When one considers the oft-discussed battleground or swing states, they must consider whether a state has either a series or close elections or intense two-party competition. One such state with both aspects is Nevada, sandwiched between the West Coast and the western plains states. Nevada has switched partisan control over the most recent decades many times in a wide swath of its statewide, congressional, and state legislative races.
One such election that resulted in divided control of the Nevada state government was the 2010 midterms, in which all executive offices were up for re-election. It is worth taking a look at the 2010 statewide elections that were vigorously contested, since Nevada just held statewide elections in 2022.
In the gubernatorial race, unpopular Incumbent Republican Governor Jim Gibbons ran for re-election in the Republican primary, facing off against Brian Sandoval (Sandoval’s prior experience was serving as a judge on the U.S. District Court and as Nevada’s Attorney General), Mike Montandon (the mayor of North Las Vegas), and two other lesser-known candidates: Tony Atwood and Stan Lusak. In the runup to the primary election, most elections handicappers predicted that Sandoval would win the primary, and they ended up being correct. Sandoval won against Incumbent Governor Gibbons with 55.5%-27.2% of the vote, with Montandon taking 12.6%, and the remainder going to None of These Candidates (one of the odd candidate options in Nevada politics where a voter can choose no candidate), Tony Atwood, and Stan Lusak. In the Democratic primary, the son of Harry Reid (the long-time senator from Nevada), Rory Reid, faced off against token opposition and won 70.1% of the vote. Other candidates declaring their candidacy for the Gubernatorial race included two Independents, Eugene DiSimone and Arron Honig, plus the candidates from the Independent American and Libertarian parties, Floyd Fitzgibbons and Arthur Lampitt.
|County||Sandoval (R)||Reid (D)||3rd||Total||RPCT||DPCT|
|Margin||R +84,179||R +11.74%|
The General Election
When all the votes were counted, Sandoval had won the gubernatorial election by a margin of over 11 percentage points. Sandoval carried all of Nevada’s counties in the process, even winning the Democratic stronghold of Clark County, where Democratic candidates have to build their firewall of votes in order to win the state. A Republican candidate in Nevada typically has to win Washoe County, home to the city of Reno, come close to winning Clark County, home to the city of Las Vegas, and hold their margins in the rest of the rural counties as well as Carson City in order to win the state in a typical election. Sandoval blew past this roadmap, earning a victory in a closely divided state by a margin of 84,179 votes and by 11.74%.
A closer analysis of the county level results indicates that Sandoval narrowly won Clark County 224,751 to 217,113 votes (48.61%-46.96%), no doubt helped by the 20,508 votes cast for third-party candidates. In fact, the total third-party vote in Clark County was more than the winning margin within Clark. Sandoval did, however, clearly win Washoe County, as he won it 81,073 to 52,730 votes (57.72%-37.54%), a winning magin of 28,343 votes and. He won the remaining counties in the state 76,526 to 28,328 (72.98%-27.02%), no doubt helping to secure a solid victory in a battleground state.
In the Lieutenant Governor race, incumbent Republican Brian Krolicki ran for re-election in the Republican primary against a single opponent, Barbara Woollen. Krolicki won re-nomination with 72% of the vote, while on the Democratic side, Jesscia Sferrazza (a member of the Reno City Council) ran against three other candidates, securing 43.12% of the vote. This set up a potentially competitive lieutenant gubernatorial contest, as Krolicki could be tied to unpopular Governor Gibbons.
|County||Krolicki (R)||Sferrazza (D)||3rd||Total||RPCT||DPCT|
|Margin||R +66,025||R +9.39%|
When the results were tallied, Krolicki had won over Democratic challenger Sferrazza. Krolicki carried all of Nevada’s counties in his re-election bid, even winning, just like Sandoval, the Democratic stronghold of Clark County. It should be noted that Krolicki had blown past the Republican roadmap in the state: win Washoe County by a few percentage points, lose Clark narrowly, and win by overwhelming margins in the rest of the counties in the state. Krolicki carried the state by a 66,025 vote margin and by 9.39%.
When delving into the county level results, Krolicki carried Clark County 218,991 to 210,712 votes (48.41%-44.59%). This enabled him to carry the county by 3.82%, about 2.17% better than Sandoval’s margin. He did, however, carry Washoe by a narrower margin; about 10,000 votes less than Sandoval’s raw vote total (70,679 to 60,934 votes or 51.00%-43.97%). Krolicki carried the rest of the state’s counties 70,920 to 31,918 votes (63.06% – 28.38%) for a margin of 39,002 votes and by 34.68%. This boosted his winning margin to carry every county in the state.
Secretary of State
In the Secretary of State election, Democratic incumbent Ross Miller ran for re-election against Republican challenger Rob Lauer and Independent American John Wagner. Incumbent Miller and Rob Lauer did not have primary challengers, so they were automatically in the general election. This allowed both sides to fundraise ahead of the general election and to consolidate support in their respective geographic bases. When the votes had been counted, Incumbent Secretary of State Miller won a convincing 374,086 – 262,222 (53.18 % – 37.28%) vote victory against Lauer, winning several Republican leaning counties as well as winning the more populous Clark and Washoe counties.
|County||Lauer (R)||Miller (D)||3rd||Total||RPCT||DPCT|
|Margin||D +111,864||D +15.90%|
When examining the county-level results for the Nevada Secretary of State race, it should be noted that Miller won Clark and Washoe Counties by convincing margins, as well as tamping down the margins in the Republican leaning rural counties interspersed throughout the rest of the state.
