Gibbons re-elected to third term; Berkley, Porter in tight race

LAS VEGAS - Congressman Jim Gibbons easily won re-election to his third term Tuesday, defeating a Reno schoolteacher who entered the race as a class project. Incumbent Shelley Berkley found herself in a tighter race in early balloting.

With 41 percent of precincts reporting, Gibbons had 63 percent of the vote. Tierney Cahill had 31 percent.

''It's about what we thought would happen this early,'' Gibbons said.

Cahill called her numbers a ''huge victory.''

''I've worked full-time and campaigned on nights,'' she said.

Gibbons said the most important issue facing Nevada is preventing Nevada from becoming host to the nation's high-level nuclear waste.

''That's always going to be a tough issue for Nevada. It's one we have to fight constantly,'' he said.

In Nevada's 1st Congressional District, early numbers showed Rep. Berkley, D-Nev., with a slight lead over state Sen. Jon Porter, a former mayor of Boulder City.

With 28 percent of precincts reporting, Berkley had 51 percent of the vote. Porter, the Republican candidate, had garnered 45 percent.

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Berkley and Porter weren't the only ones who wanted the seat in Nevada's 1st Congressional District. Democrats were counting on Berkley keeping her seat as part of their strategy to retake control of the House.

National-level Republicans considered Porter a good bet to gain a GOP seat, especially since Berkley won her 1998 election with less than 50 percent of the vote.

Berkley didn't spend much time campaigning in her district. She missed several scheduled debates with Porter and appearances because Congress was still in session.

Porter tried to capitalize on that, accusing Berkley of spending too much time in Washington, D.C. He also accused Berkley of partisanship and said her leadership style is ''one of attacking Nevada programs.''

But Berkley remained confident in her re-election bid, saying Nevadans know she fights for them.

She made her mark in her first term by lining up dozens of votes in Congress to help slow legislation aimed at putting a high-level nuclear waste dump in Nevada.

The candidates dueled in campaign ads. One featured Nevada's Republican governor taking a shot at Berkley and another had the state's two U.S. senators firing back at Porter.

Porter was able to match the well-funded Berkley in campaign money. He tightened the race in the last month from a 16-point deficit in September to the 10-point one shown last week in a poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The race for Nevada's 2nd Congressional District drew little attention since Gibbons was the overwhelming favorite to win his third term.

He faced Cahill, a divorced mother of three who entered the race as a class project and spent only $6,500 on her campaign.

She hoped running for Congress would give her name recognition to run for another office, perhaps a City Council seat or the state Legislature.

Three minor-party candidates for the 1st Congressional District seat were: Independent American Chris Hansen, Libertarian Charles Schneider and Citizens First candidate W.G. Swenson.

Minor-party candidates in the 2nd Congressional District were: Dan Hansen, Independent American; Robert Winquist, Natural Law; A. Charles Laws, Green Party; Ken Brenneman, Citizens First; Terry Savage, Libertarian.

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