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Blueprint for a “Blue Wave”: How One District Made All the Difference

Four years ago Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) handily won reelection, even as other Democrats lost their seats in what turned out to be “The Great Red Tide of 2014”. However, the overall vote total in the 1st Congressional District (NV-01) was a huge tell-tale sign of why Democrats fared so poorly that year.

Four years later, the diverse voters who call the urban heart of Las Vegas (NV-01) home provided another big win for Titus, but they also turned out in big numbers that ensured victory for several other Nevada Democrats statewide. 

71,000+ reasons why
Photo by Andrew Davey

While Rep. Dina Titus was never really in danger of losing in 2014, her 18.9% margin of victory over perennial candidate Annette Teijeiro (R) wasn’t all that impressive considering her own 32.1% margin of victory over future Assembly Member Chris Edwards (R-Sunrise Manor) just two years prior. However, the far more worrying number here was 80,299: the total number of ballots cast in the NV-01 race in 2014.

As the biggest Democratic stronghold in the Silver State, Nevada Democrats need big margins in the urban core of Las Vegas that comprises NV-01 just to have a chance to win statewide. Even though Ross Miller (D) and Kate Marshall (D) won Washoe County in their respective races in 2014, and even though Miller actually pulled respectable numbers out of the swingier Las Vegas suburbs that comprise the 3rd Congressional District (NV-03), neither won statewide due to alarmingly low turnout in Clark County. Both NV-01 and NV-03 are contained entirely within Clark County, and over 80% of the population of the 4th Congressional District (NV-04) resides in Clark County.

Let’s fast forward four years: Titus won reelection this year thanks to a far heftier 35.3% win over Joyce Bentley (R). When we translate that into raw votes, Titus won by 53,705 votes out of a grand total of 152,157 ballots cast. Think about this for a moment: The total number of ballots cast in NV-01 nearly doubled from 2014 to 2018. This not only benefited Titus, but also Senator-elect Jacky Rosen (D), Governor-elect Steve Sisolak (D), and the other Democrats who won statewide this year.

Here’s how NV-01 made the difference statewide
Photo by Andrew Davey

Just over 154,000 ballots were cast in the U.S. Senate race in NV-01 this year. Jacky Rosen carried NV-01 by 32.1%, or by almost 50,000 ballots cast. While Rosen also carried NV-03 and NV-04, her big win in NV-01 formed the foundation for that 92,300 vote (or 14.2%) margin in Clark County that launched her to a comfortable 48,816 vote (or 5.0%) victory statewide. And now that we can see the raw numbers here, we can notice how the entirety of Rosen’s margin of victory technically came from NV-01.

On Election Day, PLAN Action Associate Director Laura Martin explained to me how they and other organizations in Nevada’s progressive non-profit coalition had been working around the clock to turn out the very voters, such as young voters and communities of color, who Republicans were expecting not to turn out this year. In addition to being the most Democratic of Nevada’s U.S. House districts, NV-01 is also the most diverse: 42.9% Latinx, 9.1% African-American, and 8.6% Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) according to 2010 U.S. Census data.

When asked about the Republicans’ constant race-baiting during the campaign, Martin fired back, “They see it as a racist scare tactic. They do know there are guys who want to take their health care away, ruin the planet, and those guys have names like Dean Heller and Adam Laxalt. Folks are going to remember that when they vote.” And indeed, the (likely almost final) election results now offer real proof that the racist attacks ultimately backfired on the GOP.

¡Sí, se puede! No really, they can and they did.
Photo by Andrew Davey

Much had been said before the election about whether voters of color would turn out in big numbers. Despite consistent polling by Latino Decisions and other groups who specialize in surveying diverse communities showing that voters of color were highly engaged, D.C. pundits regularly asked why so few of them were going to turn out.

Well, it turns out that they really did turn out. According to Democratic Party data that leaders recently shared with the media, national Latinx turnout increased 174% from 2014 while African-American turnout increased 157% and AAPI turnout increased 218%. And according to CNN’s Nevada exit poll, Latinx voters comprised about 18% of our electorate this year, matching their share of the 2016 electorate, while African-Americans ticked up from 9% our 2016 electorate to 10% of our 2018 electorate.

Just looking at the NV-01 results, it’s becoming clearer that Nevada is indeed a changing state. And while Nevada is already a blue state, we may soon be sporting a deeper shade of blue so long as voters of color continue to turn out in larger numbers. Don’t believe me? Ask Rep. Dina Titus… And Senator-elect Jacky Rosen… And Governor-elect Steve Sisolak.

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