Delivering a political star power boost, Vice President Joe Biden is coming to Las Vegas next week for an NAACP conference and to rally support for Erin Bilbray, the Democratic opponent of U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev.
Biden will speak at the NAACP conference at 11 a.m. July 23 at Mandalay Bay, an organization spokesman told the Review-Journal on Tuesday. The conference starts Saturday and ends the day he speaks.
The Bilbray rally will be held that same Wednesday, around midday. The invitation-only event will be held at Kona Ice, a shaved ice company with at least four trucks that roam in Las Vegas, Henderson and Pahrump. The flavored-ice company is known for raising money for local schools, sports leagues and other groups, according to news reports.
“We’ll have a few key people to greet him and take photos with him,” said Erica Prosser, Bilbray’s campaign manager.
The outspoken Biden is a popular draw, especially among progressive members of the Democratic Party, which outnumbers the Republican Party in Nevada by nearly 64,000 active voters statewide.
Heck, who’s running for a third two-year term from the 3rd Congressional District, is seen as the front-runner, however. The district, which leans slightly Democratic, covers rural parts of Clark County as well as Henderson and Boulder City.
In Heck’s most recent quarterly fundraising report, ending June 30, he raised $387,000, his campaign said. Heck also had $1.46 million cash on hand, a big advantage over Bilbray. He has raised a total of $1.86 million this election cycle so far.
Bilbray raised just under $225,000 during the latest quarter and has about $500,000 cash on hand, her campaign said.
Another high-profile Democrat, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, also is coming to Las Vegas next week to speak to the NAACP and to support the state party and Bilbray.
Wasserman will be at the Nevada Democratic Party headquarters in Las Vegas on Monday. The next day, she’ll help Bilbray launch a “Women for Bilbray” effort, a private event at the Eglet law firm.
Until now, Bilbray hasn’t received much support from national Democratic organizations, which haven’t reserved TV air time in Nevada for the contender as they have for other Democrats in close congressional races, for example. Still, Bilbray is backed by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., whose campaign team also is giving her advice.
On Tuesday, Bilbray got some more help from two outside organizations, which launched Spanish-language TV and radio ad campaigns against Heck, accusing him of blocking comprehensive immigration reform.
In the 30-second TV spot from the powerful Service Employees International Union, the narrator says, “Republicans again and again insult our community, and blocked immigration reform.” The ads target Heck and six other Republicans.
“And the worst,” the ad continues. “They have voted against our future and our DREAMers. This November, we must go to the polls and vote against Republicans.”
The U.S. Senate passed an immigration bill a year ago, but House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has refused to bring up immigration bills for a vote. Heck has privately and publicly expressed frustration at the impasse. He has said he supports reform, including shoring up the porous U.S.-Mexico border and offering 11 million immigrants in the country illegally a pathway to U.S. citizenship one day if they comply with the law and pay back taxes and fees.
Heck also has said he supports giving young immigrants, or DREAMers, who grew up in the United States after being brought here illegally by their families protection against deportation if they graduate from college or serve honorably in the U.S. military. He has voted in opposition, however, of President Barack Obama using his executive power to protect DREAMers instead of working with Congress.
“Joe Heck’s position on immigration reform has been clear and consistent,” said Ryan Erwin, an adviser to Heck’s campaign. “Third-party attacks on the issue have a lot more to do with individual special interests and partisanship than actual reform. I think voters will see it for what it is.”
The Alliance for Citizenship, the second outside group, began running two Spanish-language radio ads against Heck as well. One of the ads has a dramatic opening, beginning with the sound of immigration officials pounding on an immigrant’s door and the sounds of the door breaking, children crying and people trying to hide.
“Families are being torn apart every day in the community,” the ad says. “This year, Representative Joe Heck turned his back on us, teaming up with John Boehner and Republicans in Congress to block a vote for immigration reform.”
The radio ad urges people to call Heck’s office “and tell him we won’t forget that he turned (his) back on our families.”
On the campaign trail, Bilbray has emphasized immigration as well as Nevada’s Latino voters have become a powerful force at the ballot box. The 3rd Congressional District is 15.4 percent Hispanic.
“It’s an issue that’s very real in this district,” said Bilbray campaign manager Prosser. “So we’re happy to see others are getting the word out about where Heck stands on this issue and what he’s done and what he hasn’t done.”
Contact Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387’-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj.