Redistricting outlook: Miss.-N.H.

Now that it’s 2011, the redistricting games will soon begin in earnest, with more detailed Census data expected in the coming weeks and some states holding spring legislative sessions to deal with drawing new maps. Long ago I planned to do state-by-state rundowns of the redistricting process as soon as 2010 election results and Census reapportionment were clear. Now that time has arrived, and it’s time to look at Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, and New Hampshire.

Previous diary on Alabama, Arizona, and Arkansas

Previous diary on California, Colorado, and Connecticut

Previous diary on Florida, Georgia, and Hawaii

Previous diary on Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa

Previous diary on Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, and Maryland

Previous diary on Massachusetts, Michigan, and Minnesota

The rest below the fold…



Districts: 4

Who’s in charge? Split (GOP Governor and Senate, Dem House)

Is that important? Nope

The legislature is engaged in moderately high-stakes drama over legislative redistricting, which must be done before the state’s qualifying deadline later this spring. Congressional remapping will, by contrast, be quite simple, with a plan that expands Bennie Thompson’s 2nd to pick up as many majority-black areas as possible and protects newbie GOP incumbents Alan Nunnelee in the north and Steven Palazzo in the south.



Districts: 8 (down from 9 in 2002)

Who’s in charge? Split (Dem Governor, GOP Legislature)

Is that important? Yes

I have long expected the legislature — which has almost enough Republicans to override a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon — to dismantle Russ Carnahan’s suburban St. Louis 3rd District and split it up between Lacy Clay’s 1st, Todd Akin’s 2nd, and Jo Ann Emerson’s 8th, since Clay’s district must expand and the two Republicans are safe enough to accommodate a few new Democratic voters. However, renewed chatter about Akin running for the Senate against Claire McCaskill is muddying things a bit. With a 6-2 map feasible — all major areas of Democratic strength concentrated into the 1st and the Kansas City-based 5th — it’s hard to believe Republicans won’t go for it, but it may be too early to declare Carnahan odd man out after all. If Akin does seek a promotion to the Capitol’s north side, the legislature will still probably draw a less hospitable seat for Carnahan, to make that 6-2 split plausible.



Districts: 3

Who’s in charge? Republicans (de facto; legislature is officially nonpartisan)

Is that important? I suppose

Jeff Fortenberry’s Lincoln-area 1st and Lee Terry’s Omaha-based 2nd will contract in area to accommodate the slow-growing rural 3rd, but that is the height of drama here. The only notable thing about Nebraska’s congressional districts in 2012 is that electoral votes will probably no longer be apportioned by CD, denying Obama that Omaha electoral vote he won in 2008.



Districts: 4 (up from 3 in 2002)

Who’s in charge? Split (GOP Governor, Dem Legislature)

Is that important? Very

Here we have a very ambitious legislature that would love to carve up Nevada as never before, with one rural/suburban Republican vote-sink for Joe Heck and three Dem-leaning seats (two in Las Vegas and environs, one stretching from Reno down to northern Clark County). The congressional delegation is deeply in flux, with Dean Heller running for the Senate, Shelley Berkley contemplating a Senate bid, and a new seat being added that will almost certainly lean Democratic. I have to assume Gov. Brian Sandoval will veto any plan that does not preserve two Republican seats, one in the north where Heller used to be and one for Heck, but with state Treasurer Kate Marshall considering a run for the 2nd, even that former stipulation is up in the air. The upside here will be for the Democrats, regardless.

New Hampshire


Districts: 2

Who’s in charge? Split (Dem Governor, GOP Legislature)

Is that important? Not a bit

New Hampshire’s congressional districts really haven’t changed much in living memory, simply trading towns based on Census figures every ten years. The GOP legislature may try to draw very friendly lines for itself, but as we saw in the last decade, New Hampshire politics functions as a series of tidal wave pendulum swings, if I may mix metaphors. Independents are unpredictable and fickle, and tend to break hard against one party or the other.

Revisiting Nevada Redistricting: All About Shelley… And Sharron?

(Also at Nevada Progressive)

Here we are again. What, you thought one map was enough? Now that the US Senate race is heating up and speculation is picking up on who will be doing what, I wanted to explore alternative scenarios to one I posted earlier this month. So here’s another option… But I have to warn you, it isn’t pretty.

So what if Shelley Berkley doesn’t run? Last time, we just assumed she was, and certain legislators hope she will so that they can redesign the 1st Congressional District (and form the brand new 4th) to their liking. But hold on, what if Shelley doesn’t run? Certain folks in DC have already been whispering they prefer someone else run for Senate. And now that Dean Heller is officially in the race, they’re making their views more public that they want someone, like Ross Miller or Catherine Cortez Masto, who has already proven ability to win statewide.

So what if Shelley doesn’t run? This is the scenario I explore in the map below.

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NV-02 (The Dark Green District)

Population: 674,966

69.3% White (73.8% voting age)

The State of Play

The geographic map hasn’t changed since last time, but the political one certainly has!

Who’s All In?

Again, it’s now official that Dean Heller is running for US Senate. And now that he’s endorsed Heller for Senate, current Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki (R) just may be angling to replace Heller in this seat. And on paper, he seems like the ideal candidate: libertarian-conservative, but not too extreme, and very focused on Nevada issues. However, there are three drawbacks for him:

The Wild Cards

– One, Sharron Angle hasn’t yet figured out where she will run. (And yes, it’s pretty much settled that she WILL run for federal office again!) If she runs for Senate again, it will mean extra heartburn for Heller. But if she runs for this seat again, it will mean extra trouble for Krolicki.

– Two, the outspoken and controversial former USS Cole commander Kirk Lippold has already hinted he’ll also run in NV-02, and Nevada “tea party” icon Chuck Muth may already be anointing him as “THE Tea Party’s Favored Son”. So if Sharron Angle runs for Senate instead and Nevada GOP Chair Mark Amodei remains adamant about staying in the race (and potentially siphoning away critical GOP establishment support for Krolicki), this could be a recipe for yet another embarrassing setback for Krolicki and the Nevada GOP.

– And three, the unexpected may finally happen: A prominent A-List Democrat, State Treasurer Kate Marshall (D), is now considering running. If this comes to fruition and the GOP nominee is either weakened by a brutal primary and/or someone that the GOP establishment won’t be happy to support, then NV-02 just might do the unthinkable for the first time ever (elect a Democrat).

