Primary numbers

If you think your vote doesn’t matter, consider the results of several primary races Tuesday.

State Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, fended off a challenge by former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle by 6 percentage points. But it was only 500 votes that sealed his return to Carson City amid low turnout.

A few hundred Republicans also determined the outcome in another Northern race in which veteran Assemblyman John Marvel, R-Battle Mountain, finally felt the sting of payback for his 2003 decision to support $836 million in new taxes.

At one point early in the returns Tuesday night, Marvel was ahead of former Assemblyman Don Gustavson by just 18 votes. But Gustavson, whose most notable bills during his years of service were attempts to repeal Nevada’s motorcycle helmet law, eventually bested Marvel by 261 votes.

Marvelous, as Democratic friends from his spot on Ways and Means used to call Marvel, was just another Republican whose lack of brand identity left his three decades of service to be seen as merely a burden.

The Republican primaries could have significant ramifications in Carson City next year when the Legislature convenes to try once again to change Nevada’s revenue structure. Democrats have called for wholesale reform while Gov. Jim Gibbons has said any changes cannot include tax increases.

That potential ’09 logjam in Carson City became more likely as the factions only deepened Tuesday.

While Raggio survived to lead the Senate in the debate, he did so largely thanks to his repeated promises to voters that he will not raise taxes.

Even though the 81-year-old is now term limited, he risks personal embarrassment, if not recall, should he renege on his promises.

Gustavson joined several other Republican primary winners Tuesday who have signed pledges that they will not raise taxes. The others are Jon Ozark who defeated incumbent Assemblyman Bob Beers in Henderson and Richard McArthur who trounced embattled incumbent Francis Allen in Summerlin.

All three of these Assembly districts are Republican. And should Gustavson, Ozark and McArthur survive the general, they become three solid votes against any tax increases.

Allen had been hammered for years as a pawn of the Democrats. But it was her personal life — a dispute over paying for her wedding services followed by allegations that she slashed her new husband with a knife — that sealed Allen’s fate.

Still Republicans had choices in that race and went with McArthur, who signed the anti-tax pledge.

Every vote in those races mattered. And they matter not just for Tuesday’s outcome, but also for the next legislative session.

The tightness of the race for a seat on Nevada’s Supreme Court was evident throughout the past few weeks as the four candidates spent gobs of money on television ads and mailers to try to make a runoff in November. The top vote-getter, Kris Pickering, had just 2 percentage points more than the fourth-place candidate, Nancy Alff.

The race was so tight that the secretary of state’s Web site couldn’t figure out the voting percentages. That problem resulted mostly due to the abysmal turnout and the difficultly herding votes and turnout numbers from all 17 counties.

Early returns had Alff and Don Chairez ahead of Pickering and Deborah Schumacher.

Once rural counties and Washoe reported, the results flip-flopped.

In all, three of the four candidates had held the lead at different parts of the night.

The only voters who can honestly say today that their votes didn’t count were those who stuck with ineligible County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury or School Board members Mary Beth Scow and Ruth Johnson. By going with the incumbents — who have been ruled term limited — voters expressed their support for their service.

Both Scow and Johnson would have survived to the general election. Johnson actually won Tuesday’s primary. And Woodbury still got a big chunk of support despite a judge’s ruling that his 27-year career had already qualified under the voter-approved term limits of the 1990s.

Many voters opted for Woodbury as a statement against term limits.

Some just wanted him to win so that an appointment could be made to replace him on the November ballot.

At any rate, they sent their message.

It’s also clear that the few voters who participated in Tuesday’s primary could help set some agendas for November’s general.

More Republicans voted in the race to replace Chip Maxfield on the County Commission. Democratic City Councilman Larry Brown got more votes than Republican Valerie Weber, but she had several opponents drawing their share of votes compared to just one against Brown.

Consultants will parse the results. Then they will try to figure out what might happen in November when voters really show up to be counted.

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

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