While many residents of White Pine County might have followed the local races in last weeks primary election, there was one race that has some county voters scratching their heads.
On the Republican side of the ticket for Congress seat, District Four, many expected it to be a tight race between Crescent Hardy and Niger Innis. Both had campaigned hard, planted signs and visited the county on multiple occasions. Yet when the results were released, relative unknown Mike Monroe beat out both in White Pine County.
Monroe finished with 259 votes, or 32.95 percent in the county, narrowly beating Innis’ 256, 32.57 percent and Hardy’s 249, 31.68 percent.
While upsets are not unusual during the primary election season, Monroe’s victory in both White Pine and Esmeralda counties had some voters wondering who this Mike Monroe even was.
“I’ve never even heard of him. I asked everyone I know and I can’t even find anyone that voted for him,” said Michael Kneese, an active Republican party member, of Monroe’s unexpected vote total in White Pine County.
It might have something to do with the fact that Monroe never even campaigned. According to an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Monroe said he never had much time to campaign because he maintained a regular job in the Las Vegas area as a handyman and a construction worker.
Monroe finished in third place in the race, behind Hardy, who won the race with 42.6 percent of the votes, and Innis, who
finished second with 33.1 percent. Despite his loss, and never even participating in a debate with the other two candidates, Monroe still finished with 22.1 percent of the votes, a substantial number. In his interview with the Review-Journal, Monroe claimed that it could’ve been due to some name recognition, since he had run for Nevada congressional positions twice before.
In 2006, Monroe finished in last place between in a field of three candidates with just over 10 percent of the vote and in 2010 he only received 1.7 percent in a field of eight possible party elects. While name recognition might have had some effect, conservative writer Chuck Muth chalked up the dramatic increase in votes to constituents being unhappy with either front runners.
“Those folks weren’t voting for Monroe,” Muth said. “They were voting against both Hardy and Innis. And since there was no ‘none of the above’ option on the ballot, the Monroe vote was a ‘pox on both your houses’ vote, not a vote for an unknown candidate.”
Innis’ camp thinks something else might be afoot. Unhappy that Monroe had “siphoned” off a significant amount of votes in the race, Innis released a statement claiming an investigation should look into whether Monroe’s unexpectedly high number of votes had been the result of a “glitch” in the voting computers, though there has not been any evidence brought forth yet to suggest this.
For a candidate running for Congress, Monroe is not particularly easy to reach. In fact, a Google search for Monroe reveals no campaign website or even confirmed photographs of what he looks like. Even the one phone number he provided to the Nevada Secretary of State’s Elections office when he filed only rings once before falling silent.
The mystery of Monroe’s two rural Nevada primary wins might not have an immediate answer, but they do illustrate a larger picture about the political mindset of a growing number of rural Nevadans.
In a primary where the most voted for candidate on the Democratic side of the ticket for Governor was “none of these candidates,” nothing is set in stone for general election, especially in counties like White Pine.