Let me tell you a secret: I live for election results. When county election offices release their official statements of vote, I love to download them and pull out the calculator app on my smartphone to begin crunching numbers.
If you’re still wondering how and why Democrats won so “bigly” here in Nevada, I just crunched even more numbers that should help you figure it out. And this time, we’re heading north to Reno to see how Nevada’s signature swing county swung so hard to Democrats’ advantage.
Just like Vegas, Reno’s urban core also formed the core of the “blue wave”
On Tuesday, we dove deeper into the glittery heart of fabulous Las Vegas to see how the “Big Blue Wave of 2018” began. What became crystal-clear was that voters of color turned out in greater numbers this year than they did in previous midterms, so much so that their overall turnout neared that of the 2016 presidential election.
Throughout early voting, I could tell that a similar phenomenon was developing in Reno. Now that we have the Washoe County Statement of Vote, we have official confirmation that Democrats indeed ran up the score where they needed to, from the University of Nevada adjacent Old Northwest Reno to the historic neighborhoods of Downtown Sparks. (Like Tuesday, feel free to follow along with me by checking the Statement of Vote, Washoe County’s uber-cool interactive precinct map, The New York Times’ 2016 election results map, and the Reno Gazette-Journal‘s own detailed precinct analysis.)
Washoe Precinct 5056 (Downtown Reno, west of Virginia Street and along Truckee River)
NV-Sen: Rosen 65.33%, Heller 31.69%
NV-Gov: Sisolak 63.64%, Laxalt 32.34%
NV-02: Koble 63.52%, Amodei 36.48%
2018 Turnout: 56.50% of registered voters
2018 was 85.81% of 2016 turnout
NV-Pres 2016: 59% Clinton, 35% Trump
Washoe Precinct 5006 (Old Northwest Reno, near the University of Nevada)
NV-Sen: Rosen 66.81%, Heller 28.99%
NV-Gov: Sisolak 67.53%, Laxalt 28.59%
NV-02: Koble 64.96%, Amodei 35.04%
2018 Turnout: 78.32% of registered voters
2018 was 91.10% of 2016 turnout
NV-Pres 2016: 62% Clinton, 27% Trump
Washoe Precinct 1000 (Midtown/Old Southwest Reno)
NV-Sen: Rosen 65.49%, Heller 32.85%
NV-Gov: Sisolak 64.03%, Laxalt 33.06%
NV-02: Koble 61.22%, Amodei 38.78%
2018 Turnout: 82.68% of registered voters
2018 was 92.69% of 2016 turnout
NV-Pres 2016: 63% Clinton, 29% Trump
As we can see, 2018 turnout in much of Reno’s urban core surpassed 80% of 2016 turnout… And in some areas, topped 90% of 2016 turnout. While Washoe County voter turnout usually doesn’t drop as low as Clark County during midterm years, this is still remarkable to behold.
With the exception of Precinct 1000 in Midtown, Senator-elect Jacky Rosen (D) and Governor-elect Steve Sisolak (D) topped Hillary Clinton’s 2016 performance here in the bluest parts of Reno, where the population tends to be younger and a bit more diverse. And even in Precinct 1000, Rosen and Sisolak neared Clinton’s numbers and surpassed the usual Democratic baseline performance.
Washoe Precinct 6110 (Downtown Sparks, near Victorian Square)
NV-Sen: Rosen 57.84%, Heller 35.89%
NV-Gov: Sisolak 55.57%, Laxalt 37.80%
NV-02: Koble 57.02%, Amodei 41.98%
2018 Turnout: 62.36% of registered voters
2018 was 88.19% of 2016 turnout
NV-Pres 2016: 53% Clinton, 38% Trump
Washoe Precinct 6313 (Sparks – D’Andrea)
NV-Sen: Rosen 50.30%, Heller 46.36%
NV-Gov: Sisolak 49.94%, Laxalt 45.53%
NV-02: Koble 49.21%, Amodei 50.79%
2018 Turnout: 73.45% of registered voters
2018 was 87.88% of 2016 turnout
NV-Pres 2016: 46% Clinton, 47% Trump
Washoe Precinct 7314 (Sun Valley, north of Reno)
NV-Sen: Rosen 50.55%, Heller 44.81%
NV-Gov: Sisolak 47.54%, Laxalt 44.54%
NV-02: Koble 50.42%, Amodei 49.58%
2018 Turnout: 51.76% of registered voters
2018 was 71.31% of 2016 turnout
NV-Pres 2016: 48% Clinton, 43% Trump
Looking at Sparks, we get a better sense of why Assembly Member Skip Daly (D-Sparks) won reelection despite Republicans’ slight turnout advantage in AD 31. In Precinct 6313, the suburban D’Andrea neighborhood that also happens to lie within AD 31, Rosen and Sisolak both flipped this neighborhood that narrowly chose President Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton two years ago. In addition, incumbent Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) only beat opponent Clint Koble (D) by the slightest of margins, close to Amodei’s overall underwhelming performance in Washoe County.
