Huge Republican tsunami changes Nevada landscape
RENO, Nev. — Republicans weren’t the only ones trying to latch onto Gov. Brian Sandoval’s coattails as he cruised to re-election by the second-largest margin in Nevada’s 150-year history.
Hours before the polls closed on Tuesday, Democratic Assemblyman Skip Daly was running radio ads in Reno trumpeting the fact he “stood strong in bipartisan cooperation with Gov. Sandoval for economic development and job creation.”
The ensuing Republican tsunami that the longtime Sparks labor leader must have foreseen left in its wake a political landscape that barely resembles the one when President Obama carried the key battleground state during the last two general elections and Democrats like Daly rode their leader’s rising tide for all it was worth.
Now, the GOP will control both state legislative houses for the first time since 1985, one of the most popular governors in state history will have to decide whether to leave office midterm to challenge Sen. Harry Reid, and Nevada likely will attract more attention than ever during the 2016 presidential election.
Daly, the target of a massive media blitz by the state and county GOP, was among the incumbents swept out of office despite his late attempt to saddle up to Sandoval.
Bob Goodman understood Daly’s strategy, but Goodman didn’t have that luxury as the largely unknown, underfunded Democrat running against the popular governor.
“The governor has an unbelievable, happy, smiling reputation,” Goodman told The Associated Press hours after the race’s results were made official and while he said he was searching for Sandoval’s phone number to congratulate him on running a “clean race.”
“People like him. He doesn’t do a lot or say a lot, so he doesn’t get in trouble,” he said.
The 80-year-old Las Vegas businessman kept his sense of humor for the most part in his role as sacrificial lamb, dubbing himself “Better Than None” after he claimed the nomination by finishing second to “None of these candidates” in the June primary.
But Goodman said he is disappointed and believes his party made a serious mistake by failing to field a well-known candidate who could attract Democrats to the polls if not unseat Sandoval.
“I was hoping they would help me a little bit, but they didn’t,” said Goodman, who raised less than $10,000 compared with Sandoval’s $3.7 million. “As a matter of fact, they stood in the way. It was no competition at all.”
Goodman said Democrats were doomed by “terrible, terrible turnout” statewide, especially in Clark County where active registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 358,000 to 252,000 but Sandoval won by more than 125,000 votes.
“I really believe a little bit of the fault could be laid on the Democratic Party,” Goodman said. “They have gotten so strong and so arrogant that they know more than we do — more than the ordinary Democrat knows. I think there is going to need to be a shake-up. There probably will be and should be.”
In addition to seizing control of the Nevada Senate and Assembly, GOP assemblyman Cresent Hardy scored a big upset unseating freshman Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford in the 4th District and Republicans swept all six statewide constitutional offices.
Adam Laxalt made that official on Wednesday when he announced that Democrat Ross Miller had conceded the race for attorney general.
Sandoval’s victory with 71 percent of the vote was second in size only to former Democratic U.S. Sen. and Gov. Richard Bryan’s re-election in 1986 with 72 percent against Republican Patricia Cafferata.
The next-largest margin was in 2002, when Republican Kenny Guinn’s beat Democrat Joe Neal with 68 percent of the vote. That was the same year Sandoval first was elected attorney general in another GOP sweep of statewide races.
Like Tuesday, when 1st District Rep. Dina Titus was the only Democrat to win a major race, then-Rep. Shelley Berkley was the only one to survive the GOP tide in the same Las Vegas district 12 years ago. Then-Republican Reps. Jim Gibbons and Jon Porter cruised to victories, Lorraine Hunt easily was elected lieutenant governor, now U.S. Sen. Dean Heller won secretary of state by better than a 2-to-1 margin, Brian Krolicki swamped his Democratic foe, and the late Kathy Augustine easily won controller.
Republican strategists already were tallying victories on television Tuesday night before the election returns started coming in.
Former Nevada GOP Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian told political columnist Jon Ralston that Democrats’ troubles were due in large part to the fact neither Obama nor Reid were on the ballot.
“Both are known for having very well-oiled machines,” she said. “It seems like their well-oiled machine sort of dried up this time.”