RENO, Nev. – Democratic candidate Tom Gallagher (search) secured his party's nomination in a closely watched battle for one of Nevada's spots in Congress, while a Republican emerged with hope of upsetting incumbent Democrat Sen. Harry Reid (search) in November.
Gallagher, a former casino executive, defeated a field of five other Democrats on Tuesday for the right to challenge Republican freshman Rep. Jon Porter (search). Democrats are targeting Porter's seat as part of a national strategy to take back control of Congress.
"My campaign is all about doing the right kind of job in representing the needs, the interests and the hopes of this district," Gallagher said. He had 69 percent of the vote with 95 percent of the precincts reporting in the 3rd District primary.
Porter, 49, was unopposed in the Republican primary.
In another race, Richard Ziser (search), an anti-gay marriage organizer, won Nevada's Republican primary for the U.S. Senate and focused his attention on upsetting Reid.
Ziser is the former chairman of the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage (search), which successfully backed an initiative to prohibit the state from recognizing gay marriages. Voters overwhelming approved the constitutional amendment in 2000 and 2002.
Ziser, who raised $1 for every $18 in Reid's hefty $7.8 million campaign fund, was undaunted by the disparity and said he was banking on his conservatism and calls for fiscal restraint to unseat Reid, the second most powerful Democrat in the Senate.
Reid, 64, defeated Republican John Ensign in 1998 by only 428 votes after a lengthy recount. Ensign won Nevada's other Senate seat two years later, and Reid began amassing funds to avoid another squeaker in 2004.
"I'm certainly not taking anything for granted in this election," Reid said by telephone from Washington, D.C. "I hope we can talk about the issues that are important to the people of Nevada."
In addition to Nevada, races were held in Arizona.
Freshman U.S. Rep. Trent Franks easily beat back a challenge from Rick Murphy, who owns several radio stations in the state, to capture the Republican nomination in the 2nd Congressional District.
Franks will next face Democrat Randy Camacho in the Nov. 2 general election for the seat, which represents a mostly conservative area that stretches from the west Phoenix suburbs, along the Colorado River and to the Hopi Indian Reservation.
Paul Babbitt, brother of former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, captured the Democratic nomination in Arizona's 1st Congressional District, setting the stage for a showdown with first-term Republican Congressman Rick Renzi, who won narrowly in 2002, and Libertarian John Crockett.
Arizona Sen. John McCain was uncontested for his Republican seat in the Senate.