2010 US Senate Results

49.6% Angle (R)

43.8% Reid (D)

Estimated 2008 Presidential Results

49% Obama (D)

48% McCain (R)

Estimated Cook PVI: R+4

Early Race Rating: Leans Republican for now, Tossup if Sharron Angle or Kirk Lippold is the GOP nominee

NV-03 (The Purple District)

Population: 675,257

66.4% White (69.7% voting age)

The State of Play

This district is just slightly more Democratic than its last incarnation, and that’s due to the return of the ritzy Summerlin North and Peccole Ranch (home of Shelley Berkley) Las Vegas neighborhoods to NV-01. The rest of the district remains intact, and the partisan makeup wasn’t too altered thanks to the remaining rural territories and the addition of some semi-rural (Las Vegas) West Side precincts along Sahara and west of Rainbow. And other than forming an even more disturbingly gerrymandered Reno-to-Vegas district, there isn’t anything more that can be done to save Joe Heck. And considering Heck’s recent vote to preserve the FHA program assisting  homeowners with underwater loans (which is badly needed in the district with the highest foreclosure rate in the country), he now realizes he will need to tack to the middle at times and at least pay some lip service to issues Southern Nevada cares about most (like housing and jobs) to win this still closely divided district.

Who’s All In?

See above. Heck looks to be preparing for reelection already. And since there’s a penchant for close elections and for ticket splitting here, he certainly shouldn’t be counted out in a district that President Obama will probably only narrowly win next year.

The Wild Cards

Should Heck prove to be “too independent” for teabaggers’ liking, or if/when he runs for another office later in the decade, State Senators Elizabeth Halseth (R-Northwest) and Barbara Cegavske (R-Summerlin) will likely remain waiting in the wings. But with the removal of Summerlin North, it may be a little harder to find a West Side Democrat to run here. However, Democrats may want to look at the other end of the valley (particularly at a couple folks on the Henderson City Council) for future recruits.

2010 US Senate Results

48.2% Angle (R)

46.5% Reid (D)

Estimated 2008 Presidential Results

51% Obama (D)

46% McCain (R)

Estimated Cook PVI: R+2

Early Race Rating: Leans Republican

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NV-01 (The Baby Blue District)

Population: 675,092

43.7% Latino (38.1% voting age), 32.2% White (37.6% voting age), 14.4% African American (14.4% voting age)

The State of Play

Shelley is back… Or at the very least, this seat is hers as long as she wants it. If Shelley Berkley does decide to sit out the Senate race next year and stay in The House for now, she still has a super safe seat ready for her.

This seat is just slightly more Republican than the last version, but still slightly more Democratic than the NV-01 drawn in 2001. And again, that’s just because the district (once again) has to stretch west toward Red Rock Canyon to dip into Shelley’s elegant stomping grounds of Peccole Ranch and Summerlin North. However, this does very much alter the ultimate state of play here.

Who’s All In?

Without Summmerlin, this district can finally send a North Las Vegas politico like State Senators Steven Horsford or Ruben Kihuen to Congress. But with this configuration, high turnout West End ‘hoods like Summerlin and Desert Shores will probably remain quite dominant in the primary, meaning Shelley will go untouched as long as she wants to remain in NV-01…

The Wild Cards

And should she finally run for higher office or retire later in the decade, a Summerlin area Democrat like State Senator Allison Copening (D-Summerlin) or Clark County Commissioner (and Future Las Vegas Mayor?) Larry Brown (D-Las Vegas) definitely has a good chance here. But if Ruben Kihuen can be patient and turn out his enthusiastic “NorTown” base, he will still have a strong fighting chance as this district continues to inch toward becoming majority Latino and supermajority minority-majority. And honestly, neither can Horsford be counted out, especially if he can wait another cycle or two for Shelley to step aside.

2010 US Senate Results

62.5% Reid (D)

33.1% Angle (R)

Estimated 2008 Presidential Results

66% Obama (D)

32% McCain (R)

Estimated Cook PVI: D+13

Early Race Rating: Safe Democratic, regardless of who ultimately runs here

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NV-04 (Light Spring Green)

Population: 674,936

48.6% White (53.2% voting age), 27% Latino (23.1% voting age), 11.8% Asian American (12.3% voting age)

The State of Play

It’s still open season here… Perhaps even more so if Shelley indeed decides to stay put next door. The district hooks into The West Side to take whiter neighborhoods left out of NV-01, then jumps down to the increasingly diverse Spring Valley, then hops across The Strip to The East Side and some of East Las Vegas (and ultimately to Lake Mead), then climbs uphill to grab the more Democratic leaning Henderson precincts of Green Valley and Green Valley Ranch, then sweeps through the diverse and increasingly Democratic friendly Silverado Ranch communuity, then hops back across The 15 to snatch some minority-majority neighborhoods in the once rapidly growing Southwest.

Who’s All In?

Need we ask? Rory Reid is probably out of the running for good, and Dina Titus‘ political stock continues to rebound. This time, she just might get a seat she can get comfy in.

The Wild Cards

However, Dina also can’t take this seat for granted. Both Former Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley (D-Spring Valley) and current Assembly Speaker John Oceguera (D-Silverado Ranch) are eyeing this district, and both have far better relationships with the Nevada Democratic establishment than Dina Titus.

2010 US Senate Results

56.0% Reid (D)

39.3% Angle (R)

Estimated 2008 Presidential Results

60% Obama (D)

37% McCain (R)

Estimated Cook PVI: D+7

Early Race Rating: Likely Democratic, and will probably be downgraded to Safe Democratic so long as the eventual nominee isn’t caught in a Rory-like scandal

Suffice to say, a whole lot changes if Shelley Berkley decides to stay in The House rather than run for Senate. The Clark based districts will probably have to be gerrymandered at least somewhat to keep everyone happy.

And up north, the fate of NV-02 may very well rest on what Sharron Angle decides to do, and what her once ardent “tea party” supporters think of Brian Krolicki and Mark Amodei. If Angle can regain their trust, or if she runs for Senate instead and allows someone like Kirk Lippold to consolidate the tea tinged Northern Nevada far right base, Krolicki may not be in for an easy ride regardless of whether Dean Heller decides to anoint a successor. And with Kate Marshall now eyeing a run here as well, Democrats may actually have a pickup opportunity up north next year.

Las Vegas Mayor/Henderson Council: Who’s Listening?

(Originally from Nevada Progressive)

We see money scandals. We see discussions behind closed doors. And we see outrageous talk on some awfully funny issues.

Oh, and we hear about conflicting poll data.

But wait, what about us?  

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Yesterday, I was out walking in Sun City Anthem with Sam Bateman, one of the candidates for Henderson City Council. What I heard up the hill yesterday was quite interesting. Despite who held which title and who’s on whose team, people are still making up their minds.

This seemed to confirm what I’ve heard from friends and family around these parts. They’re looking at failed development projects and wondering how to clean up the mess. They’re looking at the challenge ahead of balancing redevelopment needs Downtown with ensuring other parts of town continue to age gracefully. They’re looking at the city budget and want to make sure their tax dollars are being spent wisely.

And despite how some might interpret recent name recognition polls, a number of voters have yet to make up their minds.

And I suspect we’re seeing similar dynamics at play in Las Vegas.

So who’s listening to us? This may be the critical question going into the primary, which actually starts with early voting this month.

