2012 Election Thoughts – Nevada Senate Edition

The 2012 Nevada Senate race thoughts:

In the senatorial race between appointed incumbent Dean Heller (R) and challenger, current congresswoman Shelley Berkely (D) came down to the late results from Washoe County (Reno-Sparks area). Early in the evening as numbers came in, Berkely had a nice lead with Clark County (Las Vegas metro area) going to Berkely, but as the evening moved along the voted came in from Washoe County, which has been more Heller territory and it proved to be the difference in this race.

Final numbers: Heller 456,640 Berkely 444,513

The weird thing in this race was that the 3rd party candidate (IAP David Vanderbeek) (48,588), along with Nevada ballot oddity “None of these candidates” (44,907) took enough votes (93,495 total) that had those votes been spread to the two main candidates the outcome might have been different since the margin between Heller and Berkely was only 12,127.

To show how much Clark County can dominate Nevada politics, Berkely lost by only 12,127, yet won only one (Clark County) of Nevada’s 17 total counties. It also seemed that Obama coat tails didn’t come through for Berkely like she needed, as enough Obama voters crossed over and voted Heller, especially in Washoe County.

Part of this cross over vote could stem from the north south rivalry/split/fear that exists in northern Nevada. Historically the Reno area & Washoe, Carson, Storey, Douglas, Churchill & Lyon counties were the population center in Nevada and they held all the cards economically & politically. Since the 1950’s the southern end of Nevada began a population boom and Clark County, with Las Vegas, North Las Vegas & Henderson began a growth spurt that would make it the main population center.

Now in 2012, Clark County holds 70+% of Nevada’s population and redistricting has shifted more seats to southern Nevada away from northern and rural Nevada. This political shift should mean more power for southern Nevada in state politics. But this could also be the reason we saw Washoe County voters cross over and support Obama and Heller, as Heller is a northern Nevada guy and it’s very possible they wanted one of their own in DC, rather than have two southern Nevada based senators (Harry Reid is from Searchlight/Boulder City/Henderson). And with the recent political power shift, knocking off a northerner might have been too much to risk, as if Heller had lost, when might another northern Nevada candidate hold that senate seat?

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