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From Purple to Blue? Political Science Students Weigh In On Nevada’s Blue Wave and California’s Influence

Nevada is continually a key battleground state for both midterm and general elections, but as Kaitlyn Olvera reports, this midterm election had many questioning if it’ll permanently stay blue. With many Californians migrating to the Silver State, some are asking, is Nevada becoming California, politically?

Some believe Nevada is going from swing state to solid blue. Graphic by Nick Eng.

Nevada’s Changing Political Colors

With the recent blue wave that seemed to envelop Nevada in the 2018 midterm election, many are wondering if the Silver State is politically turning into the Golden State.

The two hotly contested races in Nevada, for governor and U.S. Senate, were both won by Democrats this year. Governor-elect Steve Sisolak, current chair of the Clark County Commission, will be the first Democrat governor since Bob Miller, who served a ten year term from 1989 to 1999. Democrat Jacky Rosen defeated incumbent, Dean Heller, for the U.S. Senate seat. Rosen’s win means Nevada will be one of six states represented by two women U.S. senators.

So, is Nevada still a purple, political battleground? Or, is it starting to resemble its blue neighbor, California? Political Science students from the University of Nevada, Reno seem to think, no.

Vincent Rodriguez, 21, majoring in Political Science at the University of Nevada, Reno. Image by Kaitlyn Olvera.


21-year-old Vincent Rodriguez, a senior majoring in Political Science at the university, says making the assumption that Nevada will continue with its blue wave is premature.

“Nevada has always been a swing state, and in its voting, it has always mimicked California to an extent… I think one could only make the statement that Nevada is turning into California politically following the current president’s term in office, but I think to say that now would be getting ahead of oneself,” Rodriguez said.

The born-and-raised Californian voted as an absentee for Sacramento County. However, after living in Washoe County for over three years, he says he can understand why Nevada went blue, specifically Washoe County. The highest populated county in Northern Nevada has seen big businesses and companies move to the area, bringing with them, many California employees. So, one reason the state went blue could be because of the influence of Californians making their way to the Silver State.

Ryan Hines, 19, majoring in International Affairs at the University of Nevada, Reno. Image by Kaitlyn Olvera.

19-year-old Ryan Hines, a Nevadan native, and sophomore at the university, agrees with Rodriguez, saying that he also doesn’t believe Nevada will necessarily turn into California, politically, anytime soon.

“I think the massive Democratic victory in this state was actually due to the candidates themselves and not some massive profound shift in the political landscape of Nevada,” Hines said.

He went on to say that even the deepest blue part of the state, Clark County, remains competitive for both parties. Though both the gubernatorial and senate races went to the Democrats, they won by short percentage differences.

Barely Blue?

According to official results, Jacky Rosen beat Dean Heller by 3.64 percent in Washoe County, but soared in Clark, winning by 14.16 percent.

It was an even narrower race for Sisolak and Laxalt, as the Las Vegas Clark County Commissioner beat the Reno native by 2.37 percent in Washoe County, but came up bigger in Clark County with a 13.28 percent win over Laxalt.

“Washoe County is the place to be in this state if you want your vote to matter. All of the major election results in Washoe County were very close, so every vote mattered,” Hines said.

Both students notably brought up incumbent senator, Dean Heller, saying that he did not listen to the needs of Nevadans, which they both believe was the key reason he lost to Jacky Rosen.

Heller to Blame for Blue Nevada?

“I think Nevadans made it clear they wanted someone to stick up for their medical needs and Jacky Rosen took advantage of that as a driving force throughout her campaign. I believe that is at the base of Heller’s loss,” Rodriguez said.

“The problem wasn’t that he didn’t know what was best for Nevadans or didn’t care, he did know what Nevadans need, and did care about them. He was simply too susceptible to pressure from President Trump and the rest of the Republican party,” Hines said.

Jennifer Ring, a Political Science professor at the university, says she saw more of a turnout amongst students this election season, which could be part of the reason why Washoe County may have gone blue. While more Californians are moving to Nevada and may be affecting the political climate, Ring says the political culture of Nevada is different from that of California.

“My guess is it was the result of Trump’s assault on immigrants mobilizing the Latino vote, and also an effective campaign to get UNR students to show up at the polls,” Ring said.

The general consensus from students is that Nevada is still a key battleground state that will continue to play a vital role in not just the state legislature, but the U.S. Congress as well.

While there’s influence from California natives who are moving to the Silver State, Nevadans themselves are voting more. Washoe County broke records this election season, with the highest number of registered voters, at 269,236. The 2018 midterm election ended up becoming Washoe’s largest midterm turnout with 70.13 percent of people showing up to vote.

“I don’t think anyone should go unheard, so I hope that Clark and Washoe Counties stay purple overall; that way, our candidates will have to really listen to the whole of the state and we can continue to improve this state without leaving anyone behind. That’s the way it is for now, and I hope that it stays that way,” Hines said.

Nevada will seemingly remain a very lively and competitive political environment, despite the Democrats winning throughout the two largest counties this election.

Reporting by Kaitlyn Olvera for the Reynolds Sandbox



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Showcasing innovative and engaging multimedia storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab in Reno.