Who’s listening to us? Who’s doing the most voter outreach? Who’s paying attention to what potential constituents are saying? Even in this age of digital everything, those regular one-on-one conversations with real people will likely make the difference, more so than any TV ad, mailer, or flashy event.

Home Means Nevada: Redistricting Congress (Part I)

(Also at Nevada Progressive)

It is here. After hours of careful line drawing and days of poring over precinct results, the map has arrived. This is Nevada redistricted, baby!

So will the actual final map look something like this? Honestly, I don’t know for sure. Perhaps legislators on both sides of the aisle will want even safer seats and are willing to configure some gruesome looking districts to get them… Or perhaps last minute talks of redistricting collapse as a casualty in an ongoing state budget brawl, leaving the courts to ultimately draw the lines. But most likely, as is usual tradition, The Nevada Legislature will agree on some sort of last minute budget deal, and on a bipartisan redistricting gerrymander.

Still, this year is different. As population continues to swell in Clark County (Greater Las Vegas), political power is slowly-but-surely shifting southward as well. Clark is destined to pick up as many as three legislative seats from the north, as well as a brand new Congressional District. For the first time ever, three Las Vegas area politicians will likely be sent to The House of Representatives.

And for the first time ever, Nevada will likely have three open House seats! It’s looking increasingly likely that both Rep. Dean Heller (R-Carson City) and Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Las Vegas) will run for the US Senate seat currently held by John Ensign (R-Sleaze), so legislators may very well be drawing the new district map with this in mind. And more importantly, they will likely be keeping in mind that some of their own, as well as a few powerful friends outside, will want to run in each of these open seats.

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In drawing this map, I had several objectives in mind. First, I didn’t want to grossly “over-gerrymander” DeLay style, especially since law suits are already being filed here. But while I didn’t want to go overboard, I did clearly have campaign politics in mind while drawing these districts. There are two minority-majority seats, one having a Latino plurality, designed to elect Democrats, and two seats engineered to be as Republican leaning as possible.

So did I succeed? We’ll have to wait and see. Nevada Democrats may very well see unprecedented primary action in NV-01 and NV-04. And while NV-02 and NV-03 are currently held by Republicans, they will have to continue to fight an increasingly tough battle against changing Reno and Las Vegas demographics in the decade to come.

So enough of me blathering on and on… Let’s check out the new districts!

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(The Green District)

Population: 675,162

69.4% White (73.8% voting age)

The State of Play

First up, the second district. (We’re starting north, and heading south.) Dean Heller currently represents this seat. And even though he’s only done so since 2007, it seems pretty natural for him. He’s a long time Carson City person (both in residence and in Nevada political experience), and he has a conservative-but-not-too-fire-breathing persona that allows him to win comfortably a district that only barely voted for John McCain (by fewer than 100 votes!) in 2008.

However, this will likely change. Again, Heller may very well soon announce his campaign for US Senate, leaving this seat open for the first time since Jim Gibbons left this seat to run for Governor in 2006. And due to Reno area growth, NV-02 has to shed some rural territory to meet the new Census Bureau population guideline. So what happens?

Long story short, NV-02 is now a district that narrowly voted for Barack Obama and Sharron Angle. It’s a closely divided district that will provide a challenge for the typically mighty Washoe Republicans, in that they will need to settle on a candidate who can please GOP primary voters while being able to win enough moderate voters in the general election to keep this seat in GOP hands.

Who’s All In?

Again, Dean Heller looks to be out, but a final decision hasn’t yet be made, so he might still surprise us by staying put. Of course, there has also been plenty of talk of Sharron Angle running (again) for this seat. Even though she carried this district by 5.8% in her Senate run against Harry Reid last year, 2012 will be a Presidential year with higher Reno area turnout. And as we saw on the campaign trail last year, Angle couldn’t even make peace with her fellow Washoe Republicans, so she will have a much harder time holding onto this seat than someone like Heller (who narrowly beat Angle in the 2006 NV-02 GOP primary).

The Wild Cards

Funny enough, I haven’t heard much gossip (yet) over who may be angling for this seat… Other than the obvious. And even though they were just recently sworn into The State Senate (one elected, the other appointed), Reno Republicans Ben Kieckhefer and Greg Brower may be attractive to GOP leaders as they likely search for electable mainstream conservatives to stop Sharron Angle. On the Democratic side, the options aren’t quite as wide. Nevada State Treasurer Kate Marshall does live in Reno, but she hasn’t expressed interest in running for Congress… Can Sharron Angle change that?

2010 US Senate Results

49.6% Angle (R)

43.8% Reid (D)

Estimated 2008 Presidential Results

49% Obama (D)

48% McCain (R)

Estimated Cook PVI: R+4

Early Race Rating: Likely Republican if Dean Heller runs here again, but upgraded to Leans Republican if Heller runs for Senate, and upgraded further to Tossup should Sharron Angle run to replace him!


(The Purple District)

Population: 674,792

66.5% White (69.7% voting age)

The State of Play

In the “Republican Wave” year of 2010, Joe Heck barely won with less than 50% of the vote and by fewer than 2,000 votes. That worries Nevada Republicans, and that’s why GOP legislators (especially those in Clark) will likely go to the mat to make NV-03 safer for Heck.

Mr. “War Hero” Heck could barely beat supposedly reviled “Las Vegas LIB’RUL!!!” Dina Titus by fewer than 2,000 votes, and for Heck’s campaign to succeed in a likely more Democratic friendly environment in 2012, this must change. So it has… At least here on my map.

Dina’s political base is widely acknowledged to be the progressive minded, ethnically diverse, labor union heavy, and LGBT friendly confines of The East Side, also known as “Paradise Township“, which consists the older neighborhoods just east of The Las Vegas Strip. So to shore up Heck, I removed The East Side from NV-03 and placed it instead in the newly created NV-04 seat (more on that later!).

Now in addition to that, Heck also had a problem much closer to home. Even though Heck lives in Henderson, both he and Sharron Angle lost a number of Henderson precincts just down the hill from him in uber-exclusive Roma Hills, in the slightly older (meaning built in the 1980s and 90s) and increasingly Democratic friendly neighborhoods of Green Valley and Green Valley Ranch. So to further shore up Heck, I also placed these areas in NV-04 (again, more on that later, including who this also helps!).

Instead, I gave Heck only the most Republican friendly parts of NV-03, and supplemented them with mostly GOP heavy areas previously in NV-01 and NV-02. The perennially stylish and upscale Summerlin development (including “retiree heaven” Sun City Summerlin) is almost entirely reunited here, and joined by a number of previously fast growing Northwest and Southwest valley exurbs. From there, NV-03 almost exclusively picks up the most conservative neighborhoods of Henderson, including wealthy Seven Hills and Anthem (including “retirement resort community” Sun City Anthem), as well as Old Henderson. In addition, NV-03 takes in all the rural Clark County communities (such as Mesquite, Primm, and Laughlin) outside The Las Vegas Valley.

