In more than four decades of covering elections across four different states, half of those in Nevada, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything quite like the results this past week in the Republican primary for Congressional District 4, which covers the southern half of rural Nevada and a chunk of Clark County, where most of the district’s voters reside.
Yes, Crescent Hardy won the right to advance to the general election against incumbent Steven Horsford, capturing nearly 43 percent of the votes cast, besting Niger Innis’ 33 percent. But how to explain how Mike Monroe picked up 22 percent of the votes cast?
Monroe is a cipher. He did not campaign. He raised and apparently spent no money. He did not debate. He did not go door to door. He gave no media interviews. Few have even seen a photo of him.
Conservative pundit Chuck Muth dismissed it as just a protest vote, since voters did not have a choice of “None of these candidates” as they do in statewide races. He called the Monroe vote “a ‘pox on both your houses’ vote, not a vote for an unknown candidate.”
But if so, why did Monroe get 22 percent of the vote, while Carlos Poliak, who at least submitted his photo and information about himself to the press, garnered only 2 percent? Poliak got 523 votes to Monroe’s 5,392.
In fact, Monroe won the race in White Pine and Esmeralda counties. He had only two votes fewer than Innis in Lyon County. He had more votes than Hardy in Mineral County.
Innis concedes he lost the primary to Hardy, but said he plans to ask the secretary of state, the office in charge of election integrity, to audit the returns.
“Was it computer error? Was it a glitch in the system? We don’t know,” Innis said in a press release. “But I believe until we investigate, until Secretary of State (Ross) Miller investigates, we won’t know the reason for Mr. Monroe getting 22 percent of the vote. And believe me, there is a reason out there somewhere. We just have to work together to find it.”
A Las Vegas newspaper account noted, “Although Monroe didn’t campaign heavily or debate, he has run for Congress twice before, giving him greater name recognition with some voters.”
In 2010 a Michael A. Monroe ran as a Republican for the Congressional District 1 seat and picked up less than 2 percent of the vote. In 2006 a Michael “Ace” Monroe ran for the same seat and got just more than 10 percent of the vote.
That district is entirely within Clark County. How did his name get so much recognition in all those rural counties?
A White Pine County source said he was told that a number of Democrats switched to Republican registration just before the primary.
But why? With Horsford’s huge Democrat base in Clark County, neither Hardy or Innis had much of a chance. Could it have been a demented Operation Chaos affair — like when Rush Limbaugh encouraged Republicans to register as Democrats and vote for Hillary Clinton just to keep her in the running longer so she and Obama could inflict further damage on each other during the primary?
Tracked down by a newspaper reporter, Monroe was going about his handyman’s job and repairing a water heater.
Monroe couldn’t explain why he got so many votes. “I get around,” Monroe told the reporter. “Niger Innis is a carpetbagger. … I was born here. This is my state.”
But Innis said, “We owe it to the people of Nevada, to the voters in CD4 that supported either Cresent or myself, to take a good, hard look at these results. I know how hard we worked on this campaign and I have a pretty good idea of how hard Cresent worked on this race. To have a candidate receive 22 per cent of the vote when he did no campaigning at all — no signs, no mail, no grassroots, no walk teams, no phone banks, no advertising, no social media, basically nothing at all — raises major questions.”
Or is this what happens when less than 20 percent of the state’s voters bother to go to the polls? Actually, in White Pine County approximately 40 percent of registered Republicans voted and 33 percent of Esmeralda Republicans turned out — yet Monroe won both.
Nevadans have made some odd election picks before, but this is most curious. Be careful who you cast a protest vote for, because you might have to live with him as your congressman for two years.
Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may share your views with him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Read additional musings on his blog at http://4thst8.wordpress.com/.