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Nevada Voters Choose Finalists for Governor

September 04, 2002|From Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — A state senator who favors raising casino taxes to close Nevada's $180-million budget deficit was leading in the Democratic primary Tuesday for the chance to take on popular Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn in November.

Guinn was headed toward an easy GOP primary victory with 83% of the vote after 19% of precincts had reported statewide. State Sen. Joe Neal had 37%, with 24% of Democrats choosing "none of the above."

Neal had been favored over a former stripper and two other Democrats, while Guinn faced six little-known opponents in the GOP primary.

Neal would be the state's first black candidate for governor to advance to the general election.

"A lot of focus will be on me for that," Neal said Tuesday.

"I'm willing to take that responsibility."

The race to represent the new 3rd Congressional District in southern Nevada also has drawn attention because it could have national implications in the battle between Democrats and Republicans for control of the House.

Democrat Dario Herrera, a Clark County commissioner, has national party support against former Republican state Sen. Jon Porter. Both were receiving 69% of the vote in their respective primaries against little-known opponents.

As polls closed, the Nevada secretary of state's office said turnout was light, with just 9% of the state's 829,622 registered voters casting early or absentee ballots. Two years ago, 23% voted early or by mail.

Polls have Guinn with a commanding 3-to-1 lead over Neal, who has been mounting a populist campaign based on his longtime criticism of the state's powerful hotel-casino industry, which has $18 billion in annual profits.

He has called for the first tax hike on casino profits in 15 years to help soften the burden on others.

"The key issue is the people who live here are bearing the burden of the tourism that we bring in here," Neal said Tuesday.

"We should do something to collect more taxes from the hotels."

Neal, 67, teaches constitutional democracy at Community College of Southern Nevada and has represented North Las Vegas since 1972.

Guinn, 66, announced earlier this year that he has prostate cancer, but his doctors said it was detected early and would not affect his campaign or his work.

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