Election 2018: A Look At The Race For Nevada's Executive Branch

Apr 10, 2018

This year's primary elections are just around the corner, and among the seats up for grabs are all the top jobs inside the state's executive branch. Reno Public Radio's Paul Boger sat down with our reporter Jacob Solis to find out how those races are shaping up. 

Give me a breakdown first, which offices are up for reelection this year? 

Pretty much everything, especially in the executive. Specifically though, we're talking five jobs in particular: Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer and Controller.

Republicans swept every single one of those offices in 2014 on the backs of some historically low turnout. So now, Democrats are ready to take some of those offices back on the hopes that 2018 could end up being the blue wave everyone says it will be.

However, when it comes to the primaries, there just aren't many competitive races. When you've got an established name, even if that name is just as a state legislator, that recognition could be more than enough to carry long-time politicians straight through low-turnout primaries in June and onto the November general.

Let's go through those races one by one. How does the Lieutenant Governor's race look?

So Nevada's Lieutenant Governor, unlike some other states, has relatively few constitutional responsibilities. They're mostly in charge of tourism efforts via the Nevada Commission on Tourism, and they will sometimes preside over senate floor sessions, but that's about it.

However, they are still the number two person in the executive branch, just like the U.S. Vice President, and in that way, the position could be seen as a stepping stone to the Governor's Mansion. That comes with a caveat, though, that in the modern electoral era, only two LG's have ever become Governor: Republican Paul Laxalt in 1967, and Democrat Bob Miller in 1989.

Though there are primary challenges on both sides, this year's contest for LG has really become a two horse race. For the Republicans, we've got senate minority leader Michael Roberson, from Las Vegas, and for the Democrats there's former treasurer Kate Marshall. Both are strong candidates, but they've also had plenty of time in office -- 8 years for each -- to accumulate some baggage. Marshall has lost two elections since 2011, and Roberson has recently adopted some very, very strong positions that may not jibe with all voters, so this will be an interesting one to track later in the year.

Alright, what about Attorney General?

The attorney general is the state's top law officer, and their duties can vary a lot depending on both their priorities, and the kind of legal battles the state finds itself in. For instance, current attorney general and Republican candidate for Governor Adam Laxalt has used his office for both addressing the state's backlog of rape kits, as well as signing on to national lawsuits that challenge liberal laws from, say, California.

The race here is also between two well-known faces around Carson City. There's Republican deputy attorney general Wes Duncan, who's received the support of most of Nevada's sheriffs, and senate majority leader Democrat Aaron Ford. Both have backgrounds in law, but both will likely be caught up in the politics of the Governor's race down the stretch.

Let's talk about the Secretary of State. 

The Secretary of State is one of the executive branch's more administrative jobs. They handle things like issuing business licenses, and overseeing elections.

This also happens to be one of two executive-level races with an incumbent, Republican Barbara Cegavske. She'll likely take on Democrat Nelson Araujo, a two-term assemblyman from Las Vegas. The possibility for a deeply partisan election is always there, especially since Cegavske did stir up some voter-fraud controversy last year, but because of the responsibilities of the SOS, I would be surprised if this race in particular produced a lot of fireworks.

And the Treasurer?

The state treasurer manages the state's debts and investments, as well as the disbursement of educational money like the Millennium Scholarship or the prepaid tuition program.

There was going to be a primary for this one between former assemblyman and Democrat Andrew Martin, who lost the race for controller back in 2014, who would have challenged Zach Conine, who himself lost an Assembly-level primary in 2016, but Martin backed out of the race late last month.

And on the Republican side, you've got former Vegas city councilman Bob Beers taking on Derek Uehara, who tried and failed to win a seat in the Henderson city council in 2015.

And last but not least, how is the race for Controller looking?

The controller is essentially the state's auditor, and acts as a CFO would in the private sector. They're the ones doing the state's accounting, collecting on debts and checking if budgets and fiscal policy are lining up with the state and federal constitutions.

The sitting Controller is Republican Ron Knecht. He rode the Republican wave in 2014 to a comfortable victory, and has since stayed pretty true to his conservative bona fides. Right now he's only got one opponent in Democrat Catherine Byrne, a C.P.A., but also a relative unknown.

Jacob Solis is a senior at the Reynolds School of Journalism.