Oh, and of course, all those rural areas previously in NV-02, from Ely to Hawthorne to Pahrump, have to go somewhere. They end up here… But they could end up being a double-edged sword for Joe Heck.

Who’s All In?

From all indications, Joe Heck wants to run for reelection, and this map will surely entice him to do so again. However, he’s not completely out of the woods yet. In fact, like the situation in NV-02, he will have to balance appealing to moderate suburban voters who may very well vote for President Obama again (who STILL won this district in 2008) with keeping “tea party” GOP primary voters happy. It’s no easy task.

The Wild Cards

Should “Tea Party, Inc.” ever fall out of favor with Heck, or Heck just decides to run for yet another higher office later this decade, they have a number of local GOPers to choose from. State Senator Elizabeth Halseth (R-Las Vegas) is seen by many as a rising “tea party” superstar, and State Senator Barbara Cegavske (R-Summerlin) is a long time right-wing stalwart. They’re basically Vegas’ answer to Sharron Angle, and Cegavske has already dropped hints of a future Congressional run. And of course, it’s not like “Chicken Lady” Sue Lowden is ever really leaving the political stage any time soon.

However, they can easily be stopped cold in their tracks. Why? Look at the partisan numbers. Angle only barely won this district last year, and Obama may very well win this district again next year. Joe Heck may have a hard enough time locking down this seat, but the task becomes even more difficult should he ever leave (or be primaried out).

Even though the rural areas (save for Mineral County) may be incredibly difficult for any Democrat to win, a Democrat may once again win this district if he or she can run up the margin enough in Vegas. In the future, the incredibly smart and talented State Senator Allison Copening (D-Summerlin) may have a once-in-a-lifetime opening to go from Carson’s Capitol to Capitol Hill… Or perhaps it will be Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen, someone from a long-time “Nevada royal family” who lives in the slice of Henderson staying in NV-03… Or maybe wonky “deficit hawk”, Clark County Commissioner, and current Las Vegas Mayoral Candidate Larry Brown (D-Summerlin)?

2010 US Senate Results

Angle (R) 48.5%

Reid (D) 46.3%

Estimated 2008 Presidential Results

Obama (D) 51%

McCain (R) 47%

Estimated Cook PVI: R+2

Early Race Rating: Leans Republican

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(The Blue District)

Population: 675,212

44.4% Latino (38.7% voting age)

31.7% White (37.3% voting age)

14.7% African American (14.7% voting age)

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The State of Play

“Your Favorite Congresswoman”, Shelley Berkley, may soon be looking to move to greener pastures. And who can blame her? She’s back in the minority in The House. She doesn’t have the best relationship with Nancy Pelosi. In many ways, she’s boxed in… Unless she stomps outside that box in her signature bedazzled pumps and forges new ground with a Senate run.

So that may very well happen, and if it does we have yet another open seat battle here in Nevada! But unlike NV-02, all the drama will be in the Democratic primary.

Assuming Shelley runs for Senate, her Summerlin area stomping grounds are moved aside to NV-03 and NV-04, so NV-01 can become more of a minority-majority district and help the state’s Congressional Delegation better reflect the diversity of our fine state.

So instead, some heavily Latino Northeast precincts previously in NV-03 are moved here, even as other heavily Latino East Side precincts are shifted from NV-01 to the new NV-04 seat. Now, Latino and African American heavy North Las Vegas becomes the centerpiece of the district, complemented by the Democratic dominant inner city neighborhoods of Las Vegas.

See the recurring theme here? Notice how this affects the 2012 field below.

Who’s All In?

State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) had been seen as a rising star for years, but now he’s made it to the top. He’s among the most powerful pols in Carson City today, as well as the highest ranked African American in state government alongside Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Douglas. His career has been illustrious, but it hasn’t always been easy.

He’s now locked in a tough budget battle with Governor Brian Sandoval (R) and GOP legislators, and he is one of the very people overseeing this entire redistricting process. If he truly wants to run for Congress, he has to make miracles happen in Carson City this year, otherwise…

The Wild Cards

“Conventional Wisdom” here in Vegas may again be turned on its head. After all, this is now a Latino plurality seat. State Senator Ruben Kihuen (D-North Las Vegas) knows this first hand as one of the youngest Senators, as someone raised in an immigrant Mexican American family who climbed his way all the way up here, and as someone who’s succeeded despite earning the ire of the once omnipotent Culinary 226. While Kihuen himself hasn’t expressed interest in running, especially after just being elected as State Senator, his name has been floated around.

State Senator John Lee (D-North Las Vegas) actually has signaled interest in running, but he’s probably too moderate to win the Democratic primary in this district.

And sorry, Republicans, but there are virtually no GOP candidates who even want to try here.

2010 US Senate Results

62.9% Reid (D)

32.3% Angle (R)

Estimated 2008 Presidential Results

67% Obama (D)

31% McCain (R)

Estimated Cook PVI: D+14

Early Race Rating: Safe Democratic


(The Red District)

Population: 675,294

49.0% White (53.4% voting age)

27.0% Latino (23.2% voting age)

11.5% Asian American (12.0% voting age)

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The State of Play

This is the story of “The Comeback Kid”. After being beat up and beat down, it’s time to rise again and shine in the glorious Mojave Desert Sun. But wait, whose comeback are we talking about?

Can it be Dina Titus‘? After all, she’s no stranger to comebacks. After her surprisingly-but-still-painfully close loss to Jim Gibbons in the 2006 Gubernatorial Election, she was written off for (politically) “dead”. But when Democrats wanted to contest NV-03 in 2008 (and Harry Reid’s political team wanted to do away with Jon Porter as a possible 2010 candidate against him) and their originally preferred candidate turned out to be a dud, they had nowhere else to go. Dina obliged, and she then found her redemption… Only to lose it again last year, and by less than 2,000 votes! But is Dina’s story really over?

Or can Rory Reid‘s find a new beginning? He was heralded for ending a painful period of local political corruption culminating in the saucy, racy “G Sting” FBI probe that took down a voting majority of Clark County Commissioners for taking bribes from stripper clubs out to put rival clubs out of business. He was commended for thinking ahead and pushing Clark County to take seriously matters of sustainable growth. He was seen as a real contender, then the 2010 Gubernatorial race happened and he was lost in translation as the Reno powers that be championed Brian Sandoval as their “anointed one”. It was so strange to see Rory’s political career cut short so abruptly last year, but can it be regrown?

UPDATE: Apparently the answer to my earlier question is a resounding Hell to the No! Sorry, but Rory did this to himself… Even if he broke no laws. Score one for Teams Titus and Buckley in Round 1.

