The lieutenant governorship of Nevada has historically been considered a second-tier position with comparatively negligible responsibilities and modest visibility.
But when the returns are counted following the Nov. 4 election to determine who will succeed two-term Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, who cannot run again because of term limits, considerable national as well as statewide attention will be focused on the outcome of this hotly-contested race.
This is because the election, which pits GOP State Senator Mark Hutchison against Democratic Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, is widely considered to be a proxy battle between Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and Democratic U.S. Senator Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader.
Reid has indicated he undoubtedly will run for a sixth term in 2016.
Sandoval, who on Nov. 4 is expected to trounce his Democratic challenger Robert Goodman, who has not made any campaign appearances, saID he would complete his second four-year term as governor assuming he is reelected, and that he has no interest in taking on Reid in 2016.
While campaigning in Fallon during the September Labor Day festivities, Sandoval told me, “I love my job ... I’m focused on winning reelection and serving out my term ... running for the U.S. Senate in 2016 is not on my radar.”
But several political pundits believe that Sandoval could be persuaded to change his mind, resign the governorship in two years and run against Reid.
If Sandoval did so, fellow Republican Hutchison, if he beats Flores and wins the lieutenant governorship, would replace Sandoval as governor in 2016 and move into the Governor’s Mansion in Carson City.
Hutchison was Sandoval’s choice to run for lieutenant governor, and, according to the influential Washington, D.C.-based National Journal, which caters to a nationwide audience of political operatives, candidates, party leaders and journalists, Hutchison, if elected, would be “more of a governor-in-waiting — meaning a Democrat (Flores) in the spot would be a roadblock to any federal ambitions Sandoval might have.”
If a recent poll is to be believed, Hutchison is doing quite well in his race to beat Flores.
In a copyright story dated Oct. 2, the Las Vegas Review-Journal stated its polling indicated that Hutchison would defeat Flores 47 percent to 35 percent.
Hutchison also leads Flores in fundraising. Campaign finance disclosures recently filed with the Secretary of State show that Hutchison has so far raised $2.4 million while Flores received $654,000.
The Review-Journal poll also indicated that Democrat Ross Miller, Nevada’s secretary of state, would win 44-39 percent over Republican Adam Laxalt; that the race for secretary of state between GOP State Senator Barbara Cegavske and Democratic State Treasurer Kate Marshall is a statistical tie; and that State Question 3, the proposed business margins tax to fund public education, would lose 40-37 percent.
The latest voter registration figures for Nevada show that of the state’s 1,203,095 registered voters, 479,732 are Democrats, 417,207 are Republicans, 230,207 are nonpartisan and 56,149 are American-Independent.
Returning to the Hutchison-Flores contest: Not only is it making national news, but it is between two candidates from starkly different backgrounds.
Hutchison, 51, the father of six, grandfather of four, a former Eagle Scout, who received a B.S. in Business Administration from UNLV and a law degree from Brigham Young University, is considered a moderate Republican and represents a majority-Democratic state senate district in the suburbs of Las Vegas.
Flores, 35, who is single and represents a Nevada Assembly district in the northeast Las Vegas Valley, is one of 13 children. Only one of her siblings graduated from high school and all of her sisters became pregnant in their teens. Flores’ mother left the family when Lucy Flores when nine, and because her father worked multiple jobs, she had to care for her younger brothers and sisters.
Flores dropped out of high school in Las Vegas, but passed the GED test, graduated from USC with a BA in political science and received a law degree from UNLV.
Come the Nov. 4 election, Nevada’s once-obscure lieutenant governorship certainly will lose its invisibly.
David C. Henley is Publisher Emeritus of the LVN. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.