Gazing into the future

As I write this on Halloween, I’m dusting off my fortune-teller’s outfit to see a few days into the future.

Given national and local polls, the race for president appears to be over. But recent election cycles have proven that the top race is often very close. Consider the past few cycles in Nevada — two tiny victories here by Bill Clinton and two small wins by George W. Bush.

If past is prologue, the polls can be trusted to presage the correct outcome, but not necessarily the margin.

So here I’ll offer my best Carnac impression on what will happen Tuesday.

Barack Obama will win Nevada by 1.5 percentage points — roughly 20,000 votes with the expected higher turnout. That would be about a 41,000-vote swing for Democrats over the previous presidential cycle.

Polls suggest a dead-even race in the 3rd Congressional District where Republican incumbent Jon Porter barely survived two years ago. Democratic turnout in the district should be enough to pull Dina Titus even to offset what could be a wave of independent voters receding from her in the wake of Porter’s television ad campaign.

But Team Titus should have learned its get-out-the-vote lesson from the 2006 governor’s race. And Election Day turnout should help Titus win by a few thousand votes — something like 48 to 46 percent of the total.

In the 2nd District, there’s really no logical reason incumbent Republican Dean Heller should lose. There are still too many Republicans in the vast rural part of the district to offset gains Democrat Jill Derby will make in Washoe County.

Derby came closer than almost anyone expected two years ago, but this race might be a clear example this year of voters splitting the baby. Elko County may see more support for the Democrat at the top of the ticket. And that actually may hurt Derby as much as it helps her. These voters might be caught up in Obama’s call for change, but might want to balance the Democratic wave with a conservative check in Congress.

The prediction: Heller 50 percent to Derby 43 percent.

In the race to control the Legislature, Democrats will retake the Senate with a slim 11-10 majority. And Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley will pick up two seats to give the Democrats a veto-proof majority plus one.

First to the Senate where Democrats have made strong gains in registration and have bested the Republicans to the polls throughout early voting.

The campaigns in Senate 5 and 6 have been so negative; some voters are actually peeling off to defend the incumbents. That should help Bob Beers save his seat in District 6.

Beers made an early push to attract Democratic voters and win over independents. Once the Democrats began trashing him, some of those he had reached out to early (by phone and polls mostly) were less inclined to buy the negative.

Beers was also assisted with some healthy free media. It didn’t hurt that his opponent couldn’t muster anything deeper on policy than dusting off the tried-and-tested lottery idea.

Prediction is that Beers defeats Allison Copening 49-46 and stands in good position to be the GOP’s chosen one in the 2010 gubernatorial primary.

The dynamic in the larger District 5 is actually worse for the Republican Joe Heck, even though ironically, he’s the more moderate of the two incumbents. With excitement about Titus and Obama up ticket, Heck will be running against a few ghosts Tuesday.

Ultimately the Democratic turnout in 5, with its more focused straight ticket push, will help Shirley Breeden knock Heck out 48-46.

In the Assembly, Democrats hold their seats and pick up two more with wins by Marilyn Dondero Loop in District 5 and Ellen Spiegel in District 21, where she’ll win by a few dozen votes over Jon Ozark.

The Clark County Commission will become an all-Democratic institution, like it’s local government colleague in the city.

City Councilman Larry Brown will shed one Democratic body for another, beating Valerie Weber for a commission seat by 7 points.

Steve Sisolak will beat Brian Scroggins thanks to his aggressive mail campaign and ability to liken Scroggins to the type of unethical behavior still fresh in voters’ minds. Sisolak will win 53-45.

Moving to the courts, Supreme Court Justice Mark Gibbons will easily win re-election, while Kris Pickering will narrowly defeat Deborah Schumacher in the other race.

In District Court, William Kephardt will oust Judge Jessie Walsh in Department 10.

Jason Landess will edge Judge Stefany Miley in Department 23 and Kathleen Delaney will win in Department 25.

Bill Henderson will finally go from perennial candidate to judge in this election, winning a seat in Family Court Department R.

The advisory ballot question asking whether tourists should pay more to fund the schools will pass by a considerable margin, despite the recession and the push by casinos to “educate” their work forces. The question will pass 62-38, presenting a real problem for all those Democratic legislators who have said they won’t approve tax increases during the 2009 session.

We’ll know soon enough how this Carnac fared. If you didn’t already vote, make sure you’re heard Tuesday.

Contact Erin Neff at (702) 387-2906, or by e-mail at


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