CARSON CITY - Samuel Koepnick is a politically unknown 31-year-old Internet technician for the state Division of Water Resources who decided to run for the 2nd Congressional District seat in Northern Nevada.
Koepnick spent $17 in his primary election campaign, which relied on using Facebook and other social media and help from his friends. On Tuesday he beat two other relatively unknown opponents, Sam Dehne and Xiomara Rodriquez and became the Democratic candidate for the congressional seat in Northern Nevada held by Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.
"The results are nothing short of astonishing," Koepnick said after beating Rodriguez by 7 percentage points and Dehne by 14 percentage points.
But Koepnick quickly added that it would be nothing short of a miracle for him to beat Amodei in November's general election. A Democrat never has won the seat since it was created in 1982. There are 31,400 more active registered Republicans in the district than Democrats. After redistricting last fall, the district's boundaries were redrawn, so it includes the northern half of the state and no longer includes any part of Clark County.
"I have no false impressions; this is a heavily red district," he said. "I think I can make Amodei work for it. I doubt I get any help from the DNCC," the Democrat National Congressional Committee.
State Democratic Party leaders refused to comment on whether they will provide financial support to Koepnick's campaign. But a source familiar with the party said it would be foolish to back an unknown in a race he cannot win.
During the special election for the 2nd Congressional District race last September, state Treasurer Kate Marshall was heavily supported by the Democratic party. But she lost by 22 percentage points to Amodei.
Fred Lokken, a political science professor at Truckee Meadows Community College, said the 2nd District is so overwhelmingly Republican that it makes no sense for Democrats to waste any time or money on the race.
"The only way that he can win is if something bad happens to Amodei," he added.
Koepnick attributed his primary victory to being the most centrist candidate. Both Dehne and Rodriguez have lost previous campaigns. Rodriguez campaigned on a liberal platform, and Dehne is known mainly for showing up at Reno City Council meetings to protest against the establishment, sing and play the guitar.
Koepnick doesn't intend to attack Amodei during the campaign but will criticize him on his votes.
"I don't think he is as corrupt and nasty as some people think,'' Koepnick said. "He is somewhat tolerable."
Amodei has nothing to say about his Democratic opponent at this time.
"On primary day - his (54th) birthday - Mark voted at 7 a.m. and headed out in his pickup truck on I-80 to meet with constituents in Lovelock, Winnemucca, Battle Mountain, Elko and Wendover," said Amodei press secretary Brian Baluta. "He's focused on doing his job and finding solutions that work for Nevadans."
Two other candidates, Russell Best of the Independent American Party and Michael L. Haines, an independent, also will be on the Nevada ballot.