Political Parties and Elections
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Chapter Four Political Parties and Elections Nevada has traditionally been a competitive, two-party state in which elections are fought more on the basis of personalities and issues than parties. Nevadans are notorious ticket splitters who take pride in the fact that they vote for the “person” and not the “party.” Nonetheless, it is possible to divide Nevada’s political history into five distinct periods of voting patterns.1 From the granting of statehood in 1864 until 1890, the Republicans dominated the state’s elections.That they did so is chiefly explained by the support of the national Republican Party for Nevada statehood and the lingering effects of the Civil War, which had been fought against the Democratic-dominated, proslavery states of the South.As noted in chapter 2,all of Nevada’s state and federal officers selected in 1864,with the exception of two legislators,were Republicans. Of the elections held during the twenty-six years of this period, Republicans won six of seven presidential races, eight of ten for the U.S. Senate, ten of thirteen for the House, four of seven for governor and lieutenant governor, seven of seven for secretary of state, five of seven for state treasurer, seven of seven for state controller, and five of seven for attorney general. During the second period, 1892 to 1906, the state’s voters turned to the Silver Party for leadership. During that time, the national issue of free coinage of silver dominated the politics of Nevada and the other western mining states. In the first two elections of this period, the Silver Party won all but two statewide positions.2 In 1896 the Silver Party joined with the Democrats to become the Silver-Democrats and dominated the state’s political landscape until 1908. Between 1908 and 1930, electoral victories in the state were roughly equal between the Democrats and Republicans, with the Democrats winning more positions but the Republicans winning the top spots at the presidential,congressional , and gubernatorial levels.The fourth period of electoral dominance began in 1932 with the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt to the presidency. From 1932 until the mid-1980s, Democrats tended to dominate state politics with an overwhelming number of registrants and control of the legislature and most of the executive offices. Starting in the 1980s the Republican Party began a resurgence in the state that lasted through the 1990s and into the twenty-first century. During this fifth period, no one party has dominated the state’s elections. As of 2013, for instance,elective positions in the state were fairly evenly divided.Four of the six 45 executive officers were Democrats, and Nevada’s federal delegation was evenly split with one Democratic and one Republican U.S. Senator and two Democratic and two Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The 2013 state senate and the state assembly were majority Democratic.The resurrection of the Republicans in the state to the point that they were competitive with the previously dominant Democrats was due to several factors: increased voter registration activity by the Republicans, the popularity of Ronald Reagan, and the pattern of migration by upper-middle and upper-class retirees to the state. By the end of 1995, Republican registrants had overtaken Democrats for the first time since 1930.As table 4.1 shows, this continued to be true in the presidential elections of 1996, 2000, and 2004 where Republicans had more registrants than did the Democrats. The pendulum swung back again, however, after 2004 as a result of a significant push by the Democrats, led by Senator Harry Reid, to register more voters to support Barack Obama’s campaign for president in 2008 and Reid’s reelection campaign in 2010. As a result of that push and the 46 The Sagebrush State table 4.1 Voter Registration in Nevada by Party in Presidential Election Years, 1960–2012 Percent (%) Year Democrats Republicans Other* Total Democrats 1960 81,682 41,357 5,858 128,897 63.4 1964 104,630 50,462 8,383 163,475 64.0 1968 111,390 65,302 12,119 188,811 58.9 1972 133,278 80,199 17,568 231,045 57.6 1976 149,397 83,374 18,182 250,953 59.5 1980 158,617 115,182 23,519 297,318 53.3 1984 184,199 146,553 25,632 356,384 51.7 1988 209,048 188,571 47,314 444,933 47.0 1992 295,111 255,897...


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