Turnout steady in Nevada’s largest cities
LAS VEGAS (AP) – Officials called turnout steady at polls in Nevada, with voters casting ballots Tuesday in a hotly contested U.S. Senate race and three House races, picking a governor and choosing a 2011 Legislature that will have the most new members in 40 years.
With about 100,000 election day ballots cast as of 3 p.m. in Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County, turnout was close to 53 percent in the state’s most populous region.
Election chiefs in Nevada’s two most populous counties and state and federal law enforcement officials reported no major problems at the polls, which close at 7 p.m
In Reno, Washoe County Registrar of Voters Dan Burk called voting steady and expected turnout of up to 65 percent, spokeswoman Brooke Keast said.
In and around Las Vegas, nearly 290,000 of almost 737,000 registered voters cast ballots early or by mail, according to Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax.
The headline race was between Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican tea party-backed challenger Sharron Angle. She emerged as the surprise victor from a crowded GOP primary field of 12 candidates to try to deny Reid a fifth term.
In a final message to voters on Tuesday, President Barack Obama urged Nevadans to vote for Reid, saying progress his administration has made is at risk if Democrats are not re-elected.
Obama made the plea in a brief interview with hip hop radio station Hot 97.5 KVEG in Las Vegas as part of a national campaign to motivate urban voters. He also made calls to radio stations in Chicago and Jacksonville, Fla.
Reid and Angle and their supporters have spent more than $50 million in a campaign marked by stinging attack ads.
Reid has framed Angle as a “wild” and “extreme” legislator who would dismantle Social Security and force pregnant rape victims to have the baby.
Angle portrayed Reid as an ally of child molesters and illegal immigrants.
Polls have consistently shown the race too close to call.
The Senate majority leader isn’t the only Reid name on the ballot.
His son, Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid, is in an uphill race for governor against Republican Brian Sandoval, who left a lifetime appointment as a federal judge last year to challenge incumbent GOP Gov. Jim Gibbons.
Sandoval defeated Gibbons by a two-to-one margin in the primary, making Gibbons the first sitting governor in Nevada history to lose a nominating contest.
All three House seats are on the ballot, but the focus is on whether Democratic Rep. Dina Titus of Las Vegas will lose her 3rd District seat to Republican Joe Heck, a former state senator.
Reps. Dean Heller, a Republican representing rural Nevada, and Democrat Shelley Berkley of Las Vegas were expected to easily win new terms.
Besides governor, voters also will elect five statewide constitutional officers, as well as 11 state Senate and all 42 Assembly members.
Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki is seeking a second term against Democrat Jessica Sferrazza, a Reno councilwoman.
The other incumbent officers are all Democrats.
Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is challenged by Republican Travis Barrick; Secretary of State Ross Miller faces Republican Rob Lauer; Treasurer Kate Marshall faces Republican Steven Martin; and Controller Kim Wallin is challenged by Republican Barry Herr.
In the Legislature, Democrats have a 28-14 advantage in the Assembly and 12-9 edge in the Senate.
It’s unlikely Democrats will lose control, but they need only to lose one seat to lose their supermajority in the lower house.
That would make it more difficult to pass tax increases or override vetoes, which require a two-thirds vote.