(CN) — Former pro wrestler “Big Dan” Rodimer had a big lead Wednesday morning in a suburban Las Vegas GOP primary that has drawn national attention as a seat Republicans could flip in November.
With 54% of ballots returned, Rodimer garnered 44% of votes, followed by former Nevada state Treasurer Dan Schwartz (33%), and reality TV actress Mindy Robinson (13%), according to the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office.
The winner in the GOP primary will face incumbent Representative Susie Lee, who won 83% of the Democratic primary vote Tuesday against Dennis Sullivan (9%) and Tiffany Ann Watson (8%). Lee is seeking her second term.
On the election results, Schwartz appeared to concede Wednesday with a simple statement.
“We lost,” he said.
Rodimer did not immediately responded to requests for comment Wednesday, but earlier in the week Schwartz touted his record fighting tax increases and subsidies for a football stadium and attacked Rodimer’s record.
“My opponent has a record all right — a police record,” he wrote via email. “Taken down to the station 3 times for violent assaults (including one arrest); five lawsuits for forgery, fraud, not paying his taxes among others.” (Parentheses in original.)
Because the coronavirus forced a mail-in election, final results won’t be known for 10 days, according to a notice from the secretary of state’s office.
By Tuesday, statewide numbers showed that just more than 40% of ballots had been returned. In Clark County, home to the 3rd District, 247,000 of roughly 460,000 ballots had been returned, 122,000 Democratic, 85,000 Republican, and 39,000 other voters, a group that includes independents who have traditionally leaned Republican in past elections here.
Just 996 Clark County voters cast ballots in person at a limited number of sites, the secretary of state reported.
Rodimer, 42, who supports President Donald Trump on immigration, the pandemic response and other issues, emerged over Schwartz as the Republican establishment candidate despite the political experience of his main opponent, who has waged losing campaigns for governor (twice) and the U.S. House of Representatives.
The 6-foot-7-inch, 300-pound attorney, who was on a World Wrestling Entertainment contract in 2005-06, gathered endorsements from the NRA, former Nevada Attorney General and GOP gubernatorial nominee Adam Laxalt, and U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Robinson, 40, whose reality TV resume includes “Take Me Out” (Fox), “King of the Nerds” (TBS) and “The Millionaire Matchmaker” (Bravo), waged her campaign mostly on social media, trying to snowball her 200,000 Twitter followers and loyal FB and YouTube followers into political support.
Other candidates include professional poker player Brian Nadell (4% of the primary vote); former apparel industry executive Cory Newberry (4%); and former teacher and school principal Victor Willert, a native New Yorker and son of Filipino immigrants (2%).
Counties will have seven days to collect and count ballots postmarked by June 9, then three more days to certify results, according to a news release from the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office. Results will be updated daily at 9 a.m. on the secretary of state’s website.
The 3rd District election has garnered attention outside Nevada as a seat Republicans could flip from Democratic control.
Just more than 468,000 of Nevada’s 1.6 million registered voters live in the district, which stretches from the southern edge of the Strip southeast through suburban Henderson to the tip of the state. The district also includes stretches of rural area.
There were 157,000 registered Republican voters and 172,000 Democrats in May, the secretary of state’s office said.
Michael Green, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas, political science professor, said the seat is a likely target of the national Republican Party, in part because Republicans have held it for 12 of the 18 years since it was created in 2002.
The primarily mail primary raised immediate concerns of fraud. Robinson cried foul in the days before the election, saying she believed fraudulent votes are already being cast. No one knows who is filling out mailed ballots, she said.
Not so, said Deputy Secretary of State Wayne Thorley.
Although Nevada has never held a statewide mail election, usually 7% to 10% of ballots are mailed and the risk of fraud is negligible, Thorley said.
“All types of voter fraud are extremely rare,” he said. “We have processes in place for voting by mail to make sure it is just as secure as voting in person.”
The November election will be conducted normally, including the option of absentee voting, which is available to any Nevada voter in or out of state, for any reason without explanation.