Or can Barbara Buckley‘s be reborn? After all, she was seen as the most powerful Assembly Speaker seen in ages. She was the once dismissed “bleeding heart liberal” who then rocked the political establishment with legislative accomplishments on everything from patients’ rights to child welfare to home foreclosure mediation and prevention. And at one point, she looked to be quite the formidable candidate for Governor… Until she stepped aside for Rory Reid… But will she be so willing to step aside again?

Funny enough, all three of these big name Clark Democrats live in this newly created Congressional District. It starts in the more Democratic friendly Summerlin area neighborhoods, then leaps down to Buckley’s home base of Spring Valley, then crosses The 15 and Las Vegas Boulevard to jump into Dina’s East Side turf, then turns south to take in Rory’s ‘hood in the Green Valley part of Henderson. Either there will be some heated back room negotiations among party leaders on who gets this seat, or there will be a primary so exciting it may even eclipse the drama of the 2006 Democratic Gubernatorial Primary that Dina wasn’t “supposed to win”.

The Wild Cards

But wait, the list of candidates isn’t even over yet! There’s another potential suitor possibly waiting in the wings. After Barbara Buckley was termed out of The Assembly last year, John Oceguera became the new Speaker. However, this gig won’t last long. He will be termed out himself next year. And even though he himself hasn’t suggested it, his name has also been rumored for a run here. If he wins, he will be Nevada’s first Native American member of Congress. His challenge will probably be succeeding in this legislative session (a shared goal with Horsford) and not letting the recent drama over Las Vegas/Clark County firefighter pay take him down (even though he’s actually a North Las Vegas firefighter, and they’ve had no labor trouble there).

On the Republican side, however, it’s slim pickings. Perhaps Assembly Member Mark Sherwood (R-Henderson) or State Senator Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) can try, but both are far too conservative to even get close. After all, both only barely defeated their Democratic opponents last year.

2010 US Senate Results

55.9% Reid (D)

39.3% Angle (R)

Estimated 2008 Presidential Results

60% Obama (D)

37% McCain (R)

Estimated Cook PVI: D+7

Early Race Rating: Likely Democratic for now… And probably eventually becoming Safe Democratic barring any major scandal or unusually strong GOP candidate.

So this is my first Nevada map, a map I had with state legislators and certain big name pols in mind. In the future, I may draw more maps under different scenarios, such as Dean Heller and Shelley Berkley staying put in The House, or what might happen should The Legislature come crashing down over the state budget, forcing the courts to draw the final lines.

Let me know what you think and/or if you have your own maps to share. 🙂

Nevada Redistricting: Silver State, It’s Your Time to Shine

Fast-growing Nevada is adding a fourth congressional district in this round of redistricting. The C.W. says Republicans, who control the governor’s mansion, and Democrats, who control both houses of the State Legislature, will work toward a 2-2 compromise, although the solidity of one Republican seat may be dubious. I tend to think a 2-1-1 map is likelier, with the swing district favoring the incumbent.

Forth Eorlingas:

Now, uh, before getting deep into this, I should note that unlike some of our Nevadan SSPers, I haven’t memorized the home addresses of every sitting congressperson in Nevada or every prospective candidate for the new NV-04 or a (likely) vacancy in NV-01 or NV-02. So, this map may need some tweaking. Just let me know, help me out.

I’ll start out of order, because the way districts are numbered in Nevada is weird.

NV-02 (green)

Rep. Dean Heller, the Republican congressman for this district, is widely expected to launch a primary challenge to sleazy Sen. Ensign, but he seems to be crossing his fingers for a retirement in the meantime. The trend for Republicans in Northern Nevada is…not great. Washoe County is quickly becoming another Democratic stronghold in the state, and the surrounding counties appear to be on a blue trend. Elko, in northeastern Nevada, is a Republican stronghold, and the minor population center there combined with the still-reddish sprawl around Reno and Carson City should keep this district on the Republican side of the PVI line, but it’s uncomfortably close to EVEN PVI and there doesn’t seem to be a lot Republicans can do about it. If Heller runs, he’ll probably retain it, but if he goes for Senate, it’s going to be very close in a presidential year. Tossup/Tilt Republican.

NV-01 (blue)

I think the expectation is that Democratic Rep. Shelly Berkley will run for Senate, potentially setting up a marquee battle with Heller, her colleague in the Nevada congressional delegation. I’m pretty sure her house is included in this district either way – but the person I had in mind while drawing this district is Steven Horsford, the term-limited Nevada Senate Majority Leader. Horsford, if elected, would become the first African American congressman from the Mountain West in…a while. The racial breakdown, for the curious, is 52.3% white, 13.4% black, 20.2% Latino, and 10% Asian. Safe Democratic.

NV-03 (yellow)

This district is represented by freshman Rep. Joe Heck, the Republican who put Southern-talkin’ Democrat Dina Titus on ice last year even as Sen. Reid stomped nutty Tea Party conservative Sharron Angle by a five-point spread. Interestingly enough, Heck would see his district balloon out substantially to eclipse NV-02 in size under this map. While the vast majority of this district’s population is in Clark County, the little fraction that comes out of the rest of the state has a huge geographic footprint, because the cow counties are so underpopulated (this may have something to do with them being a jumble of arid desert, craggy mountain ranges, and current and former nuclear test sites). Heck, who lives in Henderson, gets the lion’s share of exurban Clark County, as well as bedroom communities in Nye County, and the more conservative Las Vegas suburbs. Titus has been redistricted out, but she could always move back, I suppose. Likely Republican.

NV-04 (red)

Nevada is getting a brand-new district, and that means at least one open-seat contest next year. Potential Democratic candidates for this VRA seat (31% white, 10.1% black, 49.2% Latino, 6.7% Asian) include Ruben Kihuen, a Mexican American state senator with an independent streak; John Oceguera, the term-limited Speaker of the State Assembly, who would become the country’s only Native American congressman if elected; Richard Carrillo, also a member of the State Assembly; and Dina Titus, the former NV-03 representative. This district should be solid ground for the Democrats, whoever runs, although I think a Latino Democrat would be favored in the primary. Safe Democratic.

Las Vegas Mayor: What’s Invading My TV [New Ads]

(Also at Nevada Progressive)

[Note: This year, we will be voting in municipal elections in cities throughout Clark County. Las Vegas will be voting for Mayor (Oscar Goodman is termed out) and three city council seats. Henderson and North Las Vegas will also be voting for three city council seats each. And all cities will also be voting for local judges. Clark County Elections only occur in even numbered years.

Carolyn Goodman is the wife of outgoing Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, the founder of the prestigious private Meadows School, and a registered Nonpartisan. Victor Chaltiel is the Republican being backed by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Larry Brown and Chris Giunchigliani are both Democrats and incumbent Clark County Commissioners.]

What do you think when you see this?

And this? (

(Yay! Brown’s new ad is now on YouTube!)

And what do you think when you see this?

And this?

