Raggio, NV Congressional Incumbents Win; Marvel Loses; Judge Halverson, Del Vecchio Out

RENO, Nev. (AP) - It was a good night in Nevada for incumbent members of Congress in both parties as well as the most powerful
Republican in the state Senate who had to fend off a challenge from
the right.

Not so good for two embattled judges in Clark County who saw their re-election bids end amid lingering allegations of misconduct, or a rural prosecutor who wanted to become a judge despite being issued a drunken driving summons after crashing cars twice in six hours.

Nevada voters themselves also received low marks, with only about one-fifth of those registered bothering to show up at the polls - potentially the state's worst primary turnout on record.

Freshman Republican Congressman Dean Heller advanced to a rematch in November against Democratic challenger Jill Derby, easily dispatching his lone opponent in Tuesday primary.

Democratic Representative Shelley Berkley and Republican House member Jon Porter also cruised to victory. Porter is headed for a what is expected to be a hotly contested general election race against Democrat Dina Titus, loser to Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons two years ago.

Berkley also faces a rematch against Republican Kenneth Wegner, a replay of the 2006 race, which Wegner lost by 34 percentage points.

Heller won by nearly a 9-to-1 margin over James Smack of Fallon, a pawn shop owner and Ron Paul backer who criticized Heller as a "rubber stamp" and a "parrot" for President Bush. Heller had 86 percent, Smack 14 percent.

In a pair of high profile state GOP legislative races, longtime Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio fended off a right-wing challenge from anti-tax activist Sharron Angle, while former Assemblyman Don Gustavson handed veteran Assemblyman John Marvel of Battle Mountain his first defeat since he first was elected in 1978.

In a tight primary race for a vacant seat on the Nevada Supreme Court, Las Vegas lawyer Mary Pickering and Washoe Family Court Judge Deborah Schumacher emerged on top to advance to November's general election.

The three House races, the post on the state Supreme court and 25 legislative primaries apparently failed to capture the attention of Nevada's voters.

Secretary of State Ross Miller estimated about 15 percent of Nevada's nearly 1.3 million eligible voters would end up casting ballots statewide. Early reports out of Clark and Douglas counties indicated 15 percent might be optimistic while Washoe County officials said they were on target for 20 percent turnout.

The previous low for statewide turnout in a primary election was 23 percent in 2000. That's according to data provided by the secretary of state's office and the Nevada State Library and Archives. Since 1950, voter turnout had dipped below 30 percent just four times in a Nevada primary before Tuesday, in 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004.

Despite the statewide trend, at least one voter had all the motivation he needed to go to the polls -- casting a vote against Elizabeth Halverson, a Clark County district judge who saw her re-election hopes dashed in a lopsided defeat.

Ralph Komberg, a 51-year-old casino security officer in Henderson said, quoting now:

"Everything I've read about her and seen about her is enough to make anyone come out and vote and make sure she gets thrown out," said Ralph G. Komberg, a 51-year-old casino security officer in Henderson.

The 50-year-old judge has been accused of creating a hostile work environment, falling asleep on the bench, improperly communicating with jurors and mishandling trials, not to mention ordering a bailiff to rub her feet. She finished with less than 10 percent of the vote.

Stefany Miley, a family court judge in Las Vegas who had 60 percent of the vote, and lawyer Jason Landess, with 30 percent, advanced to November's general election as the top two vote-getters in that primary.

Nye County District Attorney Robert Beckett, who crashed two cars on a desert highway in California in June, lost his bid to unseat six-term incumbent Judge John Davis.

Davis is an accomplished mountain climber in the Fifth Judicial District covering rural Esmeralda, Mineral and Nye counties. He finished with 54 percent of the vote. Deputy Nye County District Attorney Marla Zlotek had 32 percent and Beckett 14 percent, with the top two candidates advancing.

In addition to Halverson, another Clark County judge watched his hopes for re-election disappear amid lingering allegations of wrongdoing pending before the state Commission on Judicial Discipline.

Family Court Judge Nicholas Del Vecchio has been accused of sexually abusing a woman when she was a minor, sexually harassing her as an adult, and making racially and sexually disparaging comments to court employees.

He finished with 23 percent of the vote - well behind the two family law attorneys who advanced to the general, Vincent Ochoa (32 percent) and Cynthia Giuliani (31 percent).

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)