RENO, Nev. — Republican Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval steamrolled to victory Tuesday in the swing state primary where GOP incumbents up and down the ticket were trying to fend off tea party challengers.
The state’s first Hispanic governor captured more than 90 percent of the first 65,000 votes counted Tuesday night, with 5 percent of the precincts statewide reporting.
“I am honored that Republicans from across Nevada have nominated me to lead our ticket into the general election,” Sandoval said in a statement Tuesday night.
The former federal judge running for his second and term also hoped to carry to victory his pick for lieutenant governor, state Sen. Mark Hutchison.
Hutchison was in a hotly contested race against former U.S. Senate hopeful Sue Lowden, who lost the 2010 GOP primary to tea party darling Sharron Angle.
The Republican pick for lieutenant governor will face Democrat Lucy Flores, a two-term assemblywoman from Las Vegas who also easily won her primary. Flores has U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s support to become Nevada’s first black lieutenant governor.
The GOP’s 4th District congressional primary was up for grabs in a bid for the nomination to try to unseat Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, who two years ago became Nevada’s first black member of Congress and coasted to victory in Tuesday’s primary.
Undecided was the Democratic gubernatorial primary, where eight relative unknowns raised less than $100,000 combined in a long-shot attempt to unseat Sandoval this fall. The popular incumbent already has $3 million in his campaign chest.
The lieutenant governor primary was in the spotlight because many GOP faithful want Sandoval to leave midterm to run in 2016 against Reid.
Sandoval also is mentioned on lists of those speculating about future vice presidential candidates and Cabinet posts.
Sandoval said in his statement he has no intention to cut his second term short if re-elected.
“Serving as your governor is an honor and I look forward to campaigning for another four-year term,” he said.
But Chris Cook, a Reno stock broker, said the possibility of a Senate run was one of the main reasons he went out in 90-degree heat to cast his primary ballot Tuesday.
“I voted for Hutchison because I think Sandoval is going to end up running against Harry Reid in 2016, so really it’s like you are voting for governor,” Cook said.
In the 1st District, Democratic Rep. Dina Titus of Las Vegas won big in the only other congressional race where an incumbent faced a primary.
Republican Rep. Mark Amodei had no primary in the GOP-dominated 2nd District, nor did second-term Rep. Joe Heck, although he’s likely to face a much more expensive general election campaign in the 3rd District against Democrat Erin Bilbray, the daughter of a former U.S. representative, who easily won her primary.
Nevada voters also were deciding primary races for state lawmakers, local officials and judges.
Secretary of State Ross Miller said voter turnout could match the record low of 18 percent set in the 2008 primary.