So what did you get out of those? That Larry Brown and Chris Giunchigliani are serious about getting Las Vegas out of the economic doldrums and into a brighter future? That Brown and/or Chris G care about regular Las Vegans? That they’re “just like us”?

Now take a look at this.

What do you see here? “V for Victory”? “V for Vendetta”? Apparently, Victor Chaltiel for Las Vegas. So I guess that’s what Sheldon Adelson’s billions buy you these days?

Now take a look at this.

What did you get out of this? That we love Oscar? That Oscar has to “say goodbye”? Who’s “good enough” to follow up his great act? It seems like Carolyn Goodman is taking a different approach in her ads, engaging with some playful nostalgia instead of the typical promises to do this or that.

Sadly, many voters’ first impressions of the candidates will likely come from these TV ads. Do they convey the messages these candidates want to send? Or might voters eventually hear a different tune from what everyone else is saying away from commercial time?

I can definitely see different strategies at play with these various ads. Larry Brown and Chris G want to be taken seriously as practical problem solvers, and that’s why they play up the general policy outlines and mix them up with “feel good” promises. Victor Chaltiel is trying to play the “businessman outsider” card a la Arnold Schwarzenegger v.2003, and it seems he’s just trying to take advantage of whatever “tea party” fervor Sharron Angle left over with a vague “elect him, not a ‘politician'” message.

And Carolyn Goodman? Well, what else can I say about that ad? It’s original! 😉

AL, HI, MO, NV, UT: Population by CD

(Bumped – promoted by DavidNYC)

The Census Bureau unleashed population data from five more states today. First off is Alabama, who remained at seven seats (although they were close to losing one). Their target for 2010 is 682,819, up from about 635K in 2000. Most of the action looks to be in the Birmingham area, where suburban AL-06 was the big gainer and urban VRA district AL-07 was the big loser. While the knee-jerk expectation would be that AL-07 would simply extend out into the suburbs to make up that deficit, it’s likelier that the newly-GOP-controlled legislature will try to extend AL-07 to Montgomery or Huntsville (or both) to incorporate the African-American populations there, in order to make it blacker and the state’s other districts safer for white Republican representatives.

District Population Deviation
AL-01 687,841 5,022
AL-02 673,877 (8,942)
AL-03 681,298 (1,521)
AL-04 660,162 (22,657)
AL-05 718,724 35,905
AL-06 754,482 71,663
AL-07 603,352 (79,467)
Total: 4,779,736

Hawaii is pretty drama-free; its new target is 680,151, up from 605K in 2000. With Maui as the fastest growing part of the state, the 2nd will need to give a little population to the 1st, although the boundary movement will happen in the suburban parts of Oahu.

District Population Deviation
HI-01 658,672 (21,479)
HI-02 701,629 21,748
Total: 1,360,301

Missouri missed the cut, and needs to lose one of its nine seats. Based on eight seats, its new target is 748,616, up from 622K in 2000. Missouri redistricting isn’t going to go well for Dems (and for Russ Carnahan, in particular) because the three districts with the lowest population are the three districts with Democratic representatives. While MO-01 lost the most population, the VRA will probably keep this in place as a black-majority district for Lacy Clay: the city of St. Louis’s population has shrunk so much (now only 319K) that it only makes up about half a district anymore, and his district already includes the city’s black-majority northern suburbs, so it’s likely to have to move westward into the inner-ring suburbs of St. Louis County or else southward to encompass all of St. Louis city. Either way, that’s coming out of Russ Carnahan’s MO-03, which will also need to give some ground to MO-08 below it.

District Population Deviation
MO-01 587,069 (161,547)
MO-02 706,622 (41,994)
MO-03 625,251 (123,365)
MO-04 679,375 (69,241)
MO-05 633,887 (114,729)
MO-06 693,974 (54,642)
MO-07 721,754 (26,862)
MO-08 656,894 (91,722)
MO-09 684,101 (64,515)
Total: 5,988,927

I think we’ve found the most populous CD in the entire nation: NV-03, with more than a million people (its main rival for that honor, UT-03, didn’t break that mark; see below). Nevada, of course, is moving to four districts, with a target of 675,138 (up only slightly from 666K in 2000, but that was a three-district map). As you might expect, the state has become significantly more Hispanic, with the 1st going from 28% Hispanic in 2000 to 37%, the 2nd from 15% to 20%, and the 3rd from 16% to 23%.

While there had been discussion of Joe Heck’s district expanding outward to take in some of the rural counties, that will barely need to happen. Clark County (where Las Vegas is) has a population of 1,951,269, which is 72.3% of the state’s population (up from 68% in 2000). In other words, with 3/4s of the state’s population in Clark Co., NV-02 can pretty much continue being all of the state except Clark County (although it’ll need to lose its current small portions in Clark Co.), while Clark Co. will be divvied up among three districts instead of two. (Although, considering how empty the cow counties are, that stray 2.7% of the state may still wind up occupying a huge geographical footprint.)

District Population Deviation
NV-01 820,134 144,996
NV-02 836,562 161,424
NV-03 1,043,855 368,717
Total: 2,700,551

Utah, of course, is also set to gain a seat. Its new four-seat target is 690,971 (the target was 744K in 2000, when it had three seats). The biggest growth was in Salt Lake City’s southern suburbs and also in the Provo area further south, both of which are found in UT-03. Whether the GOP-controlled legislature creates a new seat confined to the SLC area or tries cracking it four ways instead of three will depend on whether they decide to target Jim Matheson (currently the Democrat with the reddest House seat) or concedes a seat to him.

District Population Deviation
UT-01 906,660 215,869
UT-02 890,993 200,022
UT-03 966,232 275,261
Total: 2,763,885

All I Want for Christmas is a Nevada Redistricting

Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates it, whether on 25 December or otherwise. While waiting for the ham to be done, I drew up a map of Nevada with four shiny new districts, just what the U.S. Census Bureau ordered.

The way I drew it, we’re basically looking at a 2-2 map, with three if not all of those districts being somewhat “soft” (potentially competitive in the right cycle) due to the quirks of Nevada geography, politics, and geopolitics. Some people on other threads (the Missouri one, for example) have suggested that Gov.-elect Sandoval and the Republicans will probably be satisfied to shore up Rep.-elect Heck somewhat in exchange for letting the Democrats have their way, to an extent, with the new NV-04. I’m inclined to agree. Also, drawing a safe 1-3 map for a rapidly blueing state like Nevada is not terribly easy.

I don’t usually go out of order, but we should probably start at the top here (geographically rather than numerically) because Nevada is an oddly shaped state.

NV-02 (green, safe lean Republican)

Rep. Dean Heller, a Republican, is thought to be prepping a Senate bid against Sen. John Ensign, the scandal-tarnished Republican incumbent whose unreliability and moral flexibility has been a thorn in the side of Republican leadership in Nevada and in Washington for several years now. If he decides to forgo a bid for statewide office in favor of running for reelection, I doubt he’ll have a problem here. Washoe County may be swingy, but Heller is popular, and any Republican can run up crushing margins in the cow counties. If Heller runs for Senate in 2012, though, Republicans and Democrats alike will want to put a lot of effort into recruiting top-tier candidates here.

