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C-SPAN video of the Oct. 4 debate (RealVideo required)

Nevada Senate

Filing Deadline: May 18
Primary: Sept. 1
Primary Results

Nov. 4, 1998 — Democratic Sen. Harry M. Reid held off a tough challenge by Republican Rep. John Ensign to win a third term in the Senate. The Associated Press did not declare a winner in the race until early this afternoon.

Issues: The candidates met in an Oct. 19 radio debate, in which Reid slammed Ensign for changing his position on Social Security and called his legislation on work for federal prisoners unnecessary. Ensign said he wants to keep lawmakers from balancing the budget with Social Security funds.

Ensign introduced a protection plan for managed care patients in June that he said was agreeable to HMOs. Reid noted that Ensign led the House in accepting PAC donations from HMOs. Reid, on the other hand, ranked third among his Senate colleagues who take money from the managed health care industry.

Reid focused on local concerns, including the nuclear waste disposal site at Yucca Mountain. Both candidates opposed the interim site, which could operate for as long as 20 years before the permanent location is finished.

In addition, Nevada's powerful gaming industry was torn between Reid, a former Nevada Gaming Commission chairman, and Ensign, who once worked as a casino manager.

Fund-Raising: Reid started the campaign with more money than Ensign, but they ended up with similar-sized war chests. According to mid-October reports from the Federal Election Commission, Reid amassed about $4.4 million and had about $270,000 in cash on hand. Ensign raised about $3 million and reported about $360,000 in cash on hand.

Polls: A poll conducted in late October by Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research showed Reid and Ensign locked in a statistical dead heat among likely voters. Reid got 47 percent to Ensign's 45 percent, with a 3.5 percent margin of error. Eight percent of respondents said they were undecided.

Advertising: As the race tightened, both candidates backed away from negative ads. Ensign's latest spot focused on his veterinary experience and quoted praise from Time magazine and Democratic Gov. Bob Miller. An earlier Ensign ad touting his crime bill infuriated several minority groups, who said it unfairly depicted minorities as criminals. Reid's newest ad focused on his fight against nuclear waste in Nevada. Reid and Ensign lobbed negative ads back and forth in early October, focusing more on character than issues.

— Susan Heavey,

Susan Heavey can be reached at

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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