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A mixed bag in the midterms (opinion)

By Bob Conrad

Key Nevada races, from local positions to Congressional seats, had the nation on edge since Election Day two weeks ago. After Nevada votes have been counted, local and state races slightly tilted toward blue or toward more progressive politicians. There was neither a blue wave nor a red one. 

Think: a bluer shade of purple. 

A major exception is the loss of incumbent Gov. Steve Sisolak to challenger Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo. Sisolak, Nevada’s first Democratic governor since Gov. Bob Miller (‘89-’99), was solidly beaten by Lombardo, which, to many, signaled a widespread unhappiness with the now one-term governor.

Sisolak’s handling of the pandemic, incessant problems with his own agencies, particularly the employment and corrections departments, and the bizarre handling of a COVID-19 testing company scandal showed the Democrat was not immune from controversy and failed to prevent bad actors from tainting his short tenure. 

He wasn’t exactly warm and fuzzy either. He was perceived as governing from Vegas, and being frequently unresponsive to the news media probably did not help.

Local races were more slightly amusing to watch.

Races reveal mild rejection of extremism

In a race nobody talked about, Court of Appeals Judge, Dept. 1, Deborah Westbrook handily beat her challenger, Rhonda Forsberg. Except Forsberg strikingly lost to “none of these candidates,” which had 24.05% of the vote to Forsberg’s 23.79%. 

Both were well below Westbrook’s 52.15%. 

Serial local political candidate Eddie Lorton continued his losing streak after being trounced – by nearly 20 percentage points – yet again by now three-term Mayor Hillary Schieve. Few were surprised.

Other local races were also predictable: School board seats mostly remain with incumbents, with the exception of Ellen Minetto, who at one point was in favor with the far-right, but failure to follow their looney scripts has her now replaced with one who, presumably, will: Colleen Westlake. 

The Reno City Council and Washoe Board of County Commissioners will have fresh faces. Mariluz Garcia soundly beat her opponent – by 25% – and will replace the outgoing Kitty Jung, whose talkative and at times goofy presence on the board guaranteed headlines over the years.

Garcia is a talent with an intellect the commission needs, but her presence will be offset by Mike Clark – the harassing former County Assessor who tried to mail nastygrams anonymously through the U.S. Post Office and got himself 86’ed from his own office for a year – who trounced incumbent Bob Lucey in the primary. 

Campaign signs for some of the winners and losers the day before Election Day 2022 in Reno, Nev. Image: Ty O’Neil/This Is Reno

Incumbent North Valleys commissioner and election denier Jeanne Herman will remain a commissioner after failing to be ousted by newcomer progressive Edwin Lyngar. Lygar was endorsed by Republican candidates but was perceived as too liberal for the north Reno area. This race can be chalked up to “be careful what you wish for.” 

Bonnie Weber is out on the council after serving only one term. The career politician was in a competition with the resigned Oscar Delgado to see who can say the least during council meetings, so whatever Democrat Meghan Ebert (daughter of Mike Clark) brings to the council can’t be any worse than Weber’s presence. 

The milquetoast pseudo-caring tenor of the Reno City Council will likely continue into the indefinite future — especially if council members and other decision-makers continue to denigrate and dismiss the news media, public commenters, homeless advocates, people of color and their own Jenny Brekhus rather than dealing with the issues those groups and individuals raise. 

It should be a fun few years of, basically, more of the same unless the fresh faces can buoy the bullying invectives hurled by some of the sitting members. We’ll see.

Cortez Masto secures narrow win

A national nailbiter of a race, the U.S. Senate seat held by incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, was resolved last week after Nevada’s slow ballot processing had challenger Adam Laxalt in a narrow lead ahead of Cortez Masto. 

Before final ballots had been counted, Cortez Masto was pegged as the winner. The win means the U.S. Senate remains under control by Democrats.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto at the opening of the Fulcrum BioEnergy Plant east of Sparks, Nev. on July 22, 2022.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto at the opening of the Fulcrum BioEnergy Plant east of Sparks, Nev. on July 22, 2022. Image: Eric Marks / This Is Reno

Laxalt, widely perceived as a carpetbagger who remains unsupported by his own family members, adopted early on a trite and Trumpian anti-news media stance – to the point of belligerence and the nonsensical. 

Cortez Masto was more measured. With a state largely driven politically by two major urban centers, Cortez Masto was in as many places as she could be on the regular. Laxalt banked on catering to a more fringe base and rural counties, and where he was present, he engaged in performative Trumpian stylings ultimately to his own detriment.

A populace beleaguered by fringe conspiracy beliefs guiding a major political party apparently is a tougher nut to crack in a state that often fails to follow national narratives.

Dem secures Secretary of State seat

Democrat Cisco Aguilar narrowly defeated election denier Jim Marchant to be Nevada's Secretary of State in the 2022 general election.
Democrat Cisco Aguilar narrowly defeated election denier Jim Marchant to be Nevada’s Secretary of State in the 2022 general election. Image: Eric Marks / This Is Reno

Such was the case with the Nevada Secretary of State’s race. Cisco Aguilar, a political newcomer, barely beat out election denier and conspiracy theorist Jim Marchant. That win scored major international headlines.

ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Athar Haseebullah said rejection of Marchant was a rejection of extremist ideologies.

“Nevada voters made their voices loud and clear, rejecting the ‘Big Lie’ and the dangerous voter fraud myth that led to an insurrection at the Capitol,” he said. “This election, the people of Nevada showed that we want to protect early voting, same-day registration, and voting by mail, while rejecting the notion that we need to adopt draconian ID laws and revert to obsolete and inaccurate methods of administering our elections.”

If there is one outcome of the midterms, it is this: The greater Reno area generally rejected extremist elements. They’ll still be lingering and making noise, but the community by and large is tired of the irrationality of highly funded conspiracy theorists.

Election 2022

This Is Reno is focused on the mayoral, city and county races for the 2022 election.

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