Three Supreme Court candidates were on edge the night of the primary elections. As results trickled in, each contender looked to have a chance at making it to the general election; the race wasn't decided until all ballots were counted.
The fourth candidate was on an airplane, oblivious to the topsy-turvy race.
"My friends and family bit their nails and I just read a novel," said Deborah Schumacher, the 53-year-old District Court judge from Washoe County.
At the end of the night, Las Vegas attorney Kris Pickering was the top vote-getter, garnering 25 percent of the voters' support. Schumacher was a close second, losing first place by only 3,091 votes.
Nancy Allf and Don Chairez, who each received 22 percent of the vote, did not advance.
Now Schumacher and Pickering are gearing up for what is expected to be a tight general election.
The two candidates have taken different career paths. Pickering is a litigator who has practiced in state, federal, appellate and supreme courts. Schumacher has been a District Court judge in the family division for the past decade.
Schumacher emphasized that her experience as a judge makes her more qualified to take over the Supreme Court seat formerly held by Bill Maupin.
"I'm sticking to my campaign message, judicial experience matters," Schumacher said. "I'm not running for the highest lawyer position in the state, that's the Nevada attorney general. I'm running for a judiciary position."
Pickering has argued that sitting as a Family Court judge does not make one qualified for the Supreme Court. She said she has a better understanding of how the high court operates because of her experience litigating before it.
"Advocates make very good judges," Pickering, 56, said. "They understand how cases are constructed and how legal issues are framed."
Schumacher said she plans to use her expertise in Family Court to improve Supreme Court access to parties involved in domestic lawsuits. She said 60 percent of trial court cases involve family or juvenile matters. But that issue is only 5 percent of the Supreme Court's case load.
"When it's as low as 5 percent, my feeling is that people don't know how to articulate those issues in appellate proceedings," Schumacher said.
Schumacher, who received her law degree from the University of Notre Dame Law School, also was a partner with the McDonald Carano Wilson law firm where she litigated business, commercial and bankruptcy cases. She has served as a pro tem federal magistrate in Washoe County.
Schumacher was also president of the Nevada District Judges Association.
Pickering notes her wide breadth of experience with various courts, including the Supreme Court.
"She has never briefed or argued a case in the Nevada Supreme Court," Pickering said of her opponent. "Who would you want to represent you on that court? Someone who has never been there or someone who has argued there since 1981?"
Pickering also was chosen to serve on a panel of settlement judges. The attorneys, who serve as an arm to the high court, hear appeals on civil cases and try to help parties reach a settlement rather than send the case to the Supreme Court.
Pickering said the judges are not paid much but she enjoys offering the public service.
"It's a labor of love," she said. "It's helped with quite a bit of the backlog of the court by getting these cases resolved."
She is one of few Nevada attorneys elected to the American Law Institute, an organization that studies law reform. According to its Web site, attorneys are chosen "on the basis of professional achievement and demonstrated interest in improving the law."
Pickering received her law degree from the University of California, Davis. She is a partner in Morris, Pickering & Peterson and has taught at UNLV's Boyd School of Law.
Contact reporter Adrienne Packer at email@example.com or 702-384-8710.