Adam Laxalt, and other candidate after candidate fall.
“Barbara Cegavske, our secretary of state, is the only standing constitutional Republican in office now,” mayor-elect Reece Keener observed, expressing his disappointment and concern for rural Nevada’s mining and ranching industries.
The midterm election was a referendum on the Trump Administration, and Democrats organized and mobilized in Nevada more successfully than ever. Groups such as the Culinary Union, Nevada Advocates of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, American Civil Liberties Union and the Nevada Conservation League were eager to take credit for the fruits of their labor.
“Last night Nevadans up and down the ballot made overwhelmingly clear that clean energy and the protection of our public lands are top priorities and soundly rejected the pro-polluter policies of President Trump, Sen. Heller, and Adam Laxalt,” Nevada Conservation League Executive Director Andy Maggi said.
“Progressive voter mobilization efforts” were coordinated by America Votes Nevada, a group operating in nearly two dozen states across the country.
“We’ve texted over 98,000 voters, with a focus on Latino voters, Spanish speakers, and women,” said Annette Magnus of Battle Born Progress. “Simultaneously, we put together the most robust digital program in our organization’s history, reaching millions of Nevadans on their phones, computers, and digital radios.”
Here in rural Nevada most of the attention seemed to go into fighting Question 3, dubbed the $100 million question” because of the cash that went into both promoting it and opposing it. The “No on 3” movement was successful but without any real benefactors other than NV Energy.
Election night did bring some new faces to the local scene. Sgt. Aitor Narvaiza will become the county’s top law enforcement officer after defeating Sheriff Jim Pitts.
Longtime city planner and councilman Reece Keener will move up to mayor, playing a leadership role on the Elko City Council.
What Elko residents won’t see is a change in the city’s anti-marijuana establishment policy. Incoming councilman Chip Stone is opposed to opening a dispensary in the city, while Bill Hance is not. They will replace anti-marijuana Keener and the city’s only pro-marijuana councilman, John Patrick Rice.
The Elko County School Board will also have two new faces. Former teacher Brian Zeiszler and former geologist Candace Wines will join the seven-member board in January.
Future school boards may have a different makeup, however. Governor-elect Steve Sisolak wants to revamp them to include a combination of locally elected members, locally appointed leaders and state-appointed experts. Sisolak believes that combination would build expertise on subject matters such as finance and land management, The Nevada Independent reported earlier this year.
Despite the statewide GOP bloodbath, Nevada’s election map still runs red as 15 of the state’s 17 counties supported Heller and other Republican candidates for the Legislature. While Democrats won statewide with margins of 5 or 6 percent, Elko County voters selected Republicans by margins of 50 to 60 percent. What the GOP lacks in Nevada’s metropolitan areas, it makes up for in geography and conviction.
Holding the state together could turn out to be just as big a challenge for newly elected Democrats as it has been for Republicans.
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto pledged that she and Senator-elect Jacky Rosen would fight for commonsense, bipartisan solutions.
“We will continue to stand for quality, affordable health care, creating good-paying jobs, fighting for dignity and respect for every Nevada family no matter the color of their skin, or who they love and for preserving the American Dream for the single mom in Clark County as well as the hardworking family in Eureka County,” she said.
That calls for a full-spectrum government in both Carson City and Washington, D.C.