Nevada: Who hates nuclear waste most?

  • John Ensign (L) and Bob Coffin

    Jeff Scheid/Las Vegas Review Journal

Nevada's two congressional districts seem a lot like Mutt and Jeff: Covering two-tenths of 1 percent of the state's land mass but containing half its population, the 1st Congressional District encompasses Las Vegas. The other 99.8 percent of the state is the 2nd Congressional District.

In a tight race for the Las Vegas seat are incumbent Rep. John Ensign, R, and Sen. Bob Coffin, D. Ensign went to bat for gambling and development interests during his last term and now has a hefty $1.3 million in the bank to show for it. Coffin has widespread support from labor, recently receiving money from the AFL-CIO.

The Sierra Club has also endorsed Coffin, based as much on Ensign's environmental record as on Coffin's pledges to be green. The vastly unpopular Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository, which may some day house the lion's share of the country's nuclear waste, is a hot campaign issue in both the 1st and 2nd Districts. Each candidate claims to be the strongest opponent to the site.

The rural 2nd District seat has gone Republican for the past 14 years. A recent television poll has Democrat Thomas "Spike" Wilson trailing Republican James Gibbons by five points.

The state Legislature is split between a Republican-dominated Senate and a Democratic House, which made it hard to get things done last session. Many frustrated legislators have decided not to run for re-election, throwing open almost a quarter of the seats, says Jan Gilbert of the Nevada Progressive Coalition.

On the ballot: U.S. SENATE. one. U.S. HOUSE: 1st District - John Eric Ensign (R-incumb.) vs. Bob Coffin (D); 2nd District - James Gibbons (R) vs. Thomas "Spike" Wilson (D).

Patrick Dowd is an HCN intern

This article is part of a feature package - about the 1996 election - that includes these other articles:

- Greens prune their message to win the West's voters

- Colorado: Environment wielded like a hammer in tight Senate race

- Utah: A liberal wilderness lover may prevail

- Montana: A scrappy Republican tries to cut down a green Democrat

- California: A 28-year-old talks the talk to green voters

- Montana: For veteran Baucus, it seems to be in the bag

- Washington: Greens storm the suburbs

- Arizona: Harvesting a bumper crop of bombast

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