LAS VEGAS (AP) — Incumbent Nevada statehouse Republicans beat back challenges from the party’s right wing in Tuesday’s party primaries, even as one controversial conservative GOP Assemblyman cruised to victory.
Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, Assembly Minority Floor Leader Pat Hickey and Ben Kieckhefer, a state senator who served as assistant minority floor leader, each overcame conservative challenges in their races.
No current office-holders appeared to have lost, including freshman Assemblyman Jim Wheeler.
He easily dispatched challenger Robin Reedy despite being condemned by other elected Republicans and lampooned by late night comics for saying he’d vote to reinstate slavery if that’s what his constituents wanted him to do.
“I come from an extremely conservative district and I’m obviously a very strong conservative,” Wheeler said. “Obviously, the voters of District 39 liked my record and the way I’ve done my job. I’m going to do what my constituents want.”
Wheeler, of Minden, had the backing of a conservative base against Reedy, a 20-year former state government employee who served as chief of staff to ex-Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons.
With Wheeler as the notable exception, moderates prevailed in unofficial results over tea party-type challengers who ran on anti-tax platforms.
Roberson is seeking a second, four-year term, and had a huge fundraising advantage in Senate District 20. He will face Democrat Teresa Lowry in the November general election.
Challenger Carl Bunce had the backing of the state GOP party and a grassroots following that hoped to benefit from low voter turnout. Bunce ran the 2012 presidential campaign in Nevada of former Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
Roberson, a Henderson attorney, drew the ire of a conservative right that now leads the party when he reneged on a no-tax pledge and supported the continuation of $620 million in temporary taxes during the 2013 legislative session.
He also was denounced for proposing higher mining taxes as an alternative to a business tax proposal pushed by the teachers union.
Hickey, of Reno, turned back a party challenge from Rick Fineberg to win his bid to face nonpartisan candidate Niklas Putnam in the District 25 general election.
Fineberg, a retired lawyer, campaigned as a constitutional conservative.
Hickey, a painting contractor by trade who also served one term in the Assembly in 1997, was targeted by conservative party members, in part, over a school maintenance tax bill that was shuttled by state lawmakers to the Washoe County School Board for enactment.
Some conservatives called the move an unconstitutional ploy to circumvent a state law requiring a two-thirds majority to pass tax increases. It eventually died at the county level.
Kieckhefer defeated Gary Schmidt in District 16, and will face Democrat Michael Kelley and Independent American Party candidate John H. Everhart in November.
Schmidt branded Kieckhefer a political insider.
The November election could shape the future of the GOP in Nevada politics.
Democrats enter their campaigns controlling the state Assembly 27-15, but have only a narrow 11-10 majority in the Senate.
— Incumbent Las Vegas Democrat Harvey Munford won re-election outright by drawing more than two-thirds of the vote against Anthony D. Snowden and Arrick Foster in Assembly District 6. Munford needed only 50 percent plus one vote to avoid a runoff in November with no Republican in the race.
— In Assembly District 26 in northern Nevada, Republican incumbent Assemblyman Randy Kirner will face a runoff with conservative challenger Lisa Krasner. Challenger Robb Archie finished third. No Democrat filed to run.
— In Senate District 8, Patricia Farley led Kelly Hurst, with Lisa Myers trailing in the GOP nomination for the seat is being vacated by longtime Republican Sen. Barbara Cegavske. The winner will face Democratic Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero Loop, who easily defeated challenger Garrett Leduff. Cegavske was made ineligible by term limits.
— Joe Hunt defeated K.C. Harrison in the Democratic primary in Senate District 14. The winner faces incumbent Sparks Republican Sen. Don Gustavson in November. The district covers a huge swath of rural central Nevada.
— Four-term Republican incumbent Lynn Stewart of Las Vegas fended off a strong Assembly District 22 challenge from Richard Bunce, who ran an anti-tax campaign. Bunce is the brother of Senate District 20 GOP challenger Carl Bunce.
— Republican Becky Harris topped Vick Gill, David Schoen and Ron Quilang in Senate District 9. The winner will challenge incumbent Sen. Justin Jones, of Las Vegas. Jones has faced criticism from GOP rivals for sponsoring a gun control bill that passed the Democratically controlled Legislature last year before being vetoed.