CARSON CITY — Those few registered Democrats who bothered to vote in Tuesday’s primary might have been driven more by dissatisfaction with the party choices for governor than optimism about the slew of candidates on the ballot.
In what appeared to be a protest vote over the lack of a strong challenger to GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval, more Democrats opted for “None Of These Candidates” over the eight actual individuals running for the party nomination.
Despite U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s pronouncement that a credible party-backed candidate would file against Sandoval, no such individual sought the office. Sandoval is expected to win re-election easily this fall.
The “none” ballot option was picked by nearly 30 percent of Democratic voters, edging out Las Vegas resident Bob Goodman, who pulled about 25 percent of the vote. The other seven candidates lagged well behind. Goodman will be the party choice on the Nov. 4 general election ballot, however.
Goodman ran Nevada’s economic development program under the late Gov. Mike O’Callaghan.
The secretary of state’s office reported that in 1976, the “none” selection beat out two Republicans seeking Nevada’s only congressional seat in the primary.
“None” received 16,097 votes to candidates Dart Anthony, who received 8,097 votes, and Walden Earhart, who received 9,831 votes.
A report from then-Secretary of State Dean Heller also identified three other races where “none” won: A 1978 GOP congressional primary, a 1978 Republican secretary of state primary and a Democratic treasurer’s primary in 1986.
Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, said he was shocked when the early returns suggested that the choice would outperform all of the actual candidates.
The reasons are twofold, he said. First was the total lack of knowledge most voters had about the candidates, none of whom spent any real money to raise their name recognition.
For many Democratic voters who knew something of the candidates, the reasoning appeared to be that none of them were worthy of support, he said.
“It is absolutely a slap in the face,” Herzik said. “Regardless of why it happened, this adds insult to injury.”
There has never been a victory for the “none” choice at the level of the governor’s race, he said.
Goodman has emerged victorious, but there will be the knowledge that he could not beat “none of these candidates,” Herzik said. At the same time, Sandoval pulled nearly 90 percent of the Republican vote.
“This was one that kind of made me raise my eyebrows and smile,” he said.
In Nevada, a 1975 law gave voters the option of choosing “none” in all statewide races, including presidential and U.S. Senate races even though such a vote carries no weight. The ballot choice was upheld by a federal appeals court after being challenged by Republicans in 2012.
Given the results from Tuesday, maybe Democrats should have joined with Republicans to get the option removed from the ballot, Herzik said.
“Irony is great in politics,” he said.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.