NV-01 (blue, safe Democratic)

Vegas, baby! This is Rep. Shelley Berkley’s district, and she’s considered the likeliest Democrat to run for Ensign’s seat in 2012. I figure she’ll vacate, and it’s just as well, because although Nevada isn’t a VRA preclearance state, the Department of Justice may lean on the incoming Sandoval administration to ensure a minority-majority seat. Latinos are actually about a quarter of Nevada’s population, they’re the fastest-growing demographic, and it’s pretty easy to draw a compact Latino-plurality district. This district is actually 28% white, 14% black, 6% Asian, and 49% Latino, going off 2008 population estimates, and I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts it’s outright Latino-majority in the new census data. Sandoval himself may do okay here, but it’s a safe Democratic district.

NV-03 (purple, likely Republican)

Rep.-elect Joe Heck edged Rep. Dina Titus, flipping the present “fair fight” incarnation of this district from blue to red, last month. One of Sandoval’s top priorities will be shoring him up. Adding a bunch of cow counties and consolidating the district’s hold on white-collar Clark County precincts is a decent way of accomplishing that. While Sharron Angle might lose this district, and Titus could conceivably take it back, it now tips pretty firmly in Heck’s favor.

NV-04 (red, likely Democratic)

One of the big reasons why the current NV-03 is a swing district is that it includes both Democratic and Republican areas along with some subdivisions that go both ways (no, not like that, most of those are pretty heavily Democratic). I gave most of those Republican areas to my NV-03, or at least I tried to, while NV-04 takes over most of the Democratic areas, centering around Spring Valley. It’s a mostly suburban district, though it includes just a bit of rural Clark County up Highway 95. Titus or another strong Democrat with a suburban base should be pretty solid here except in particularly gruesome cycles, although a socially moderate or libertarian Republican could potentially win it.

As a Christmas bonus, I’m also going to repost my revised and updated map for Missouri, which shrinks to eight districts in 2012’s redistricting, without much commentary:

This isn’t necessarily the most favorable map Democrats can possibly get, but it’s probably the most favorable map they’re likely to get in 2012. (There’s a whole discussion about this on the other diary.) It’s probably a 3-5 map, with Democratic Rep. Russ Carnahan’s MO-03 (purple) likely playing host to a deathmatch between Carnahan and Republican Rep. Jo Ann Emerson of Cape Girardeau in 2012.

A few quick notes: Democratic Rep. Lacy Clay’s MO-01 (blue) is 48% white, 47% black, remaining VRA-compliant. I was of the school of thought saying it couldn’t be done without throwing Carnahan overboard, but there you have it. Carnahan’s share of St. Louis County consists almost entirely of precincts that voted for then-Sen. Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, so I think Mr. Local Boy has a good base there. And Republican Rep. Todd Akin’s home in rich white Town and Country remains in his district of MO-02 (green).

Not much to add here. Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver in MO-08 (slate blue), renumbered from the current MO-05, still doesn’t get a VRA district, but he’s a good politician who is popular with both white and black Democrats in Kansas City. I resisted the urge to dismember Republican Rep.-elect Vicki Hartzler’s MO-05 (yellow), renumbered from the current MO-04, because I didn’t think the Republicans in the Missouri state legislature would let such a plan get to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk.

Hope everyone is dividing their time as they see fit between family, friends, and politics. Thoughts on either map are welcome and appreciated.

Thoughts from Netroots CA, 2010 Election

(Also at Nevada Progressive, and I have photos from Netroots CA at my Twitpic!)

OK, so I’ve had more time to process what happened. And I had a chance to talk with my old Cali friends at Netroots California last Saturday. And I came out surprisingly hopeful about our future.

While we did have some rough losses in Nevada, overall the picture here was much brighter than the rest of the country. Come on, all the incumbent statewide elected Democrats are reelected while Harry Reid won by over 5.6%! Reid outperformed almost all the public polls. What happened? How come “The Great Red Tide” that destroyed many Dems in many states east of The Rockies was barely a ripple here?

Basically, it comes down to what Harry Reid and Nevada Democrats did right. They invested in getting out the vote. They made our progressive message clear and concise AND accessible to regular voters. And they reached out to minority communities and actually IMPROVED Latin@ turnout over 2006 AND 2008!

It really comes down to this. Even in “wave elections”, “the wave” doesn’t have to be a monstrous tsunami. Good campaigns still matter. Good field still matters. And good messaging still matters. Harry Reid made all this happen and more.

Ralston explained this on Sunday.

The Reid organization’s Terminator-like single-mindedness, relentlessness and discipline turned preparation into the most satisfying victory of Reid’s career, a resurrection unthinkable most of the year by the Beltway cognoscenti. Combined with an Angle campaign that was thoroughly unprepared for the post-primary onslaught – think of a Little League batter facing Roy Halladay – that by the time the GOP nominee brought in some D.C. pros, the damage was insurmountable.

Interestingly, a similar dynamic appeared in California last Tuesday. More Latin@ voters turned out than ever before. And while Jerry Brown’s campaign (for CA Governor) didn’t exactly “strike while the iron was hot” on delivering his message or attacking Meg Whitman’s record, California unions did. And they delivered, big time!

And Barbara Boxer followed a very similar strategy to Reid’s in defining Carly Fiorina early as quite the unacceptable choice, delivering a progressive message in a practical way to attract voters (Hint: Make it real. Make it tangible. Make it about one’s pocketbook/wallet/purse.), and turning out Dem voters like crazy.

Again, it comes down to whether Democrats can field good candidates, deliver a good message, and turn out as many allied voters as possible. It worked in California and Nevada… But because the national Democratic groups failed in these categories and many other state parties were in turmoil, that’s why the results were so bad elsewhere.

Why didn’t other Senate candidates try to turn health care reform and good climate policy into winning arguments? Why didn’t other state parties invest more in good GOTV infrastructure? Why didn’t the DCCC and DSCC take a closer look at the winning arguments being made by Reid and Boxer?

That’s the challenge moving forward. President Obama needs to rethink his messaging. Democrats need to work harder on showing how good progressive policy means more and better jobs. And Democrats nationally need to look at places like Nevada and California to learn how to rebuild good, strong GOTV infrastructure. And if Obama can turn his numbers around and offer a strong and appealing progressive message that reveals the crap the GOP is truly offering and explains how to truly get our nation back on track, he can win handily again and Democrats can soon retake the House and keep the Senate.

It really comes down to that. Oh, and I had a great time in SF… 😉

But I’m hoping we have an even better time back in Vegas this weekend!