Miller won Clark County by 256,962 to 155,320 votes (56.59%-34.21%), a difference of 101,642 votes and 22.38%, while carrying Washoe County 73,034 to 52,766 votes (53.15%-38.40%), achieving a difference of 20,268 votes and 14.75%. She was able to hold Lauer to a win of 54,136 to 44,090 (48.38%-39.40%) votes through the rest of the state’s counties, meaning Lauer did not possess much of a rural advantage.his allowed her to win the state by a strong 111,864 vote margin and by 15.90%.
In the Attorney General election, incumbent Democratic Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto ran for re-election. Cortez Masto ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, which meant that she was able to consolidate her resources for the general election against the eventual Republican nominee. The Republican primary in 2010 for Attorney General was between Republican candidates Travis Barrick and Jacob Hafter. In the Republican primary, candidate Barrick took 44.41% of the vote, Hater took 34.21%, and the option for no candidate took 21.38%. This meant that candidate Barrick faced off against Attorney General Cortez Masto in the general election.
|County||Barrick (R)||Cortez Masto (D)||3rd||Total||RPCT||DPCT|
|Margin||D +290,959||D +17.14%|
In her bid for re-election, Cortez Masto won the strongly Democratic leaning Clark County, the swing county of Washoe, and several Republican-leaning rural counties. This allowed her to win the state 372,011 to 251,269 votes, or a 52.82%-35.67% margin. For a Democratic candidate in a closely divided battleground state, this was a blowout win.
Cortez Masto won Clark County by a 21.8% margin and carried Washoe by nearly 20 points. General Masto was able to hold Barrick to a 50,464– 5,111 vote victory in the counties outside of Clark and Washoe and ran extremely well in the rest of the rural regions of the state, losing them by a margin of less than 5%. This allowed her to win the state by a margin of 290,959 votes and by 17.14%.
Incumbent Democrat State Treasurer Kate Marshall ran for re-election, facing opposition from Republican challenger Steven Martin and Independent American candidate Mike Hawkins. Incumbent Marshall and Republican candidate Martin did not face primary opposition in their respective primaries, allowing them to advance to the general election uncontested and consolidate their resources for their eventual face-off. When all the votes were counted in the general election, State Treasurer Marshall won re-election 338,588 to 307,115 votes, or 48.31% – 43.82%.
|County||Martin (R)||Marshall (D)||3rd||Total||RPCT||DPCT|
During her re-election bid, Marshall won Clark County, Washoe County, and Republican-leaning Mineral County. Martin’s performance in the state’s rural regions helped keep the race closer, as well as coming within a couple percentage points in Washoe County and keeping Democratic margins down in Clark County. These factors pointed to a closer race in which the winner did not win a majority of the vote, with Marshall winning by 31,473 votes and by 4.49%.
Democratic incumbent Kim Wallin ran for re-election against Republican challenger Barry Herr and Independent American candidate Warren Markowitz. The Republican primary was contested with two candidates squaring off, Barry Herr and Gregory Dagani. Herr won the primary with 49.75% of the vote, while Dagani took 25.13%, and the None of These Candidates option took 25.12%. Democratic incumbent Wallin did not face primary opposition so she was able to bolster her support while the Republican primary was occuring. In the end, Wallin won the state 331,311 to 297,069 votes, or 47.49% – 42.58%, with the winning candidate not achieving a majority.
|County||Herr (R)||Wallin (D)||3rd||Total||RPCT||DPCT|
|Margin||D +34,242||D +4.91%|
In her bid for re-election, Wallin carried Clark, Washoe, and Mineral Counties, as well as Carson City. Miller was able to win Clark County by a solid margin, 228,836 to 179,781 votes, or 50.92%-40.00% (a difference of 49,055 votes and 10.92%, more than the statewide winning margin), and Washoe County 63,612 to 59,216 votes, or 46.61% – 43.39% (a difference of 4,396 votes and 3.22%) narrowly.
Republican candidate Herr won the rest of the state 58,072 to 38,863 votes, or 51.98%-34.79% (a margin of 19,209 votes, or 17.19%), allowing him to keep the election close. In the end, though, Wallin took the state by a margin of 34,242 votes and 4.91%.
While the Republican Party had won the Gubernatorial and Lieutentnat Gubernatorial race by convincing margins, the Nevada Democratic Party won all other statewide races as well as the state’s Senate contest. The Republican wins in the Gubernatorial and Lieutenant Gubernatorial race were wins among many in the 2010 election, which was a Republican wave election, helping to set up the party infrastructure for a successful re-election bid for Governor Sandoval in 2014.
The Democratic incumbent in the Nevada Attorney General election, Catherine Cortez Masto would win a United States Senate seat in the 2016 election and re-election in 2022.