Too Soon? Political Ads Already Airing for 2018 - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Too Soon? Political Ads Already Airing for 2018

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It may feel like Campaign 2016 is barely behind us, but Campaign 2018 has officially begun, and with it, the political TV ads.

According to TMCC Political Scientist Fred Lokken, while campaigns starting this early is unusual, it's understandable given the high stakes in 2018. Nevada voters will pick a new governor and decide whether to keep Republican Senator Dean Heller in office. Lokken said it's anyone's guess as to what will happen with both big races.

"We have a large, more than 20 percent of our registered voters, in the nonpartisan camp," Lokken said. "So we have that interesting volatility in our DNA."

Democratic Representative Jacky Rosen has already announced her campaign to challenge Heller for Senate, but Heller's camp is getting out ahead of the race with an ad already airing on TV, a full year before the election. Aside from challengers from the Democrat side, Heller also faces a primary challenge from Republican Danny Tarkanian.

Heller's stance on healthcare reform over the summer could leave him vulnerable, at a time when the GOP can't afford to lose any seats in the Senate if the party wants to keep its slim majority.

The Senate race isn't the only big draw in the Nevada, either. Governor Brian Sandoval has termed out, leaving an open seat for the taking. Five candidates have already thrown their hats in the ring, but Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt is the only one so far to launch a TV ad campaign. He'll be up against State Treasurer Dan Schwartz and Las Vegas business owner Jared Fisher in the primary. On the Democrat side, Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani and Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak have announced their runs.

Lokken said Laxalt can't assume he has that race in the bag. Nevada has gone blue in the last few elections, bucking the trend nationwide to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. And, midterm elections often favor the party not currently in power on the national level.

On top of that, voter disappointment in the system and general cynicism right now is high, which could translate to a lower voter turnout.

"Our voter turnout has not been improving, and I don't expect it to do anything exceptional," Lokken said. "In fact, because it's the 2018 election and non-presidential, it will be recognizably lower than it was just last year."

But regardless of who wins, all this early political action means a lot of money spent in Nevada.

"Nevada is in the crosshairs again for a lot of out-of-state money," Lokken said, "and in for, I'm sure, a very vigorous and controversial campaign season."

That could mean presidential visits to Nevada as the Senate race heats up.

Candidates who want to file for office can officially do so from March 5-16, and the primary election will be held on June 12. Election Day 2018 is on November 6.

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