In the wake of my pre-election prediction column that had mixed results, let’s quit dealing with the future to consider the recent past: the primary.
• Political experts are hailing Sen. Harry Reid’s campaign for making chicken salad out of Sue Lowden’s chicken droppings. Consequently, they wound up with the most extreme Republican in the Senate primary, Sharron Angle. That gives Lowden too little credit for mangling her campaign, but suggests Reid learned a lot from previous botched campaigns, especially his 1998 re-election bid, when John Ensign came within a mistress’ eyelash of beating him.
But everyone should have seen Lowden’s demise coming early on. The base turns out in a primary, and Angle’s extremism appeals to GOP true believers, who were already mad at Lowden. In 2008, as party chair, Lowden kept the far right from taking over the state convention, and they never forgave her. Further, Angle could appeal to Southern Nevada’s far right while taking a sizable chunk of northern and rural Republicans. Two years ago in a primary, Angle almost unseated Bill Raggio, the legendary Washoe County state senator who has made anti-Angle noises recently, showing she can obtain support from her base but perhaps not those who are rational. Extremists don’t easily win statewide, but Reid clearly takes her seriously, as he should.
• Jim Gibbons won more votes in his statewide primary than Lowden did. That also shows the Republican far right turned out—or that the far out turned right.
• Angle’s victory may help get out Democrats for Reid, not to mention moderate Republicans (all eight of them). More interestingly, it may have a symbiotic effect on Dina Titus’ re-election bid. Republican Joe Heck has run to the right, and it will be interesting to see how and whether he and Angle feed off each other—and how much Reid and Titus thus benefit each other by painting their opponents as extremists, as both undoubtedly will.
• One of the less-noticed losses for the Republican establishment involved House District 1. For some reason, many GOP leaders decided they had a shot at defeating Shelley Berkley, who is seeking her seventh term and pondering a Senate run in 2012. They persuaded Michelle Fiore to give up her run against Dennis Nolan in state Senate District 9 to go for the House because she’s a mother and businesswoman who likes guns. Fiore lost to Ken Wegner, who has challenged Berkley to no avail before.
Meanwhile, Nolan, a presumed beneficiary of Fiore’s departure for greener electoral pastures, lost his primary to Elizabeth Halseth, thanks mainly to his deciding to intervene with a phone call on behalf of a friend accused of rape, followed by a website post explaining that the alleged victim was a sexually active 16-year-old.
• One bit of bad news is that David Parks—consistently one of the most thoughtful, hard-working legislators whose opponents even respect him—won’t be a Clark County commissioner. That’s no knock on Mary Beth Scow, who beat Parks by fewer than 100 votes after being term-limited from the school board, the group everybody allegedly hates for supposedly destroying education. The perception is that Parks started campaigning late, and the commission boundaries may have overlapped better with Scow’s old district than with his.
The good news for his constituents is that Parks returns to the state Senate. There he figures to be joined by Mark Manendo, who beat Kathy McClain by more votes than expected, if he was really expected to beat her at all. Their campaigns turned vicious, but it helped Manendo that his dedication over the years to grass roots appears to have been deeper than McClain’s.
• For all the talk of Reids on the ballot, Justice of the Peace Joe Bonaventure (a former district judge’s son) ran unopposed, state board of education member Gloria Bonaventura lost her bid for county clerk, and her husband, John Bonaventura—the judge’s cousin—won the Democratic primary for constable, a job his father had. Another interesting point: The incumbent constable, Democrat Robert “Bobby G” Gronauer, seemed popular, begging the question of whether he struck voters as too flamboyant for his job, although the Bonaventures have attracted ample notice over the years.
Too flamboyant for the job? Funny, no one says that about the Reids.