With teachers’ unions in Clark County withholding support in the gubernatorial race, incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak is threatened. So, all eyes on are Washoe County, which could decide how Nevada goes on election night. Regarding Democratic and Republican Party registrations, the county is virtually split, but it’s also chock full of “nonpartisans,” which Democrats need to nab to avoid disaster.
Yet, even in Washoe, it’s a tough sell for Democrats since residents here have been shellacked by the rising costs of gas and groceries. Inflation came down like a sledgehammer, and even voters here know things, like the price of gas, didn’t go up until Biden was president. It’s the “sleeper county” to track (via NBC News):
On a gusty, gray afternoon last weekend, Laura Picanco dispensed gas into her SUV, then firmly returned the nozzle to the pump.
“This is ridiculous!” she fumed, tilting her head around the pump to talk to the person on the other side. “I don’t know how people do it.” At $5.61 a gallon, she filled only three-fourths of her tank, shelling out $108.
It was the first day of early voting in Nevada, and Picanco, angered with Democrats and President Joe Biden for the rising gas costs, vowed to make a trip to the ballot box and vote Republican.
“Gas prices were steady until — I hate to say it — Biden took office,” she said.
Here in Washoe County, it’s difficult to find someone who isn’t complaining about the cost of groceries or gas. Residents of this northwestern Nevada swing county, the home of Reno and the second-largest county in the state, with a population of about 500,000, have seen some of the highest gas prices in the country at the same time they’re battling rising inflation and a dearth of affordable housing.
About 82,000 more Washoe residents are registered as nonpartisan, making them a coveted prize for campaigns clawing it out for the county with the second-largest pot of votes outside of reliably blue Clark County.
All of those factors make Washoe County the ultimate battleground for Cortez Masto and Laxalt. A decisive Washoe win would almost certainly mean a decisive statewide win.
“They’re fighting for every inch,” said Greg Ferraro, a veteran Reno-based GOP consultant. “How Washoe goes is how Nevada goes.”
“Washoe is even more important this time than previous elections,” said Mike Noble, whose nonpartisan firm OH Predictive Insights has regularly polled Nevada this year.
Noble said that Laxalt has the red counties and that while he’ll try to keep down the margins in Clark County, it is reliably blue. That makes Washoe even more critical.
“If Nevada is the ‘We Matter’ state, arguably Washoe is the ‘We Matter’ county. It’s the bellwether,” he said.
On top of the pure geographical boundaries, Hispanics are growing into an influential voting bloc, expected to make up 1 in 5 midterm voters statewide. That’s significant in Washoe, where Hispanics are nearly 25% of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Losing the county could pose the biggest risk to Cortez Masto, who must persuade Washoe voters to re-elect her even though its residents are some of the hardest-hit in the country when it comes to inflation, grocery bills and gas prices.