LAS VEGAS (AP) — Democrats settled a bruising primary for Nevada governor on Tuesday, nominating Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak to take on the state’s Republican attorney general in November — one of two close races in expected in the battleground state this year.
Sisolak, who had the backing of former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and chairs the powerful commission overseeing the Las Vegas Strip and surrounding communities, defeated his commission colleague Christina Giunchigliani.
His general election opponent Adam Laxalt easily won the backing of Nevada Republicans — as did the state’s GOP Sen. Dean Heller.
Heller, the only GOP senator seeking re-election in a state won by Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, easily won his primary race Tuesday. He was originally expected to face a tough challenge from Republican Danny Tarkanian until Trump asked him to run for Congress instead.
Heller will face in Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen in November.
“The choice this November could not be starker,” Heller said in a statement. He added that, “While we’ve been fighting and delivering for Nevada, the only thing Jacky Rosen has done since getting to Congress is seek a promotion. In Nevada, we call that swampy.
Rosen said representing Nevada in Congress “has been the honor of my life, and I look forward to continuing this service as Nevada’s next Senator.”
She said in a statement that Heller “has spent the last year letting Nevadans down by breaking his promises to protect our health care, passing a fiscally irresponsible tax bill to benefit his super-wealthy donors, and failing our Dreamers to placate his party’s leaders.”
While Democrats swept Rosen past five other candidates in her race, they faced a tougher choice settling on a candidate hoping for a shot to become Nevada’s first Democratic governor in two decades.
Both candidates pledged to stand up to Trump and the National Rifle Association.
Giunchigliani, who goes by “Chris G,” is a 63-year-old former state legislator and teacher. She earned backing from the women’s group Emily’s List and on Sunday picked up an endorsement from Hillary Clinton.
Medical technician Pamela Jones, 67, of Sparks, said she voted for Sisolak because he seemed more honest.
Interest in the race pushed voter turnout by Tuesday afternoon to a higher level than the 2016 Nevada primary, according to Nevada Deputy Secretary of State for Elections Wayne Thorley.
Laxalt is a former lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, the grandson of former U.S. Sen. and Nevada Gov. Paul Laxalt and son of former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico.
Trump endorsed Laxalt, who handily won the GOP primary.
Laxalt said in a statement that the election in November would be “a choice between real solutions and a radical agenda that will take our unique state the way of California. Higher taxes, ridiculous regulations, sanctuary cities, you name it, my opponent supports it. They would change Nevada forever.”
Wes Elliott, 70, said he voted for Laxalt because he likes the candidate’s character and the fact he’s a military veteran.
Another key Trump supporter, Tarkanian, is favored in the Republican race for Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District. It is one of two swing seats in Nevada that Democrats are hoping to hold while they make gains elsewhere to win control of the U.S. House.
Tarkanian, the son of former University of Nevada Las Vegas basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, has run unsuccessfully for several offices over the past decade. If he prevails, he’ll face wealthy Democratic philanthropist Susie Lee in the general election. Lee defeated six opponents in her primary.
Primary contests for Nevada’s other swing district, the 4th Congressional District, produced a rematch for November between, Democrat Steven Horsford and Republican Cresent Hardy. Horsford held the Democratic-leaning seat for one term before losing in 2014 to Hardy. Hardy then lost in 2016 to Democrat Ruben Kihuen, who is not seeking re-election after several women accused him of sexual misconduct.
Incumbent Rep. Mark Amodei defeated conservative activist Sharron Angle in Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District.
Voters are also settling about 30 primary battles for state legislative seats. One of those races in Nye County pits incumbent Assembly member James Oscarson of Pahrump against Nevada’s most famous pimp, Dennis Hof.
Hof, who starred in the HBO adult reality series “Cathouse,” owns half a dozen brothels that could be threatened this year under proposals to ban such businesses in two of the state’s seven counties where they’re legally operating.
Associated Press writers Ken Ritter and Regina Garcia Cano in Las Vegas and Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada contributed to this report.
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