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Democrats settle bruising primary for Nevada governor

FILE - In this June 13, 2016, file photo, Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite BunnyRanch, a legal brothel near Carson City, Nevada, is pictured during an interview in Oklahoma City. The most closely-watched race in Nevada's primary election Tuesday, June 12, 2018, is the battle for governor. One of those races in Nye County pits incumbent Assembly member James Oscarson of Pahrump against Hof, Nevada's most famous pimp. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
June 12, 2018 - 11:50 PM

LAS VEGAS - Democrats settled a bruising primary for Nevada governor on Tuesday, nominating Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak to take on the state's Republican attorney general in November — one of two close races expected in the battleground state this year.

Sisolak, who had the backing of former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and chairs the powerful council overseeing the Las Vegas Strip and surrounding communities, defeated his commission colleague Christina Giunchigliani.

His general election opponent, Adam Laxalt, handily won the nomination of Nevada Republicans — as did the state's GOP Sen. Dean Heller, who faces a difficult challenge in November from Democrat Rep. Jacky Rosen.

While Democrats swept Rosen past five other candidates in her race, they faced a tougher choice settling on a candidate to try to deliver them the governor's mansion for the first time in two decades.

The race got combative, with an attack ad alleging Giunchigliani "single-handedly protected perverts" because of changes she made to a sex offender bill in the Legislature a decade ago.

Giunchigliani, a 63-year-old former state legislator and teacher who earned backing from the women's group Emily's List and Hillary Clinton, struck back with a campaign ad saying she was sexually abused as a child.

"I'm not going to pretend that this was an easy race. It was tough and long," Sisolak said in his victory speech at the Aria casino-resort on the Las Vegas Strip. "While Chris and I have had our differences - and we aired them out on the public airwaves - we both agree on one thing: Nevada families cannot afford to let Adam Laxalt become our next governor."

Speaking to her supporters at a cowboy-themed saloon in Las Vegas after her loss Tuesday, Giunchigliani said she'll work with Sisolak to defeat Laxalt. But her concession speech wasn't conciliatory.

"You think you're progressive? You damn well better be progressive," said Giunchigliani, who had criticized the 64-year-old Sisolak for having once received an "A-" rating from the NRA and holding moderate positions in the past. "There's a lot of positions now that have been taken in this campaign, so we need to make sure we hold anybody accountable because, as a Democrat, you have to show up and you'd better start standing for something."

Trump endorsed Laxalt, a former lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, who handily won the GOP primary.

Laxalt, the grandson of former U.S. Sen. and Nevada Gov. Paul Laxalt and son of former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, said in a statement that the election in November would be "a choice between real solutions and a radical agenda that will take our unique state the way of California. Higher taxes, ridiculous regulations, sanctuary cities, you name it, my opponent supports it."

Wes Elliott, 70, said he voted for Laxalt because he likes the candidate's character and the fact he's a military veteran.

Another key Trump supporter, Tarkanian, won the Republican race for Nevada's 3rd Congressional District. It is one of two swing seats in Nevada that Democrats are hoping to hold while they make gains elsewhere to win control of the U.S. House.

Tarkanian, the son of former University of Nevada Las Vegas basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, has run unsuccessfully for several offices over the past decade. He'll face wealthy Democratic philanthropist Susie Lee in the general election. Lee defeated six opponents in her primary.

Primary contests for Nevada's other swing district, the 4th Congressional District, produced a rematch for November between Democrat Steven Horsford and Republican Cresent Hardy. Horsford held the Democratic-leaning seat for one term before losing in 2014 to Hardy. Hardy then lost in 2016 to Democrat Ruben Kihuen, who is not seeking re-election after several women accused him of sexual misconduct.

Incumbent Rep. Mark Amodei defeated conservative activist Sharron Angle in Nevada's 2nd Congressional District.

In an only-in-Nevada race, the state's most famous pimp, Dennis Hof, defeated incumbent Assembly member James Oscarson of Pahrump.

Hof, who starred in the HBO adult reality series "Cathouse," owns half a dozen brothels that could be threatened this year under proposals to ban such businesses in two of the state's seven counties where they're legally operating.


Associated Press writers Ken Ritter and Regina Garcia Cano in Las Vegas and Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada contributed to this report.


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