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Nevada voters to play decisive role in Tuesday’s election

November 4, 2018
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Senator Dean Heller, R-Nev., speaks at a Republican rally in Reno on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, before introducing Donald Trump Jr. President Trump's son also was headlining events Friday in Carson City, Pahrump and Las Vegas in the key battleground state. Heller is the only incumbent GOP senator up for re-election in a state Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner).

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Battleground races for U.S. Senate, U.S. House and governor will make Nevada voters Tuesday a key decider of power in Congress and the state’s political landscape for a decade.

The critical contests have attracted a buffet of high-profile names to campaign in the state, including President Donald Trump, former President Barack Obama, Vice President Mike Pence, former Vice President Joe Biden, Ivanka Trump, former Attorney General Eric Holder and late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel — and that’s just in the past two and a half weeks.

Democrats face long odds of taking power in the U.S. Senate. But to do so, they need to pick up two seats, and the one held in Nevada by Republican Dean Heller is considered one of their best bets.

Heller is the only GOP senator seeking re-election in a state that Hillary Clinton carried in the last presidential election. He’s moved from opposing Trump and returning his campaign donation to becoming a political ally of the president.

Heller’s opponent is Rep. Jacky Rosen, a first-term Democrat from Las Vegas who has branded Heller as a “rubber stamp” for the president and highlighted his shifting stances on GOP plans to repeal Obama’s health care law. Obama and other high-profile Democrats have stumped for Rosen in Las Vegas, along with the powerful casino workers’ union, Culinary Union Local 226.

To fire up Nevada Republicans on his behalf, Heller has rallied with Trump, Pence and Trump’s children Ivanka and Donald Jr. in the campaign’s final stretch.

Pence and the Trumps have also been making appearances for Republicans hoping to flip two swing U.S. House districts in and around Las Vegas.

Republican Danny Tarkanian, son of former University of Nevada, Las Vegas basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, is running for Rosen’s open seat, as is Democrat and education philanthropist Susie Lee.

Lee ran for the seat in 2014 but lost a primary election, and Tarkanian has run unsuccessfully for a number of Nevada offices over the years.

They’re running in the 3rd Congressional District, the state’s most evenly divided, which covers southern parts of Las Vegas, Henderson and extends to the state’s southern border with Arizona and California.

North of that, Nevada’s 4th Congressional District wraps in urban areas of Las Vegas with a wide stretch of desert, rural areas and mountain towns. The seat is held by Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen, who decided not to run again amid allegations of sexual harassment, which he has denied.

Two former congressmen who each held the seat for a single term are hoping to replace him.

The Democratic nominee is Steven Horsford, who held the seat from 2013 to 2015 until losing to Republican Cresent Hardy — his opponent again this year. Democrats have a slight advantage in the district, but they aren’t as reliable as Republicans when it comes to voting in midterm elections like this year’s.

In the governor’s race, Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt is looking to hold an office his grandfather, Paul Laxalt, once held. His opponent is Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak, a Democrat who oversees a body governing the Las Vegas Strip and nearly three-quarters of the state’s population.

Nevada hasn’t had a Democratic governor in two decades, but the state’s outgoing moderate Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval has declined to back Laxalt.

The winner will have veto power over the state’s new congressional and legislative maps drawn after the 2020 U.S. Census.

Besides the governor’s race, Democrats are trying to win five statewide offices held by Republicans. Close battles include the attorney general’s race, between Democrat Aaron Ford, the Nevada Senate majority leader, and Republican Wes Duncan, the former assistant state attorney general.

In the secretary of state’s race, incumbent Republican Barbara Cegavske is being challenged by Democratic state Assemblyman Nelson Araujo, who would become the state’s first openly gay person elected to statewide office if he wins.

Nevada could make another first on Election Day by electing the country’s first female-majority Legislature. Women would need to win at least five more seats for the Assembly and Senate — including four competitive seats — to take the majority. And in only-in-Nevada fashion, it’s likely voters in one Assembly district will elect Republican brothel owner Dennis Hof — despite Hof’s October death.

Authorities have said no foul play is suspected in the 72-year-old’s death, but it came after ballots already had been mailed to voters. If he wins in the heavily-GOP district, another Republican will be appointed to fill the seat.

Voters will also settle six ballot questions, including Question 3, which would break up a monopoly in Nevada by electric utility NV Energy, which has drawn about $100 million in campaign spending from those who support and oppose the move.

Another ballot measure, Question 6, would require the state to get more of its energy from renewable sources. More than $6 million has been raised for the effort, most of it coming from California billionaire Tom Steyer’s group, NextGen Climate Action.

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For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics