RENO -- In the community center of a posh Reno subdivision Tuesday morning, former federal judge and gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval cast his vote on what he hopes will be a history-making ballot.
If he's successful, he and tens of thousands of other Nevada Republicans will have derailed incumbent Gov. Jim Gibbons' re-election bid in the party primary, which would be a first in state history.
Sandoval, along with his wife, Kathleen, and children, James, 14, Maddie, 13, and Marisa, 5, walked into the clubhouse of the Juniper Ridge subdivision at 8 a.m. to vote.
Gibbons, who was in Carson City tending to his duties as governor, cast his ballot during early voting.
After voting, Sandoval said he stood behind his decision to leave the federal bench in September in an attempt to oust Gibbons, an incumbent from the same party who Sandoval said he voted for in 2006 but who has since been bogged down by scandalous personal problems and political gaffes.
"I think it is good day for the Republican Party," Sandoval said. "I want to bring a new kind of leadership to the state of Nevada."
He'll know by Tuesday night whether a majority of state Republican voters agree.
Recent polls show Sandoval holding a 14- to 19-point lead over Gibbons among likely primary voters. Former North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon is also in the race, although polls show him running a distant third.
Since January Sandoval has raised more than $900,000 in campaign contributions to about $178,000 for Gibbons, an indication that major donors have abandoned the incumbent.
Gibbons has sent mixed signals about his desire for a second term. He recently said he would celebrate even if he loses and highlighted the travails of the job, which included an intrusion on his personal privacy.
But he also has maintained repeatedly he isn't a quitter and wouldn't give up his campaign despite the long odds. He is campaigning mainly on the basis that he has kept his promise to block tax increases, a promise his critics say he has broken numerous times.
His campaign staff touts endorsements from two Nevada-based Tea Party groups as evidence it is Gibbons who is on the right side of history -- that is, the side of folks who are outraged over taxes and growing government.
The outrage is fed by a downtrodden Nevada economy.
"I think Jim Gibbons has done an outstanding job standing up for the people of Nevada, as opposed to just taxing the hell out of everybody," said Republican Don Paschall, 54, of Reno.
Paschall owns a plumbing company he says in the past two years has shrunk from $18 million to $400,000 in sales and 180 employees to just four.
Paschall said Gibbons' personal problems were troubling but added, "I've seen those troubles on every street in the U.S."
Gibbons' publicly aired personal problems date back to 2006 when, late in his campaign for a first term, he was accused of trying to assault a cocktail waitress in a Las Vegas parking garage, an allegation he denies. It resulted in a police investigation that didn't conclude with criminal charges but did generate a civil lawsuit that continues to dog Gibbons.
He subsequently sought a divorce from first lady Dawn Gibbons and was accused of marital infidelity, which he also denies.
For many Republicans, particularly women who the most recent statewide poll by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research showed favored Sandoval over Gibbons by 30 points, the scandalous allegations are too much.
"If he is not loyal in his home life, he is not going to be loyal in his political life," Sandoval voter Windy Hamilton, 60, of Reno, said of Gibbons.
The winner of the Republican primary almost certainly will face Rory Reid in the general election.
Reid, who faces token opposition in the Democratic primary, is chairman of the Clark County Commission and the son of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who is also running for re-election.
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at email@example.com or 702-477-3861.