MY COLUMN: The top 10 questions about Nevada's 2014 general election

In case you missed it (and you probably did), the primary season ended.

In case you care (and you should), the general election season has begun. Well, sort of.

As the lucky flee to their SoCal or Tahoe summer escapes and as everyone at home hopes politicians will leave them alone until Labor Day, here are THE 10 questions about the November election, which we need to complete before answering the more important one: Will Harry Reid run for re-election?

1. Will Prince Harry’s machine be enough to hold off King Brian’s ground effort? The apparatus that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid began to construct 10 years ago has matured into the finest campaign operation in Nevada history, and one of the country’s best. It was responsible for sweeping victories in 2008, saved Reid in 2010 and won the state in 2012 for President Obama for the second time, nearly boosting Rep. Shelley Berkley to an upset in the process. It is a combination of brilliant field operations, relentless media assaults and excellent candidate recruitment, all fueled by the fundraising power and “Just Win” persona of the majority leader 3,000 miles East. Prince Harry controls all of the levers, and he is willing to do whatever it takes. The Republicans have a state party machine that is analogous to a UNIVAC that isn’t even plugged in. But the GOP has one of the more popular governors in history and an ever-improving team of operatives who know what Team Reid has done and will try to imitate it. Sandoval also has the advantage of having no viable opponent, which means he can spend his time mimicking what Reid does best: meddling in other races. And, of course, the subtext of it all is a potential preview of a Reid-Sandoval race in 2016 (I still don’t think it will happen, but a pundit can dream.).

2. Can anointments fail? State Sen. Mark Hutchison has it all: He has an unmatched work ethic. He received stellar reviews for his legislative service. He’s smart and an experienced attorney. And, most of all, he has been tapped by Gov. Brian Sandoval to be his understudy should 2016 or 2017 provide some compelling reason for The Man Who Left Jobs Too Much. Hutchison cannot lose, right? Assemblywoman Lucy Flores would beg to differ, as would Team Reid, which has put its energy, money and personnel behind her in a de facto top-of-the-ticket race. Flores was once described to me as a “high-risk, high-reward” candidate, which I think is the perfect shorthand. If anyone could be the fly in Team Hutchoval’s anointment, it is a young, aggressive Latina able to tap into national money, energize a key demographic and eager to debate her opponent. Forget what the conventional wisdom says: She has a chance.

3. Will CD3 become a real race? Make no mistake: None of the political cognoscenti, regardless of party, give Erin Bilbray much of a chance against Rep. Joe Heck. He has a million bucks more than she does in the bank (new disclosures coming). He has navigated immigration reform so far without hitting any shoals. And she has not yet shown much more than a cookie-cutter campaign for a lesser office, almost as if she were running for high school president, not laying a glove on Heck and being ignored by national Democrats who once targeted the district. But: CD3 is still split between the parties. And if she can raise half what Heck does, Bilbray could be competitive, especially if immigration reform fervor and Hobby Lobby hysteria play in her favor.

4. Could The Education Initiative actually pass? I don’t know many people outside of the teacher union corridors or the progressive hangouts who think so. The insider echo chamber has reverberated for months with studies from economists that paint apocalyptic pictures of The Nevada That Time Forgot if the so-called margin tax (so called by foes because The Education Initiative is an appealing name) passes. And most elected Democrats, who took a powder during Session ’13, either are against it or pathetically mute. I’m sure negotiated settlements are being considered by business types who want to fund education but are scared by TEI. But how do the teachers make a deal? And can they use the power of messaging and grass roots to overcome a daunting financial disadvantage? Pity the voter asked to either choose for this very imperfect taxing mechanism or trust an arguably more imperfect Legislature, which is akin to giving someone a choice of being executed by drawing and quartering or flaying.