One glaring exception to the rule here is in Sun Valley, a working-class community north of Reno where Nevada Democrats used to win more comfortably. In 2016, Trump and U.S. Senate candidate Joe Heck (R-Henderson) successfully cut into Democrats’ margins here. Yet while Rosen did improve upon Clinton’s and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto’s (D) narrow 2016 margins in Precinct 7314, her still narrow win and Sisolak’s narrower win suggest to me that 2016 may have been the start of a permanent realignment rather than the temporary blip that Trump’s numbers might have been in other parts of Clark and Washoe Counties.
Washoe Precinct 2041 (South Reno – Damonte Ranch)
NV-Sen: Rosen 46.70%, Heller 50.77%
NV-Gov: Sisolak 45.59%, Laxalt 50.75%
NV-02: Koble 45.15%, Amodei 54.85%
2018 Turnout: 78.48% of registered voters
2018 was 157.60% (!!!) of 2016 turnout
2016 NV-Pres: Clinton 45%, Trump 47%
Washoe Precinct 8100 (Southwest Reno)
NV-Sen: Rosen 46.35%, Heller 50.84%
NV-Gov: Sisolak 46.06%, Laxalt 49.15%
NV-02: Koble 42.88%, Amodei 57.12%
Turnout 83.08% of registered voters
2018 was 93.32% of 2016 turnout
NV-Pres 2016: Clinton 42%, Trump 47%
Washoe Precinct 1007 (Southwest Reno – Caughlin Ranch)
NV-Sen: Rosen 50.28%, Heller 48.41%
NV-Gov: Sisolak 50.33%, Laxalt 47.14%
NV-02: Koble 45.17%, Amodei 54.83%
2018 Turnout: 83.65% of registered voters
2018 was 95.36% of 2016 turnout
NV-Pres 2016: Clinton 49%, Trump 44%
Washoe Precinct 1023 (Southwest Reno – Caughlin Ranch)
NV-Sen: Rosen 50.84%, Heller 48.16%
NV-Gov: Sisolak 52.94%, Laxalt 45.55%
NV-02: Koble 47.29%, Amodei 52.71%
2018 Turnout: 84.25% of voters voters
2018 was 96.30% of 2016 turnout
NV-Pres 2016: Clinton 48%, Trump 47%
On the flip side, though, we have the more affluent and college-educated southern suburbs of the Truckee Meadows. Before anyone starts yelling at me about the weird turnout statistics in Precinct 2041, keep in mind that 2041 includes some of the newest homes in South Reno’s Damonte Ranch, a few of which were still under construction during the 2016 election. Here are neighborhoods that used to sport a deeper shade of red, yet these neighborhoods increasingly appear purple as Republicans’ margins of victory continue to diminish.
This “purpling” of the southern Reno suburbs becomes even more apparent when we dart over to Caughlin Ranch, a very desirable neighborhood in tony Southwest Reno (akin to Summerlin in Las Vegas). This used to be solid “rock-ribbed Republican” territory, and it still appears that way when we see the winning margins for a handful of local moderate Republicans, such as State Senator Heidi Gansert (R-Reno) and Assembly Member Jill Tolles (R-Reno).
But in 2016, Donald Trump and his brand of xenophobic “populism” proved to be anything but popular in Southwest Reno. And as U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R) and Gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt (R) continually played to the “economic anxiety” of Trump’s base, these and over 450,000 additional Nevadans registered their disapproval at the voting booths.
This leads to the big question looming over Washoe County and the rest of the state: Is Nevada still a swing state? Thus far, it appears that we’re still on the 2020 map. But now that we can see this year’s Clark and Washoe results in greater detail, I’m seeing more and more signs pointing towards Nevada gradually turning a deeper shade of blue. For now this blue state still looks and feels awfully purple, but Trump and his wing of the Republican Party seem to be doing everything possible to lessen our purple streaks and accelerate our switch from red to blue.