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Friday June 22nd, 2018 7:19AM

Nevada primary tees up battleground governor, Senate races

By The Associated Press
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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada voters delivered easy primary election wins Tuesday to Republican Sen. Dean Heller and his Democratic opponent Jacky Rosen while teeing up a November battle for the governor's mansion between the chairman of a powerful Las Vegas-area council and the state attorney general.

Steve Sisolak, who had the backing of former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and chairs the powerful council overseeing the Las Vegas Strip, overcame a bruising Democratic primary against his Clark County Commission colleague Christina Giunchigliani.

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 Hillary Clinton and the women's group Emily's List, 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 National Rifle Association 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."

Nevada is one of 26 Republican-held governors' offices up for grabs this year and one of eight where Clinton won the presidential vote over Trump in 2016. The incumbent, moderate GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval is term-limited.

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

Laxalt, the 39-year-old 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."

The Nevada GOP also delivered an easy primary victory to Heller, the only GOP senator seeking re-election this year in a state won by Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.

He was originally expected to face a tough challenge from Republican Danny Tarkanian until Trump asked him to run for Congress instead.

"The choice this November could not be starker," Heller said. "While we've been fighting and delivering for Nevada, the only thing Jacky Rosen has done since getting to Congress is seek a promotion. In Nevada, we call that swampy."

Rosen said Heller "has spent the last year letting Nevadans down by breaking his promises to protect our health care, passing a fiscally irresponsible tax bill to benefit his super-wealthy donors, and failing our Dreamers to placate his party's leaders."

Democrats face long odds to take control of the U.S. Senate in November but winning Heller's seat will be key to their aim.

Tarkanian, having left the Senate race, went on Tuesday to win the Republican race for Nevada's 3rd Congressional District. It is one of two swing seats in Nevada that Democrats are hoping to hold in order to win control of the U.S. House.

Tarkanian, the son of former University of Nevada Las Vegas basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, will face wealthy Democratic philanthropist Susie Lee in the general election.

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.

Hof celebrated his win at a party in Pahrump with Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss at his side.

"It's all because Donald Trump was the Christopher Columbus for me," Hof told The Associated Press in a phone call after his victory. "He found the way and I jumped on it."

Hof said he's downsizing his business and selling off some brothels to focus more on politics and he's predicting a big win in November.

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

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