Sandoval's team played a central role in Hutchison's operation, and Reid hasn't shied away from his support for Flores. Reid held a fundraiser for Flores in D.C. in May, and his 2010 campaign manager, Brandon Hall, is serving as her media strategist.
"Senator Reid supports her in any way he can, just as he supports Nevada Democrats in any way he can," said Kristen Orthman, Reid's national press secretary. "He always supported Lucy when she ran for assembly, just as he does now. She's a pretty inspiring leader."
Apart from any near-term Senate intrigue, though, the lieutenant governor race is emblematic of broader efforts by Sandoval and Reid to reshape their state parties — and their status relative to each other. Reid and longtime political aide Rebecca Lambe are known for the Democratic victories they've engineered in Nevada over the past decade, and this contest will offer a test of whether Sandoval's newer political operation can prove its mettle despite a state Republican Party once cited as one of the nation's most dysfunctional.
Hutchison is one of several establishment candidates who got Sandoval's backing before Tuesday's legislative and House primaries, part of the governor's continuing effort to reclaim leadership of the state party from conservative activists and Ron Paul acolytes who won control during the 2012 presidential race. Sandoval announced back in February he wouldn't participate in the official GOP endorsement process and instead backed his own picks in the lieutenant governor's race, Nevada's 4th Congressional District primary, and at least three state Senate primaries.
While Sandoval backed Hutchison, the state party threw its endorsement to Lowden, who got less than 40 percent of the Republican primary vote Tuesday.
The governor also hopes to parlay high favorability among the state's growing Hispanic population into support for the entire GOP ticket. So the dynamic between Sandoval and Flores, the other highest-profile Hispanic candidate on Nevada's ballot this year, will be as prominent as that between the Democrat and Hutchison.
"As the leader of our party, Brian Sandoval is focused on raising the resources, supporting strong candidates, and winning elections in the fall. His ability to attract Hispanic voters is a very powerful tool for the entire GOP ticket," said GOP strategist Mike Slanker, who advises both Sandoval and Hutchison.
Sandoval campaign manager Jeremy Hughes said the governor has worked diligently to reach out to the state's Hispanic population, which accounts for one in four Nevada residents and roughly 15 percent of eligible voters. He hired former Univision producer Arlene Rivera in 2013 to serve as director of Hispanic media and has worked to introduce various Republican candidates to Spanish-speaking voters across the state. "We're showing up, which people hadn't done before," said Hughes.