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Who do Las Vegas voters want for president? Someone else

Updated January 31, 2024 - 9:52 am

Nevada voters plan on engaging in the upcoming presidential primaries and caucuses, though many are less than enthusiastic about their choices.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal recently talked with four locals in the Arts District about how they feel about the Feb. 6 presidential preference primary and Feb. 8 caucuses, if they plan to participate and what issues they care about.

Matching recent nationwide polls, many spoke ambivalently about both the Democratic and GOP frontrunners, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, who are likely to win their presidential primaries and face off in a November rematch.

Here’s what they had to say.

Jimi Mastronardi

Mastronardi, 60, is a registered Republican but considers himself more of an independent. He is aware of both the presidential primary and the caucuses. He might participate in the primary and vote for “none of these candidates,” he said, but he doesn’t plan on participating in the caucuses.

He’s not enthusiastic about the options and does not want a 2024 rematch between Trump and Biden.

“I think it’s going to hurt the country in the long run, but it doesn’t really matter who wins,” he said. “I think they’re both too old to be president, to be honest with you. One might die in office, and the other one might be convicted.”

He would like to see someone young and a woman become president. Mastronardi thinks Nikki Haley would have done a good job, but he doesn’t think a win is in the cards for her. If Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, ran for president, Mastronardi would vote for him because he’s a sensible person, he said.

The president makes up only part of the government, Mastronardi said, and local government is more important. As a business owner, he cares more about who is running for Las Vegas mayor.

Overall, Mastronardi does not like the state of politics. Years ago, politicians compromised, he said, but now he feels like they are all enemies and try to throw each other under the bus.

“There’s no compromise at all. It’s your way or the highway, on both sides,” he said. “And I think that’s wrong.”

Mastronardi would like to see more help for the homeless in the city.

“They don’t disturb anybody, but I’d like to see them get a chance, and maybe fill the shelter,” he said. “This town makes a lot of money.”

Kya Johnson

Johnson, 19, is thinking about participating in the presidential preference primary, although she wants to do more research first.

She considers herself left-leaning and thinks Biden was a better choice than electing Trump again in 2020, but she thinks the president could be doing more.

Biden has made strides on transportation and infrastructure, but she’d like to see him do more on environmental issues and more short-term changes, rather than long-term, she said.

She also has not been happy with Biden’s response to the Israel-Hamas war.

“We’re funneling a lot of money into this war, and we’ve got to work a bit more on like, here, and not getting too involved in that, but also not trying to pick a side in the war as well, especially supporting Israel,” Johnson said.

If 2024 comes down to a rematch between Biden and Trump, she will vote for Biden. While many think Biden is too old, Johnson thinks it is ableist to criticize him for his age.

“He’s not the worst option, also not the best,” Johnson said.

Megan Yamat

Yamat, 20, is a Democrat and wants to be involved in the election but wants to do her research first. She doesn’t like Biden, though, and wishes there were a better candidate.

“I agree that he was definitely a better choice than Trump in the 2020 election,” Yamat said. “But I don’t really like him. I definitely think we could do better, especially for a Democratic candidate.”

She is interested in any social issues, such as LGBT rights, racism and feminism. Like Johnson and many other young voters, Yamat opposes U.S. funding for Israel in its war against Hamas.

“I don’t know all of the details of it, but I do believe a lot of money is being funded towards supporting Israel and stuff, which I don’t support,” Yamat said.

Regardless, if November comes to a race between Trump and Biden, she will vote for Biden.

Phil Kotler

Kotler, 38, identifies as more liberal, although he considers himself more in the middle of the political spectrum.

“I think the middle is the best place right now, less extreme,” he said.

He will probably vote for Biden in the presidential primary, because he thinks some of the policies on the Republican side hurt people.

“I think the options are unfortunate, as most people say,” Kotler said. “I just think everybody’s too old. It feels tone deaf. It just doesn’t make sense why we can’t insert some younger, fresher ideas.”

Politics today feels like team sports, he said. It feels like they’re operating in the extremes online, but it doesn’t match how people talk to each other in real life, he said.

As someone who lives in the area of the Arts District, Kotler would like to see people experiencing homelessness get connected to services. Kotler has loved seeing the growth of the city, but he has noticed the developments have brought displacement of the homeless.

“I know most of the people that are unhoused living next to me,” he said. “They’re people who had bad luck or made bad choices.”

Staunch supporters

Of course, there are still Nevada voters who feel passionately about the two presidential frontrunners.

At a campaign event for Trump last weekend, Las Vegas resident Paula Morningstar told the Review-Journal that Trump is the best person to turn the country around. He can improve people’s standard of living, she said.

“We don’t know yet who is VP is going to be. But he’s got a lot of really great selections to choose from, and from that field of candidates there’s a lot of opportunity to combine his business experience and wisdom with someone a little bit younger to draw in the younger crowd, to help them understand what’s going on,” she said.

On the flip side, Democratic organizer Donna West is passionate about re-electing Biden in November. She is concerned about Republicans coming after social security and taking away benefits.

“We want to show that enthusiasm, we really do want to re-elect Joe Biden,” West said at a Biden campaign event last week. “So we want to show that by coming out in the primaries.”

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on X.

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