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Nevadans in early voting slugfest for control of key offices

With early voting underway in the Silver State, all indications point to close races across the ballot.

LAS VEGAS (CN) — In Nevada, it’s down to the wire. It’s a neck-and-neck battle. It’s anybody’s race.

No, this isn’t the latest scene at the sportsbook with bettors wagering on the ponies. Republicans and Democrats are vying for power in the polarizing midterm elections on Nov. 8.

While Democrats have had their way in Nevada, owning three of four seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, both U.S. Senate seats and the governorship, Republicans have their sights set on crashing the party in a number of races, with many too close to call.

Democrats have ruled in Nevada in presidential elections, too, with voters giving the nod to Barack Obama (2012), Hillary Clinton (2016) and Joe Biden (2020).  

With the U.S. Senate tied 50-50, all the Republicans need to do is flip one seat, which could have enormous implications on the balance of power in the country.

Incumbent U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto is in a virtual tossup with former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, a Republican. Most of the polls show a dead heat.

Nobody knows who is going to win. The Siena/New York Times poll has Cortez Masto and Laxalt deadlocked at 47% each. The OHPredictive/Nevada Independent has Cortez Masto with a two-point advantage. Both polls were released Oct. 31. 

Both candidates have brought in heavyweights to stump for them in this pivotal race: Former President Donald Trump made stops in Minden and Las Vegas for Laxalt, while Obama visited Las Vegas to raise interest in Cortez Masto. Vice President Kamala Harris has visited Las Vegas to back Cortez Masto, and former Democrat, Hawaii congresswoman and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard added her support for Laxalt while stumping in southern Nevada.

“I think the political climate in Nevada kind of mirrors what’s going around nationwide. A lot of the same issues and questions and dynamics we’re seeing across the county are also happening here. So for instance, everyone is looking this year as being a ‘red wave,’ ‘red tsunami’ year favoring Republican candidates. That’s largely because of Biden’s low approval ratings, which is hurting Democratic candidates around the country,” said Dan Lee, an assistant professor at UNLV.

The pandemic shutdown, the lagging economy and higher prices for fuel and housing has opened the door for Republican candidates across the state and country, Lee said.

“They’re still holding out hope," Lee said of Democrats. "There’s that chance that Democrats can hold onto control of the Senate. Which way Nevada goes is going to play a huge role in kind of determining which party will control the Senate."

Lee called all Democratic incumbents in the higher state offices “vulnerable.” That includes Governor Steve Sisolak, Dina Titus of the 1st Congressional District), Susie Lee of the 3rd Congressional District and Steven Horsford of the 4th Congressional District. Republican Mark Amodei, representing the 2nd Congressional District, is “fairly safe,” according to Lee.

Republicans looking to get their foot in the door include Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo for governor, and Army veteran and business owner Mark Robertson, April Becker, a litigator and real estate attorney, and insurance company owner Sam Peters vying for the 1st, 3rd and 4th congressional seats, respectively.

Other prominent races include the battle for secretary of state, with Cisco Aguilar, a Democrat who worked as special legal counsel to the chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education taking on Republican Jim Marchant, a computer software, internet, and telecommunications professional. Former Democratic state Senator Aaron Ford and Republican Sigal Chattah, a civil and criminal defense attorney, both want to be Nevada's next attorney general.

Voters in Nevada appear to be partisan and voting their straight ticket.

“I am optimistic now that with the economy and crime, the Republicans are going to do very well. I’ve been a Democrat. I’ve been an independent, and now I’m registered as a Republican. I voted with an entire straight-Republican ticket,” said Bob Casey, 82, of Henderson.

“I don’t believe the Democrats are in touch with the average person. They seem to think of themselves. They don’t have a good plan to help the American people,” said Casey. “I’m not in love with politicians, even Republican ones, but I love Donald Trump because he wasn’t a politician and he did everything good for the country."

He added: “I honestly feel if the Democrats keep control of the House and Senate, we’ll have a revolution probably within a year."

Jackie, 75, also of Henderson agreed the state of our democracy is concerning. “I’m very worried about our democracy. I voted Democrat all the way down the ticket,” she said. “Our country cannot go into an autocracy. We’re going to lose our democracy. This election we’ll start losing it. It’s for the United States of America. Freedom.

She added, before breaking down in tears, "It’s very close. It’s very very close. I’m very worried and scared."

Lee noted many of the races are so tight we may not know who the winners are the day after the election.

“It’s going to be a close election,” said Lee. “That’s something that all the polls are predicting.”

You can bet on that.

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