For Hutchison, victory was sweet, but still difficult


State Sen. Mark Hutchison won the Republican primary for lieutenant governor Tuesday. But he could easily have lost.

The Las Vegas Republican, elected in 2012 to the state Senate in one of the most genteel, highbrow races in Nevada political history, got his first taste of real political combat when hotelier Sue Lowden decided she wanted a shot at the office.

That either of them worked so hard, spent so much or got so nasty was essentially a huge gamble: If Gov. Brian Sandoval, a sure thing for re-election this year, leaves office before 2018, the lieutenant governor gets a promotion. And while Sandoval has said over and over again that he intends to serve his full term, Hutchison and Lowden were still tempted by the possibilities. (Sandoval might be tapped for vice president on a 2016 Republican ticket, for example, or be asked to serve in a Republican Cabinet if one should be elected president in 2016. Or the former federal judge could seek to return to the bench.)

Otherwise, the lieutenant governor’s office is an unlikely prize. It’s the only constitutional office considered part-time, one of its most important duties was shifted to the governor’s office, and presiding over the state Senate has got to be a poor substitute for actually serving in it, which both Lowden and Hutchison have done.

That didn’t stop them from attacking each other relentlessly. He pointed out that she’d failed to settle a sizable number of bills from her unsuccessful 2010 run for U.S. Senate. She accused him of implementing the Affordable Care Act that he’d opposed in court before his election. He reminded voters that she’d once donated money to Democratic Sen. Harry Reid. She slammed him for voting for taxes. He noted that she’d voted for some herself during her own tenure in the state Senate.

But it was clear that Lowden irritated Hutchison, that she made him angry. While Lowden flashed that former newscaster’s smile, Hutchison wore an annoyed look during their televised encounters. And when she dropped a truthful statement — that he’d employed personal injury lawyers at his firm — Hutichson inexplicably denied it.

If Lowden had more money — her TV ads were amateurish — she might have more than bruised Hutichson with those sharp elbows. But his fundraising advantage, aided by his endorsement from Sandoval, along with a solid campaign work ethic, was too much for her to overcome.

For Hutchison, the primary taught him some important lessons — lessons he’ll have to put into effect immediately, as the Democratic nominee, Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, is rested and ready for a general-election campaign.

• The significant statewide vote for “None of These Candidates” in the Democratic primary for governor is probably the highest profile the only-in-Nevada ballot option has seen. Back in late May, I advocated that voters choose “None” as a protest vote, a way of telling the people who run the Nevada Democratic Party that ceding the field to Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval was simply not OK.

Of course, “None” can never actually win a race. In the event that “None” collects more votes than anybody else, the highest-finishing person is considered the winner. Maybe it’s time to change that. The Legislature in 2015 should specify that if “None” ever comes out victorious in any state contest, the office is declared vacant and filled in the manner prescribed by law. But there should be one important caveat: No human who ran against and lost to “None” should be eligible to run in a special election or to be appointed to that office.

Put some teeth into it!

• Revenge is a dish best served … to somebody other than the trio of incumbent Clark County commissioners targeted by the Keystone Cops in the Las Vegas constable’s office. As ballots were tallied Tuesday, Constable John Bonaventura, his deputy Lou Toomin and Susan Bonaventura had all lost their challenges to Mary Beth Scow, Chris Giunchigliani and Susan Brager, respectively.

It goes to show Clark County voters know a scoundrel when they see one.

Steve Sebelius is a Las Vegas Review-Journal political columnist who blogs at SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or ssebelius@reviewjournal.com.