In the 2004 elections, Democratic Sen. Harry Reid is up for a fourth term and Republican Richard Ziser, an anti-gay marriage organizer, is focused on upsetting Reid.
Reid, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, has pledged to continue Nevada's fight against the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository and to protect the environment. He had no Democratic opposition in the primary.
Ziser is the former chairman of the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, which successfully backed an initiative to prohibit the state from recognizing gay marriages. Voters overwhelming approved the constitutional amendment in 2000 and 2002.
Ziser, who raised $1 for every $18 in Reid's hefty $7.8 million campaign fund, was undaunted by the disparity and said he was banking on his conservatism and calls for fiscal restraint to unseat Reid, the second most powerful Democrat in the Senate.
Reid defeated Republican John Ensign in 1998 by only 428 votes after a lengthy recount. Ensign won Nevada's other Senate seat two years later, and Reid began amassing funds to avoid another squeaker in 2004.
Among the state's three U.S. House races, most of the interest has focused on first-term Republican Rep. Jon Porter and his Democratic challenger, former casino executive and multimillionaire Tom Gallagher.
Gallagher defeated a field of five other Democrats for the right to challenge Porter. Democrats are targeting Porter's seat as part of a national strategy to take back control of Congress. Porter was unopposed in the Republican primary.
As for presidential politics, the battle for Nevada's five electoral votes has resulted in an unprecedented number of stops in this battleground state by both Bush and Kerry and their representatives.
The state has also seen major get-out-the-vote efforts by both parties and by groups such as MOveOn.org and America Coming Together.
Although overwhelmingly re-elected to a second term in 2002, Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn is making some enemies after approving an $836 million tax plan. The plan, Nevada's largest tax increase ever, had prompted some suggestions for a recall.
Guinn won 68 percent of the vote in 2002, overwhelming the first black Democratic candidate for Nevada governor, state Sen. Joe Neal, who was snubbed by Democratic leaders.
In the 2002 elections, Republican Jon Porter defeated Democrat Dario Herrera for the state's new 3rd House seat.
An initiative allowing for the possession of up to 3 ounces of marijuana failed in a state where voters previously approved medical marijuana and reduced possession penalties. A measure barring gay marriages passed.