Voting underway in Nevada primary, with key congressional battles on tap this fall

Competitive races ahead for Cortez Masto, all three House Democrats

Nevada Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Adam Laxalt speaks at the Gun Owners of America 2A Freedom Rally at the Pro Gun Club near Boulder City, Nev., on Saturday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Nevada Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Adam Laxalt speaks at the Gun Owners of America 2A Freedom Rally at the Pro Gun Club near Boulder City, Nev., on Saturday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted June 1, 2022 at 8:00am

Primary ballots are already being cast in Nevada, where three of the state's four House races and the state's Senate contest will play key roles in determining which party controls Congress next year.

Early voting kicked off on Saturday, and there are plenty of ways for Nevadans to vote either in person or by mail ahead of the June 14 primary.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, one of the most vulnerable senators on the ballot this year, leads a slate of Democratic incumbents seeking renomination. While she does not have a serious challenge in the primary, the same cannot be said for all of her House colleagues.

Cortez Masto is waiting to find out the identity of her opponent. Oddsmakers favor former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, the 2018 Republican nominee for governor. He was up by 15 points in a recent Nevada Independent/OH Predictive Insights poll.

Both Cortez Masto and Laxalt were on the campaign trail on the first weekend of early voting. Laxalt's stops included an early vote kickoff in Henderson and a Gun Owners of America pro-Second Amendment event. Cortez Masto's schedule included a kickoff event focused on abortion rights in North Las Vegas with the group Nevada Democratic Victory.

Laxalt's top challenger, Sam Brown, is a Purple Heart recipient from service in Afghanistan who spent part of Memorial Day at the  Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery for an annual event that attracts politicians from both sides of the aisle.

Democratic Reps. Steven Horsford, Susie Lee and Dina Titus all face competitive races using a new map that moved Democratic voters out of Titus’ 1st District to help improve the reelection chances of Lee and Horsford.

The result puts Titus in a district that now sprawls south and east of Las Vegas to encompass more Republicans, including those in Boulder City, Henderson and less populated areas.

Amy Vilela, who is challenging Rep. Dina Titus in the 1st District Democratic primary, speaks Saturday at a gun violence protest outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Joe Biden would have won the new district by 9 percentage points, as opposed to the 25 points he won it by under the old lines. Titus has a primary challenge from Amy Vilela, who was a co-chair of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' successful presidential bid in the 2020 Nevada caucus. Vilela gained national attention from an unsuccessful run for the House in 2016, when she was featured in a Netflix documentary with two progressive House candidates who went on to win: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York (in 2016) and Cori Bush of Missouri (in 2020).

Vilela visited the CQ Roll Call studios in 2019, joining the Political Theater podcast to discuss the documentary, “Knock Down the House.”

Beyond the Democrats in the 1st District, eyes will be on the Republicans.

Among those primaries, the one with the most national implications may be for the 4th District seat currently held by Horsford. Assemblywoman Annie Black is on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “On the Radar” list.

The district is massive, covering much of rural Nevada, though its population is centered in the Las Vegas area, in the northern part of Clark County.

If Black prevails in the primary, the race could get significant national attention, with Democrats seeking to connect other GOP candidates to Black.

Assemblywoman Annie Black, a Republican House candidate in Nevada's 4th District, speaks Saturday at the Gun Owners of America 2A Freedom Rally at the Pro Gun Club near Boulder City, Nev. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As the Nevada Independent reported, Black was censured by the Democratic-controlled state Assembly for declining to wear a mask as part of COVID-19 protocols. She also was in the crowd in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, though she has said she did not participate in the storming of the Capitol.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the 4th District race Lean Democratic. The Senate race is rated a Toss-up.