Nevada voters picked a former first son to take on an incumbent Republican U.S. senator, set up an intriguing governor's race and delivered a razor-thin victory to a GOP candidate hoping to fill the state's only open U.S. House seat.
Democrat Jack Carter, son of former President Carter, on Tuesday easily advanced to a November general election race against incumbent U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev.
Carter said Ensign has been too cozy with the White House. "You know, he's voted for the Bush administration 96 percent of the time," Carter said.
Five-time U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons won the state's GOP gubernatorial nomination, and state Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus won a raucous Democratic contest with 54 percent of the vote to Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson's 36 percent.
Gibbons had 48 percent of the vote, to 29 percent for state Sen. Bob Beers and Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt's 18 percent. Long shots in that race included a former porn star, Melody Damayo, who performed under the name Mimi Miyagi.
Gibbons, hoping to replace Gov. Kenny Guinn, a popular Republican who's term-limited, said the contrast between him and Titus would be stark.
"I think the public is going to know and understand the choices couldn't be clearer. I'm a Reagan conservative and she's a Kennedy Democrat," he said. Titus dismissed that notion, saying, "I don't think those labels mean much."
The balloting for the open House seat resulted in a narrow victory for Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller — whose office will oversee a recount if conservative Sharron Angle demands it after her loss to him by only 428 votes, out of nearly 50,000 cast.
"This is sweet. It could not have been any closer," Heller said of his win in the sprawling, largely rural 2nd District. He had 24,781 votes to Angle's 24,353 votes. Former Assemblywoman Dawn Gibbons, Rep. Gibbons' wife, trailed in third place.
"This thing broke in three different directions, but I believe the state Republican Party is going to rally around and we're going to win in November," said Heller, seen as the more moderate of the candidates.
The Angle campaign said it was weighing its options and would not concede until looking at the final counts in each county Wednesday.
"We're not saying we're calling for a recount, we just want to see the official final numbers," said Jerry Stacy, a spokesman for the Angle campaign.
If the tally holds up, Heller will face Democrat Jill Derby, an 18-year member of the state Board of Regents who was unopposed.
In another contest, Republicans avoided a potentially embarrassing situation when they nominated businessman Mark DeStefano for state treasurer instead of former state Controller Kathy Augustine, who died last month and whose name remained on the ballot.
If Augustine had won the GOP nomination, it would have been the first time that a dead person won a primary for a statewide office in Nevada history.
Tessa Hafen, ex-press secretary for Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, won her party's nomination to face incumbent Republican Rep. Jon Porter in the 3rd Congressional District.
Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley cruised to victory with 91 percent of the primary vote in her 1st District. She'll face Republican Kenneth Wegner, an unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate in 2004 who won Tuesday night with 51 percent of the vote.