2 Democrats in bruising primary battle for Nevada governor’s seat

It’s the toughest race in Nevada – two Clark County commissioners, both Democrats, seek to rally the base in a year when the party truly believes it can win the governorship for the first time this century.

“I’m the best candidate because I have the experience,” said Steve Sisolak, Clark County Commission chair.

But his opponent, Chris Giunchigliani, insists she’s the party’s best hope. 

FILE - In this May 8, 2018 file photo, Clark County Commission member Steve Sisolak speaks during a forum for Nevada gubernatorial candidates in Las Vegas. The fiercest primary election battle in Nevada this year is a race between two Democrats vying to become the swing state’s first Democratic governor in almost two decades. The fight between Sisolak and Christina Giunchigliani has seen them spar over their response to the October mass shooting in Las Vegas while pledging to resist President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

Steve Sisolak is chair of the powerful governing body for Clark County, which includes the Las Vegas Strip and about two-thirds of the state's residents. The 64-year-old became a prominent figure in the wake of an October mass shooting outside a hotel-casino on the Strip and he's been outraising his opponents in the primary.  (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

“I’ve been a progressive since before it was a word,” she said.

Hillary Clinton has weighed in to boost Giunchigliani’s liberal credentials, telling voters in a taped robocall, “I’ve known Chris for many years, and I’ve seen how she’s been an extraordinary progressive leader for Nevada.”

MIDTERM ELECTION HQ

Nevada has not had a Democratic governor in two decades, and both are vying to replace Gov. Brian Sandoval, who cannot run again because of term limits. The winner of Tuesday's primary will likely take on Republican state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who is expected to breeze through the primary, brushing aside the challenge of State Treasurer Dan Schwartz, in November.

The Democratic candidates have pledged to stand up to Trump and the National Rifle Association.

FILE - In this May 8, 2018 file photo, Clark County Commission member Chris Giunchigliani speaks during a forum for Nevada gubernatorial candidates in Las Vegas. The most closely-watched race in Nevada's primary election Tuesday, June 12, is the battle for governor. The toughest choice for Democrats will be a close battle between Clark County Commission colleagues Steve Sisolak and Giunchigliani - each hoping to be Nevada's first Democratic governor in two decades. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

Chris Giunchigliani, who goes by "Chris G," is a 63-year-old former state legislator and teacher. She claims she was a progressive "before it was a word."  (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Sisolak is chair of the powerful governing body for Clark County, which includes the Las Vegas Strip and about two-thirds of the state's residents. The 64-year-old became a prominent figure in the wake of an October mass shooting outside a hotel-casino on the Strip and he's been outraising his opponents in the primary.

But Giunchigliani paints Sisolak as being too moderate and has knocked him for receiving an "A-" minus rating from the NRA in 2012.

Giunchigliani, who goes by "Chris G," is a 63-year-old former state legislator and teacher.

The Democratic race has a bizarre election subplot tinged with allegations that Giunchigliani, a Clark County commissioner known as Chris G, was soft on sexual predators while she was an assemblywoman.

“Chris G single handedly protected perverts,” said an ad by a group supporting Sisolak.

FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2014 file photo, Adam Laxalt speaks during a debate at the Nevada Press Association annual convention in Las Vegas. The most closely-watched race in Nevada's primary election Tuesday, June 12, 2018, is the battle for governor. Clark County Commission member Steve Sisolak, who has held more moderate positions in the past, says he's best-positioned to take on Republican state Attorney General Laxalt in November. Laxalt is expected to win the GOP primary for the governor's race. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

Adam Laxalt, a Republican who has been the state’s chief prosecutor since 2015, is already focusing on November and a so-called blue wave for Democrats. He told Fox News the idea that Democrats will sweep the elections in Nevada during the general election is a farce.  (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Giunchigliani responded with her own ad telling the story of an 8-year-old sexually abused girl before surprisingly revealing: “That 8 year old girl was me.”

Giunchigliani has courted the women’s vote, though she insists women shouldn’t only vote for her because of her gender.

“I don’t want people voting for me just because I’m a woman,” she said, “but I do believe that’s an added value.”

But she doesn’t argue with Sisolak’s contention that Nevadans are more focused on each candidate’s policies rather than gender.

“They don’t vote for someone in Nevada based on their gender anymore,” Sislak said, “than they do based on their height or their weight.”

Laxalt, a retired lieutenant in the U.S. Navy who has been the state’s chief prosecutor since 2015, is already focusing on November and a so-called blue wave for Democrats. He told Fox News the idea that Democrats will sweep the elections in Nevada during the general election is a farce.

“There is no blue wave here. It doesn’t exist,” he said. “In fact, we’re looking for a red wave.”

Includes reporting by The Associated Press.

Jonathan Hunt currently serves as a New York-based chief correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). Hunt joined the network in 2002 as an international correspondent based in Los Angeles.