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Democrats try to win Nevada as Trump eyes pickup opportunity

By MICHELLE L. PRICE Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Republican presidential candidate has not carried Nevada since 2004 but the western state has remained a political battleground and could be pivotal Tuesday in the race for the White House.

Four years ago, President Donald Trump fell just shy of winning Nevada and its six electoral college votes. This year, his campaign sees it as one of a handful of states that went blue in 2016 and where Trump could prevail on his second try.

More than 60% of the state’s active registered voters cast ballots already by mailing them in or showing up in-person for early voting. Of the 1 million-plus ballots cast, 40% were from Democrats and 36% were from Republicans. Unaffiliated and third-party voters made up another 25%.

In addition to the presidential race, voters will also decide four U.S. House races, five statewide ballot questions, two statewide Supreme Court seats and one state Court of Appeals seat. They’ll also pick winners for four positions on the Board of Regents, two State Board of Education spots and about four dozen state Senate and Assembly contests.

Republicans and Trump have been encouraging their supporters to cast ballots in person rather than by mail and are expecting many to show up on Election Day.

Joe Weaver, the Nevada director of Trump’s reelection effort, said Republicans are seeing lots of enthusiasm and have been “re-registering a lot of Democrats that have been walking away from the party.” He said that with their get-out-the-vote effort, they expect “to turn out more Republicans than we’ve ever seen in this state.”

“We’re sure that it’s going to be the number that we need to put us over and deliver six electoral college votes,” Weaver said.

The GOP and Trump’s campaign have been working as a joint operation in the state, and they have more than 60 staffers on the ground, roughly double their effort four years ago.

But Democrats have one of the strongest state parties in the country in Nevada, built up by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and they insist they’re not taking their past wins for granted and are giving 2020 everything they’ve got to deliver the state for former Vice President Joe Biden.

“We feel really good about our position here in the state. We’ve had a strong showing during early voting. There’s a lot of enthusiasm for the Biden-Harris ticket and Democrats up and down the ticket,” said Alana Mounce, the Nevada State Director for the Biden campaign.

She said despite past Democratic wins in Nevada, her team has “made no assumptions about the race” and are “heads down” working to encourage all their supporters to get out and vote.

They’ve got more than 100 on staff in Nevada between the party and the campaign and have activated their get-out-the-vote networks they’ve been building on for years. That includes reaching into Nevada’s diverse communities, including Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and Native Americans.

One of the biggest on-the-ground-advantages Democrats count is the heavily Latino casino workers’ Culinary Union. While the Democratic Party and Biden campaign didn’t resume in-person canvassing until October because of the coronavirus, instead relying on virtual organizing, the union has been hitting doors since August. They now have more than 500 members working to get out the vote in Las Vegas and Reno.

The president has made three trips to the state in the past two months, including last week where he stayed overnight at his hotel in Las Vegas before holding a rally in Bullhead City, Arizona, just outside the Nevada border. Vice President Mike Pence was in Reno on Thursday for a rally and the president’s children Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump have all made their own campaign swings through Nevada in recent weeks.

Biden has made one campaign swing to Nevada since the Democratic presidential caucuses earlier this year, stopping in Las Vegas in early October for an event with Latinos and a drive-in rally. His running mate Kamala Harris has made several trips in recent weeks, including stops in Reno and Las Vegas.

Shannon Delugo-Owen, a 49-year-old Republican who cast her vote early in-person for Trump at a south Las Vegas polling place, said she doesn’t think the president should be faulted for the coronavirus and its impacts.

“I do believe he’s there fighting for our country. Our economy has been fantastic,” said Delugo-Owen, who said she is retired law enforcement. “He’s certainly is fighting for law enforcement. He’s fighting to keep issues like the riots out of the cities.”

Reno resident Maria Ochoa, a-38-year-old bank worker who waited in a 90-minute line outside the Sparks Library as the sun went down on Friday, said she wanted to vote early for Biden and felt Trump was out of step with her Hispanic community.

“I feel like he has made it OK for people to come out and be openly racist and openly express those feelings,” she said. “Biden and Harris seem to be more about uniting communities.”

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Associated Press writer Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada, contributed to this report. Find AP’s full election coverage at APNews.com/Election2020.