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Just the Facts: Primary Matters

There’s been a whole lot of chatter in Washington lately over primaries. With both houses of Congress now in play, the stakes couldn’t be higher. And yet, both major parties are struggling to figure out how to end the fighting… Not so much with each other, but within their own respective ranks.

How are these primaries shaping up, and who’s being shaken out? Let’s look at all the facts on the ground as we figure it all out.

How “outsider” Trump has been meddling inside Nevada Republican contests

Up until last month, it looked like Senator Dean Heller (R) would have to slug it out in the Republican primary before he could take on Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) in the general election. But when the White House dropped in like a Deus-ex-machina to move Danny Tarkanian (R) back into the NV-03 race, Heller no longer had to worry about his primary.

And yet, with Tarkanian running in a district where several other Republicans had already filed, that’s further complicated matters in a rare Democratic-held district where Republicans are playing offense. At the very least it’s an awkward situation where the local “GOP establishment candidate”, State Senator Scott Hammond (R-Las Vegas), along with former Clark County Republican Party Chair Dave McKeon and former TV reporter Michelle Mortensen have been pushed to the sidelines as national party leaders rally around Tarkanian.

As we’ve discussed before, Nevada Republicans must now choose between Governor Brian Sandoval and President Donald Trump. Thus far most seem to be choosing Trump, which is a good sign for Tarkanian. It still feels quite ironic, though, considering how Trump still portrays himself as an outsider despite becoming the most powerful insider within the Republican Party.

What’s the matter with Democrats?

It’s not just Republicans who face a political identity crisis. As Democrats are seizing upon Trump’s unpopularity to ride a wave back into power, they’re having their own family feud. From Georgia to Colorado, Texas to California, and in many more Congressional races across the nation, we’re seeing a similar pattern of primary contests being framed as “moderate establishment picks” versus “progressive insurgents”. The reality may be a little more complicated than that simple national media narrative, especially here in Nevada.

Let’s start with NV-03. Like the Republicans, Democrats officially have a crowded primary here. But unlike the Republicans, Democrat Susie Lee already had an overwhelming fundraising advantage and broad support from local party leaders before the DCCC added Lee to its “Red to Blue” list. Her opponents have raised very little money, and thus far they’ve failed to rally the kind of national progressive resistance that’s been making waves elsewhere.

However, things aren’t quite as clear next door in NV-04. Here, former Rep. Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) still has a sizable progressive following and isn’t running as any kind of “mushy middle-of-the-road guy”. And yet he faces not one, but two primary opponents who are seeking to wrest that “true progressive” mantle from him: State Senator Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas) and health care activist Amy Vilela. With the state’s most powerful and outspoken union backing Horsford as the activist network that grew out of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign lines up behind Vilela, the “establishment vs. insurgent” narrative is not so clear-cut in NV-04.

So what’s really happening in these primaries?

It’s not like all these primaries are as complex as NV-04. In the Gubernatorial contest on the Democratic side, we can see a clearer contrast between Chris Giunchigliani and Steve Sisolak. And on the Republican side, Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) has more or less embraced Trump and the current GOP establishment while State Treasurer Dan Schwartz (R) is running on the kind of “anti-establishment” platform that harkens to Trump’s own 2016 campaign.

But when we look at the bigger picture, these primaries aren’t always as clear-cut or simple as a certain national media narrative would lead us to believe. So as we observe how these various primaries develop, it’s important that we stick to just the facts. 

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