By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: After months of prognostications and political maneuvering, Nevada’s 2012 election season crystallized today as the state’s two-week filing period for public office came to a close.
Next up: A June 12 primary followed by the Nov. 6 general election, which will see a lengthy ballot topped by the presidential race, a competitive U.S. Senate race and four congressional contests.
Also at stake is control of the state Legislature, particularly the state Senate, where Democrats have a razor thin 11-10 majority.
Nevada is a battleground state in the presidential contest, a state President Obama won in 2008. Turnout for the presidential race is expected to have a major impact on “down ballot” races.
As evidence of Nevada’s importance, President Obama is making another trip to Southern Nevada on Wednesday to tour a Boulder City solar facility.
A number of minor party and independent candidates are vying for a number of elective offices as well.
The U.S. Senate race will see primaries for both parties, with incumbent Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., facing a handful of challengers. Heller was appointed to the Senate in May by Gov. Brian Sandoval to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of John Ensign.
Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who is challenging Heller for the seat, also faces several Democrat challengers.
In the 1st Congressional District in urban Las Vegas, where former Democrat Rep. Dina Titus is viewed as the favorite to succeed Berkley, there are no other filed Democrats. Several Republicans have filed for the seat as well.
In the 2nd Congressional District, Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., who won the seat in a special election in September 2011, is also the favorite to win a full term. He has no GOP opponents. Several Democrats have also filed for the seat.
In the 3rd Congressional District, Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., faces a challenge from Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas. Heck is seeking a second term. Other candidates representing both parties have also filed.
In the 4th Congressional District, created by Nevada’s population increase based on the 2010 census, Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, is the only Democrat, while a crowded field of Republicans, including state Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, and Danny Tarkanian, have filed.
Twelve state Senate seats are in play in the 2012 elections, and Democrats and Republicans expect a fierce battle to win control of the 21-member body.
There are several Senate races that could affect the balance of power, and the two major parties have already picked their candidates in most of the contests:
– Senate District 5, where former Henderson city councilman Steve Kirk, a Republican, faces Democrat and former state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse. Republican Annette Teijeiro is also a candidate in the race.
– Senate District 6, where GOP attorney Mark Hutchison is facing businessman and Democrat Benny Yerushalmi. Thomas Welsh is also a Democrat in the race.
– Senate District 9, where Republican Mari Nakashima St. Martin faces Democrat Justin Jones. Brent Jones is also a GOP candidate, and Frederick Conquest has filed as a Democrat.
– Senate District 15, where incumbent Greg Brower, R-Reno, faces former state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, who resigned her Senate 13 seat to challenge the attorney who was appointed to fill out the term of the late Sen. Bill Raggio.
– Senate District 18, where Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, faces Democrats Kelli Ross and Donna Schlemmer. The Democrat Senate caucus has not yet endorsed in this race. Assemblyman Richard McArthur, R-Las Vegas, and Republican Conrad Vergara, have also filed.
Early today, a number of state senate candidates were unopposed. By 5 p.m., however, showing how competitive the two parties are, every race had at least two candidates.
The Assembly is less likely to see a switch away from Democrat control.
While Assembly Republicans see an opportunity to make gains on Democrats in the 2012 general election, they have an uphill battle with only 16 of 42 seats currently.
A few Assembly incumbents ended up running unopposed, including Republicans Ira Hansen in District 32, Pat Hickey in District 25, Tom Grady in District 38 and John Ellison in District 33, all of which are in northern Nevada.
In Clark County, Democrats Marilyn Kirkpatrick in District 1, Harvey Munford in District 6, Oliva Diaz in District 11, Richard Carillo in District 18, and Republican John Hambrick in District 2, also face no opponents.
More than 230 candidates filed for various offices in Clark County.
One potential candidate who opted not to run is Republican Sharron Angle, a former member of the state Assembly who ran against U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., in 2010.
Instead Angle announced on her website that she is going to produce a documentary on voter fraud, a statement that prompted a response from Secretary of State Ross Miller, who oversaw the 2010 Nevada general election where Reid handily beat Angle.
“Our multi-jurisdictional Election Integrity Task Force has always aggressively investigated any leads and successfully prosecuted election law violations,” Miller said in response to media requests for comment. “However, we can’t send out our investigators until we have basic information about what crime may have been committed, when it happened and who may have been involved. The unsupported fraud claims on Ms. Angle’s campaign website don’t give us enough information to even open up a case file.