Raggio survives primary

While one Republican veteran managed to stave off a tough primary challenge, another seemed headed for defeat as vote totals neared 100 percent Tuesday.

Hurt by low turnout, veteran Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio nonetheless pulled out an indisputable victory over former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle on Tuesday.

With 96 percent of the precincts in Washoe Senate District 3 counted, Raggio had a 552-vote lead over Angle.

But veteran Assemblyman John Marvel, while holding solid leads in Humboldt and Lander counties, was swamped by Washoe County voters who overwhelmingly favored former assemblyman Don Gustavson.

Gustavson got more votes in Washoe than Marvel did in all three counties that make up Assembly District 32 - 1,375. He focused his campaign on attacks charging Marvel with supporting the state's biggest tax increase in 2003.

Gustavson collected just 98 votes outside of Washoe for a total of 1,473 with 97 percent of the vote in. That compared to 433 votes for Marvel. But Marvel got just 865 votes in Washoe for a total of 1,298.

"I think I lost," said Marvel.

But rather than the tax vote, the Battle Mountain rancher attributed his problems to reapportionment in 2001, which greatly changed his district so the majority of his voters were in Washoe rather than rural Nevada.

He has had two close elections since then against Mike Weber and said, this time, "it was just too hard to overcome."

He also said he doesn't think the people in Battle Mountain and Winnemucca turned out like they needed to put him over the top.

"It's about time I quit anyhow," said Marvel, who, like Raggio, is 81. "I've got some problems that need to be taken care of anyway."

Marvel has served since 1979 and is the most senior member of the Assembly.

Raggio collected and spent many times what Angle did and received almost universal endorsements from business, political and party leaders. Even the list of those who walked door-to-door for him in the campaign was a who's who of GOP leaders in the state including State Party Chair Sue Lowden and former Gov. Kenny Guinn.

But Raggio backers expressed concern over the extremely low turnout - less than 12 percent in Washoe County - pointing out that many Angle followers are members of an extreme right base which turns out every election.

As a result, the vote totals in the race were just 3,802 to 3,250, a comparatively tiny turnout.

Angle filed on the final day, throwing Raggio into high gear. The 81-year- old spent nearly every weekend day walking his district to stave off her challenge, saying the race had actually revitalized him.

It was a far different Raggio than the one who has coasted pretty much without effort to victory in most of his campaigns. He has already served 36 years in the Nevada Senate and, if he wins in November, will complete his tenure at 40 years. He has said his last act as senior senator from Washoe County will be to help shepherd northern and rural Nevada through reapportionment in 2011.

He said he was very appreciative of the support he received but disappointed at the turnout.

"I didn't anticipate such a competitive primary," he said. "But I tried to keep it on a very positive level. I'm thankful for the tremendous support."

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.


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