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Exit polls give edge to Derby

Exit polling of early voters in Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District finds Democrat Jill Derby building a sizable lead over the incumbent Republican congressman she hopes to unseat, Rep. Dean Heller.

Of those who had voted through Sunday in the rural and Northern Nevada district, 55 percent favored Derby versus 44 percent for Heller, according to the automated survey of 1,132 respondents conducted by Las Vegas-based DNA Communications Consulting Group.

Analysts caution that exit polls should be viewed skeptically because they reflect only who has already voted and do not attempt to project who has yet to vote.

Also, a Review-Journal poll earlier this month found Heller having a big lead over Derby, 51 percent to 38 percent, with 10 percent undecided.

Statistics kept by the secretary of state’s office show that early voting turnout in Washoe County has been high and heavily Democratic. Partisan statistics for the 15 rural counties aren’t available, but they tend to be heavily Republican.

Derby and Heller competed for what was then an open seat in 2006, and Heller won by 5 percentage points, 50 percent to 45 percent, thanks to a strong showing in rural Nevada. Derby won Washoe County in that race.

Derby campaign spokeswoman Kristen Cullen said the numbers were encouraging and speculated that 2nd District voters were excited to “come out and vote for change.” But she said she expects the race to be close and hard-fought to the end.

A Heller campaign spokesman, Stewart Bybee, did not return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.

DNA is helmed by Las Vegas-based consultant Steve Nathan, a former Democratic state Senate candidate, who says his methods have produced accurate results in past elections. The exit polls are conducted by automatically dialing everyone who voted, according to state records, and weighting responses to reflect the electorate as a whole.

Early voting continues through Friday. Hours and locations vary. Registered voters should check the sample ballot they received in the mail for details, or check online at www.accessclarkcounty.com/depts/election.

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