The Democrats swept all three Clark County Commission races, but the Republican tide certainly made two of the three incumbents look more vulnerable.
The GOP challengers to Commissioners Mary Beth Scow and Susan Brager came within striking distance, though both incumbents spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for their campaigns compared with much less by their Republican rivals.
The races unfolded against a statewide and national backdrop of strong Republican turnout that helped the GOP gain control of the U.S. Senate and increase its majority in the U.S. House. In Nevada, Republicans swept the top state constitutional offices and gained control of the Assembly and Senate.
A local Republican official said financially outmatched candidates managed to create “real races.” No Republican has been elected to the commission since the 2004 election, but the close outcome has GOP officials more optimistic about winning a seat in the future.
“I think that this changes the perspective of what we can accomplish as Republicans here,” said Nick Phillips, political director of the Clark County Republican Party.
Phillips said he has ideas about how to approach County Commission races in the future, though he isn’t ready share the specifics at this point.
The closest race was between Scow and Republican Cindy Lake, with less than 1 percent of the ballots determining the outcome. Scow won with 50.9 percent of the vote, while Lake had 49.1 percent. In all, 1,026 votes out of 57,648 cast gave Scow a second four-year term.
“We overcame a lot,” Scow said, praising the efforts of her volunteers and noting that early voting trends showed heavy Republican turnout.
Brager had 49.8 percent of the vote in her election for a third term, while Republican Mitchell Tracy garnered 44.2 percent. Two third-party candidates picked up the balance in that race.
As for the outcome in her race, Brager said, “In one sense, I feel like it was a close one. In another sense, not really, when you look at what happened across the nation.”
The margins were tighter on election night compared with 2010, when the same trio ran.
Brager received 56 percent, while Tracy — who ran against her then also — only received about 38 percent in a three-way race. Scow, then running for her first term, got 55.4 percent of the vote in 2010, while her GOP opponent pulled in just 39 percent in a four-way race.
Democratic incumbent commissioners in Clark County continue to have a record of being formidable opponents to overcome.
That held true Tuesday in the race between Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani and Republican Joe Thibodeau, with the commissioner picking up 61.4 percent of the vote for a third term.
“For me, I worked extremely hard,” Giunchigliani said. “I don’t take it for granted.”
Scow and Brager echoed that sentiment.
Giunchigliani said only two voters out of thousands she visited connected a dissatisfaction with Democratic President Barack Obama to their vote against her in the County Commission election.
Republican candidates didn’t have success with fundraising despite tight races at the polls.
For example, Lake received $18,967 in campaign contributions from January through Oct. 30, spending $11,705 in that time period, filings show. In comparison, Scow received $623,772 in campaign donations in that time period, campaign filings show.
In general, commissioner candidates from both sides relied on individuals and companies for campaign dollars rather than political parties.
Lake said that while the county GOP party helped her campaign with resources such as voter data, heavy hitters in the Republican establishment didn’t back her financially or publicly.
“I thought the establishment would rally around me because it was such a winnable seat,” Lake said.
Brager received $616,389 in contributions this year, spending $954,322 by the end of October, campaign filings show. The year before, in 2013, Brager had received $480,300 in contributions.
Tracy, who also unsuccessfully ran against Brager in 2010, raised just $3,215 this year, spending $2,283.
Tracy said he has learned to stretch dollars on a tight budget: He got 10,000 door hangers for $500.
“If I had about $15,000 or $20,000, I would have won, no problem,” Tracy said. “I got outspent.”
Asked whether more effort could have helped the outcome for Republicans, Phillips said, “You can always look back and say in every race we could have done more.”
The challenge, he said, is having the resources and persuading people to devote their time toward the effort.
“Many people look at it as a very long shot,” he said.