“Dewey Defeats Truman” => “Angle Defeats Reid” (NV-Sen)

(Also at Nevada Progressive)

If we’re to believe all the Beltway chatter, Sharron Angle has surged into the lead, Harry Reid is pathetic, and Nevada is doomed.

Guess what? They’re wrong! Let me explain…

Need I say more?

She is an embarrassment. She is ridiculous. She offers nothing but batsh*t crazy…

And she’s winning? Not exactly. Jon Ralston, Nevada’s top pundit, explained this morning what may actually be happening

So what do we know so far? Not a lot. I have three days worth of data to peruse, just under a fourth of the 14-day total. Despite reports elsewhere, the Republicans have yet to show any unusual surge in voting, and The Reid Machine is holding its own.

So far, in the state’s two urban counties, the Republicans have less than a percentage point edge in turnout. If the Republican turnout edge by the end of early voting is 5 percent or so – standard for a midterm – the Democrats will be pretty happy, albeit edgy.

Reid needs a small GOP margin to survive. It comes down to something either candidate might say in an unguarded moment if asked by an innocent voter what the election is really all about:

It’s the turnout, stupid.

That’s why we had a bunch of students at the north lawn at UNLV yesterday. And guess who joined us!

Yet again, many of the DC pundits are getting it wrong. Contrary to what they’ve been suggesting, there’s hardly any “enthusiasm gap”. And I have a feeling that we’ll see even less of one come this weekend.

I didn’t even really see an “enthusiasm gap” last weekend. (Check my Twitpic for proof!)

I walked my neighborhood last weekend, and here’s what I found. ALL of the Democrats I talked to are voting for Harry Reid and Dina Titus, and all but two either already voted or will definitely be voting early this week. (The other two I may have to check on later this week.) All but one Nonpartisan (Independent) I talked with in my neighborhood last weekend are also supporting Reid and Titus. (The one who wouldn’t just doesn’t want to vote… Sad.) Oh, and I even found another Republican for Reid in my neighborhood!

Now I know my precinct doesn’t tell the whole story, but let me explain this. It’s typically one of the more pro-Republican areas of Henderson. It’s no “liberal nirvana”. And on a couple streets in the subdivision across the main street from my community, a few of the Republicans put up Angle signs. They may be revved up… But so are we.

And in fact, the other side may not be forming as strong of a “wave” as the Beltway pundits have been bloviating over for months now…

The Tea Party movement has gained the image of an unstoppable wave of anger sweeping everything before it as it seeks to overthrow the Washington establishment. Well in Elko, Nevada, last night it looked a little less than that.

About 150 people turned up in an open field on a very chilly night to welcome the Tea Party Express, the bus tour that is crossing America in the run-up to next month’s midterm elections. Most of the participants were in their sixties or above, and the event had more in common with a sedate charity gala than a political revolution.

The low turnout and lack of energy was puzzling as it came just four hours’ drive after a rousing start to the bus tour in Reno, addressed by Sarah Palin. I was lost for an explanation. This was after all the same state, the same battle to boot out Harry Reid, the local senator closely associated in Nevada with the big government spending habits of the Obama administration.

And that’s what I’ve been finding on the ground here in Southern Nevada. Sure, teabaggers pop up here and there occasionally with their protests of everything “government” (except when they want it, go figure). But with the exception of all those thousands of people who drove in or bussed in from out of state for that “Showdown in Searchlight“, I still haven’t seen any massive “grassroots” outpouring of “tea party” support.

Instead, what I see and hear is concern about when more Nevadans will get back to work, concern about access to good education, concern about the family member(s) dangerously close to foreclosure… Basically, what I’m hearing from real Nevadans is real concern about how to get our state back on track.

And I’m hearing many points of view on what to do to get Nevada moving forward again. Some agree with Guy Farmer of Nevada Appeal

I’m one of those disillusioned independent voters who supported President Obama two years ago. But, like Time magazine’s Mark Halperin, I think “the White House is in over its head, insulated, insular (and) arrogant.” I also think Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) miscalculated by joining with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) to champion Obama’s free-spending, Big Government agenda, which is why Reid is struggling to defeat his slightly kooky Tea Party opponent, Sharron Angle.

That said, I simply can’t vote for Angle, who has espoused a series of extreme right-wing measures such as the privatization of Medicare, Social Security and the Veterans Administration, and she went way over the line by accusing Reid of voting to provide Viagra to child molesters. Please! So I’ll be casting a reluctant vote for Reid, who delivers the pork (good pork, of course), and continues to block the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump, which most Nevadans oppose.

While others agree with Brian Greenspun of The Las Vegas Sun

In a state that has been devastated during this economic meltdown, the things we need more than anything else are jobs and the promise of more jobs. We don’t need people to talk about them, we need people to do something about them. This week, thousands of new jobs from renewable energy firms were announced. Some will come almost immediately, some will come in a few months. All of them are the direct result of the efforts of the majority leader of the U.S. Senate, Harry Reid.

We have learned a valuable lesson in this state in the past two years and that is we can no longer rely on gaming and construction industries to secure our futures. They both depend on the discretionary income of others who are willing to come to Nevada. When those incomes disappeared and discretionary dollars became necessary dollars for mortgages and car payments, those people stayed home. Nevada will suffer until people feel secure enough to come back and enjoy all that Nevada has to offer. We have learned that we cannot allow ourselves to be dependent upon the good will and good cheer of others ever again. We need a better plan!

That is why we must have good, high-paying jobs in other industries, and there is no better 21st-century industry than renewable energy. The world needs what we can produce in Nevada, which has been dubbed the Saudi Arabia of solar energy. That means we have plenty of sun – an unlimited supply – and we can become the energy producer for the rest of the country if we do this right.

That will take everybody working together, especially the right person in the majority leader’s chair – someone who both gives a darn about Nevada and believes his job is to help bring jobs to his home state. One thing we did learn from the debate is that Angle will not lift a finger to help and that Reid will do and has done everything possible to secure our futures in this state. Of course, most of us knew that before the debate. Now everyone knows that if it is jobs for Nevada that we want, only one candidate believes it is his job to make them happen.

But without a doubt, most of the people I’ve spoken with here agree that our only chance of moving forward is with Harry Reid as our Senate Majority Leader. And I know I’m not alone. That’s what the Beltway pundits are missing. This isn’t a game to us. We’re dealing with our very lives here, and we can’t afford the insane and dangerous extremism of Sharron Angle.

I want to be able to finish school at UNLV and get a good job. My unemployed friends depended on unemployment insurance, and need good jobs soon. My friend who came close to foreclosure needed someone to help him negotiate with the bank to keep his home. My parents depend on Social Security to survive. And guess who’s been helping us?

Again, this isn’t a game to us. And I think this is what’s closing “the enthusiasm gap”. And at the end of the day, I think a whole lot of folks will be surprised by the final election results.