Ready. Set. Vote: 2018 shaping up as a huge political year in Nevada

Nevada politics graphic (MGN Online)

Not that we’re counting, but Election Night Nov. 6 is 308 days away. It’s not the only day to keep your eye on.

March 5: candidate filing for non-judicial races opens, which is when we'll see who's really running for what.

A whole bunch of people are interested in Congressional District Four, including State Senator Pat Spearman.

“I am leaning like 99 percent,” she told me, saying she’s not worried about who else joins the party. “If I get in, I’m going to run my race. They’ll have to run theirs, but I’m going to run my race and I will run as hard as I did the last time."

CD 4 had been Democrat Ruben Kihuen's to lose, until the incumbent congressman got hit with accusations of sex harassment.

A few weeks ago, he said he would not run for reelection. It's just one drama setting up a big year.

“I think it's going to be a real exciting year for Democrats,” says the Executive Director of the Nevada Democratic Party, Alana Mounce.

After Democratic wins in Virginia and Alabama, the party says it has the wind at its back. Still, in politics, nothing’s a given.

“The decision point that we have and more work we need to do is make sure that we're not just hoping for a backlash against Donald Trump, but that we're giving voters something to vote for,” Mounce says.

A hard lesson learned from 2016 when the Clinton campaign made Trump, himself, the issue.

“I think it's going to be different than the Democrats expect because Donald Trump has been very successful, whether you like him or not,” says conservative Heidi Harris, formerly of KXNT-AM, now doing her own podcast.

Harris tells me Trump may not be so toxic, which plays into our next big day: June 12. The primary.

And no contest will be bigger than the faceoff between true-Trumper Danny Tarkanian and Republican Senator Dean Heller.

Heller, no Trump fan in the campaign, now works with the president when he can.

The question in June: who wins the Trump-loving GOP base?

As Harris says, “there is going to be certainly a Trump effect for Nevada.”

Heller’s campaign says the Senator is a true conservative who has delivered for Nevada. The Tarkanian campaign says Heller lacks true convictions and Trump would be better-served having a loyal soldier at his side.

And that's not the only big primary contest: who will Democrats choose to run for governor? Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani or Commissioner Steve Sisolak?

“We expect a tough race. You know I work with Commissioner Guinchigliani. I don't know, I'm sure there will probably be a few other people in the race by then, which we fully expect,” Sisolak told me in front of the commission chamber doors.

The conventional wisdom is that a commission incumbency brings with it a lot of baggage that could be damaging in an election. Sisolak doesn’t buy that.

“I look at it differently. I look at it as being an asset that’s taught me a lot, it’s helped me be a better negotiator. I think I’ve had the ability to bring people together on some really difficult issues,” says Sisolak.

The Democratic winner faces Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt for the chance to be Nevada's next governor, who gets sworn in a year from this Sunday.

There will be other political plot-lines to watch, too.

Will Kihuen, who promised to serve out his freshman term in Washington, be able to withstand an ethics investigation or any other subsequent accusations? He’s denied acting improperly, but if he leaves early, that would trigger a special election.

Special elections could also be called for two efforts underway to recall two Democratic state senators, Nicole Cannizzaro and Joyce Woodhouse, neither of whom are up for reelection in 2018. Democrats have charged Republicans with misusing Nevada’s recall rules to upend the results of legitimate elections. The issue is in court.

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