5. Can the Republicans go three for three in the state Senate? Democrats, who control the state Senate by only one seat, nevertheless should feel pretty confident. Three seats are in play, and the GOP has to win all three of them to take control. All of the districts – the ones held by Minority Leader Michael Roberson,  Justin Jones and Barbara Cegavske – are potentially competitive. So the chances of the GOP running the table would seem slim, and the Democrats have solid candidates in all three races. But: Roberson already has drawn the road map to win in November. And his GOP recruits are, like him, moderate and realize what the key issues are. Becky Harris has yet to show she has what it takes to defeat Jones, who seems much better positioned now as an incumbent than he was two years ago when he won by 300 votes against, arguably, a stronger candidate. But Roberson is a determined fellow, and if he can sweep the three races, Carson City will be a much different place next year.

6. Is Adam Laxalt for real? It has seemed unlikely from the start: A young lawyer no one knows making a bid for a high statewide office, solely based on his last name. No, I’m not talking about Ross Miller for secretary of state eight years ago. I am talking about Adam Laxalt for attorney general this cycle. The difference between Laxalt and his foe, Miller, is that the latter grew up in Nevada and worked here as a prosecutor – he was a bit of a known quantity. Laxalt remains a cipher bolstered by his famous grandfather's (ex-Sen. Paul Laxalt) loyal coterie and the GOP’s desire to stop Miller the Younger before he can run for the position once held by his father (ex-Gov. Bob Miller). It is an off year, and the potential power of those Sandovalian coattails and Sheldon Adelson-earmarked money may help Laxalt. But with questions remaining about his experience and background and no doubt about Miller's political skills, Laxalt remains an underdog.

7. Can Republicans pick up the constitutional office trinkets? With all the Sturm und Drang in the AG and LG races, there hasn’t been much chatter so far about the contests for secretary of state, controller and treasurer. Those slots, which usually are springboards to run for the more high-profile constitutional slots and thus quite important, are all held by Democrats. All are being left vacant because of term limits, and the current occupants are seeking higher office. Treasurer Kate Marshall is the favorite for SOS over state Sen. Barbara Cegavske because of her current perch, but this is no sure thing. Controller Kim Wallin, for the same reason, is the favorite over Dan Schwartz, who ran an anemic campaign for Congress last cycle. The controller’s race pits Assemblyman Andrew Martin, a CPA and obviously qualified, against Regent Ron Knecht, who always thinks he should be recognized as a great savant, no matter what his title says. These races may not seem critical, but they will determine which party has the best bench going into 2016 and beyond.

8. Does the mining industry try to stop the inevitable? It is the forgotten resolution, with all of the attention so far on The Education Initiative: The ballot proposition that would take mining taxation out of the state Constitution. This would seem as easy to figure out as the end of a Buffalo Bills football season outcome. It should be a landslide. The only wild card is whether mining decides to mount a campaign to defeat it. I still think some in the industry want to fight back against what they believe is an unfair and misunderstood idea. But that’s like Jake Gittes trying to figure out what’s going on in Chinatown: Forget it. Right?

9. Which one is Lombardo and which one is Burns? The two candidates for arguably the most important local office in Nevada, Clark County sheriff, are almost indistinguishable, right? Joe Lombardo and Larry Burns are veterans of many decades with Metro, have a top cop’s mien and are well qualified. Yes, one (Lombardo) has the current sheriff and a former one (Bill Young) while the other has the police union and an ex-sheriff (Jerry Keller). Lombardo got the early start and raised seven times has much money as Burns last year, and he has the more experienced campaign team, so he has a slight advantage. But who was the last sheriff’s candidate who won without the police union endorsement?

10. Will Bob Goodman put up a fight? Against “None of the Above,” I mean. That is, will the Democrats do ANYTHING (like what?) to help their gubernatorial nominee, Bob Goodman, who may be a near-octogenarian with no chance but who is, uncomfortably, at the top of their ticket? There’s also a guy named David Lory Vanderbeek in the contest, running as an Independent American Party candidate and determined to make Assemblywoman Michele Fiore look like Madame Curie in comparison. I think Sandoval could get to 70 percent, which would match Gov. Richard Bryan’s victory percentage almost three decades ago.

I forget what Bryan did the next cycle after he posted a number like that.