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Vegas Mayor Wins Nev. Gov. Primary

September 2, 1998

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) _ A retired educator backed by the casino industry won the GOP nomination for Nevada governor, setting up a race with the Democratic mayor of Las Vegas.

Florida also held primary elections Tuesday, though incumbents in several major offices faced no opposition.

Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones, 49, won a nine-way Democratic gubernatorial primary, and was one of seven women nominated for top offices _ a rarity in the typically male-dominated world of Nevada politics.

``This is history in the making,″ said Rose McKinney-James, a businesswoman who won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. If she wins the general election, she would become Nevada’s first black statewide officeholder.

``I have to say I didn’t ever envision this in Nevada,″ McKinney-James said. ``It’s a measure of what the state is and where it’s going.″

Jones, a breast cancer survivor, easily defeated her closest challenger, state Sen. Joe Neal, who was trying to be the state’s first black governor.

With 89 percent of precincts reporting early today, Jones had 61,302 votes, or 60 percent, while Neal had 16,354 votes, or 16 percent.

Jones advanced to a general election battle against Republican Kenny Guinn. A pre-primary poll put her within 10 points of Guinn.

Guinn, 62, who served briefly as interim president of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and is making his first run for elective office, fended off a challenge by a recently transplanted Hollywood producer in the GOP primary.

Guinn picked up the support of the casino industry early in the race but watched Aaron Russo, who produced such movies as ``Trading Places″ and ``The Rose,″ get close in some pre-election polls. Guinn fought back with ads that showed a longhaired Russo screaming about the government several years ago when he was trying to start a new party in California.

With 89 percent of precincts reporting, Guinn had 75,350 votes, or 58 percent, while Russo had 33,594 votes, or 26 percent.

Republicans have a slight edge in voter registration in Nevada, but the state has not elected a GOP governor in 20 years. Democratic Gov. Bob Miller is leaving after 10 years in office, constitutionally prevented from seeking a third full term.

In the GOP primary for Nevada’s U.S. Senate seat, Rep. John Ensign trounced a political unknown and advanced to a November showdown against the Democratic incumbent, Harry Reid.

Democrat Shelly Berkley, a university regent, and Republican judge Don Chairez were nominated to fill Ensign’s seat in Congress.

In Florida, Republican Jeb Bush, son of former President George Bush, ran unopposed in the GOP primary for Florida governor. On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay also faced no opposition. Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles is barred from seeking a third term.

Florida Sen. Bob Graham was unopposed in the Democratic primary in his bid for re-election. State Sen. Charlie Crist won the GOP nomination to challenge Graham.

In a bitterly contested race, GOP primary voters overwhelmingly kicked out Florida Secretary of State Sandra Mortham, Bush’s former running mate. She lost her bid to run for a second term as secretary of state, getting just 39 percent of the vote to 61 percent for state Sen. Katherine Harris.

Mortham was plagued by ethics questions including allegations her office misused a donation from a tobacco company. The allegations forced her to withdraw as Bush’s choice for the lieutenant governor nomination earlier this year.

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