LAS VEGAS (AP) — In a conference room just north of Las Vegas Boulevard, where casino resorts tower like gleaming beacons of entertainment, Ted Pappageorge made a darker, urgent call to action ahead of next month’s election.
Pappageorge, leader of the heavily Latino casino workers’ union, told the hundreds of union members last weekend that Nevada’s Democratic Government Steve Sisolak and US Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto have been “fighters” for workers whose jobs have been hit hard by the pandemic, while the Republicans who can defeat them in November are “extreme.”
“We’re going to fight back. Are you ready to fight?” Pappageorge said to cheers and claps as the bartenders, cooks, servers and room cleaners prepared to knock on doors and cast the ballot on behalf of Nevada’s Democratic candidates, according to a video from the event.
At the same time, Republican nominee for governor, Joe Lombardo, across town, in a retirement home strip mall where golf carts share the street with cars, said to a crowd of about 100 people: Ask: Is your life better today than four years ago?”
“No!” the crowd shouted in response. “That’s the general answer,” Lombardo said.
The twin rallies launched an intense two-week period of early voting in a state that could shape the country’s political future. Much of the focus is on Las Vegas, the gambling mecca that powers the state’s economy and is home to three-quarters of the state’s population. If Democrats want to win victories, they need to increase turnout here to offset the GOP’s strength in rural communities that dominate the rest of the state.
Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, has approximately 1.3 million registered voters.
So far, the numbers paint a mixed picture. Early in-person turnout in Las Vegas was low this weekend, with only about 19,000 voters voting in person in the first two days. But the vote by mail, a process favored by Democrats, was stronger, with about 41,500 votes cast. About 20,000 of those votes came from registered Democrats, compared to about 10,600 from Republicans. The remainder were cast by unaffiliated or third-party voters.
The Governor’s Mansion and Cortez Masto .’s chair, the first Latina in the U.S. Senate, are considered two of the Republican Party’s best chances to flip state offices across the country. Her opponent is Republican Adam Laxaltwhose name is known as a former Attorney General and grandson of former Nevada Senator Paul Laxalt.
The winners could be determined by the unique social and economic conditions in Las Vegas.
Rising costs felt worldwide are hitting a double whammy here. The city’s hard-working population is plagued by higher grocery prices, and gasoline remains above $5 a gallon. In addition, higher costs in the US and the world mean that tourists may spend less when they visit, if at all.
Republican Jeffrey Burns, a real estate manager and executive chef in Las Vegas, said he voted “all the way Republican” because everything the Democrats in control are “just so completely retarded.”
He said he wants Laxalt to become a conservative Republican in the Senate and stop approving “spending tons and tons of money like Masto does.”
Burns said he wants the US to become energy independent and sees high gas prices as a clear sign of trouble, but there are still shortages in the supply chain.
“Like, I’m going to get eggs,” Burns said. “And there are just no eggs. And it’s like, why aren’t there any eggs? That’s just weird.”
George Trachtman, a Democrat and lawyer living in the city of Enterprise, said he voted for Cortez Masto and Sisolak. Trachtman said economic conditions are not as bad as they are portrayed.
“When I go to the Strip, I see a lot of people there who are just having fun and having fun,” he said. He added that he had gone to a mall the day before and couldn’t find a parking spot because it was so full.
“It doesn’t look like a recession or that we’re going in that direction,” he said. “And I understand that interest rates are rising, so things will slow down. But at the moment things seem to be better than what’s being reported.”
Perhaps no state was economically hit harder by the pandemic than tourist-dependent Nevada, where casinos were closed for two and a half months and unemployment at one point was 28% — the worst in the country and the worst in any state since. the Great Depression.
More than two years later, unemployment is much lower at 4.4%. But that’s the third worst in the US, only better than Illinois and the District of Columbia. Casino profits, a key economic indicator, have risen significantly, as have attendance and convention attendance, but have not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Three casinos that never reopened are being razed to the ground, and about 10% of the Culinary Union’s 60,000 members are still out of work.
Here, every two years, union members transform into a political force, calling and knocking voters on behalf of Democratic candidates, especially in the city’s multilingual and working-class neighborhoods.
Their union hall has become a must-stop for Democrats, especially when the votes are cast.
“I know what this fight is about,” Cortez Masto told the crowd. “These are well-paid jobs. It is about affordable care. It’s about making sure we can retire with dignity.”
“They supported us when we needed them,” Pappageorge said of the Democratic candidates flanking him. After his comments were translated into Spanish, he added: “We are now going to support them.”
Across the city, Republicans were decidedly optimistic when they predicted a “red wave” was coming to Nevada.
The GOP nominees rolled into a palm-studded mall in a large bus named “Laxalt” and climbed out as the country duo Brooks & Dunn’s song “Only in America” played and the crowd of about 100 people played. applauded and cheered. Although several people in the crowd wore “Trump” hats, no one mentioned the former president’s name.
Laxalt mocked Cortez Masto for not making campaign appearances with President Joe Biden, saying the state “can’t afford another week of the Joe Biden-Catherine Cortez Masto economy.”
“People are as upset as they’ve ever been about what’s happening to America,” he said. “We have one chance here in the midst of a red wave for a transformation election, to transform our state, to take back our country. That’s your job for the next two weeks.”
Checking out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-selections to learn about the issues and factors involved in the 2022 midterm elections. And follow AP’s coverage of the midterm exams https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-selections.
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