Republican Rep. Joe Heck is moving around some pieces in his campaign for re-election amid hints of larger shifts in the race for his seat in Congress.
Keith Hughes, who has been campaign manager since March, is moving back to Heck’s district office Tuesday and will resume his old duties as district director. For now, the campaign will forgo the traditional campaign manager role, as it did during the last political cycle, with decision-making resting with Heck, political director Tom McAllister and consultant Ryan Erwin.
Heck said he decided to bring Hughes back to his official office because he runs constituent services.
“If you want to keep your job, you have to do your job,” Heck said of the importance of casework.
Heck said Hughes “got our campaign going,” hiring the staff and organizing the campaign office but was no longer needed day to day.
Heck scoffed at the notion there might be other messages in the move. Still, it comes at a time when there are signs both parties might be re-examining the race between Heck and Democratic challenger Erin Bilbray that initially was envisioned as a marquee matchup in the battleground 3rd Congressional District.
The only poll numbers made public so far came from Bilbray’s campaign in May, in a presentation to potential donors.
A polling memo showed Heck with a 39 percent to 31 percent lead but it also presented a case that Bilbray could make the race closer and even winnable with enough money.
Neither Republican nor Democratic party organizations have reserved airtime in the Las Vegas market for commercials in the fall, although both say that could change. And after a fast Bilbray fundraising start, Heck holds a million-dollar bank advantage over the challenger.
The deadline to gather the next round of campaign donations is Monday, with the numbers to be made public in mid-July.
Bilbray, who was in Washington two weeks ago to raise money, said she was told the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was not reserving television time for her race because its members did not think it would be difficult or more expensive to do so later since there are no other significant federal races in the state this year. She added the party was investing heavily in her field operation although no numbers were given.
The makeup of the district that includes Henderson, Boulder City, Laughlin and rural Clark County south to Arizona and west to California almost guarantees a competitive race. As of the end of May, registered Democrats held a slim lead in registered voters with 119,227 to 115,305 Republicans. There are 59,117 independent voters.
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., a Bilbray mentor, said she will win “if she can get the proper resources.”
“It’s always a big ‘if,’ ” Reid added. “The House races, there’s a lot of competition for those dollars.”
— Steve Tetreault and Laura Myers
IMMIGRATION ELECTION PAIN
A poll memo released last week by an immigration advocacy group might contain a bit of strategy advice for Bilbray and a warning message to Heck.
The survey, which was commissioned by FWD.us, talked with likely voters across 10 Republican-held districts that are considered battlegrounds in this year’s elections and that are home to a substantial number of Latinos and Asians. One was Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District.
The poll showed that the perception of Republican leaders as opposing immigration reform is so strong that GOP incumbents in those districts could be at risk of losing a six- to nine-percentage-point vote share among Asians, Hispanics and independents if campaign attacks link them to their leaders, no matter what their individual position might be on the topic, according to pollster Jefrey Pollock.
“We tested immigration the way it might be used in a political campaign,” said Pollock, president of Global Strategy Group.
Even if a congressman supported reform, “it doesn’t matter,” Pollock said. He said the poll “showed Republican incumbents are vulnerable to being lumped into their leadership if they stand by and do nothing to pressure leadership” on immigration.
Heck has worked to inoculate himself on immigration, drafting a reform bill, publicly expressing frustration over the lack of progress and signing a letter to House leaders last year urging them to act on immigration.
Nonetheless, immigration remains an attack point for Bilbray, who it appears is following the playbook suggested by the polling. In a statement Friday she issued her latest challenge linking Heck to GOP leaders: “After a year of excuses, inaction and talking out of both sides of their mouth on immigration reform it is time for Congressman Heck and the Republican leadership to act on immigration reform.”
Heck’s campaign did not comment on the poll.
— Steve Tetreault
SELLING CARS NOW
Doug Hampton, whose disclosures created a scandal that brought down former U.S. Sen. John Ensign of Nevada in 2011, has returned to Las Vegas and is selling cars at United Nissan.
He declined to comment for this piece.
Amid all the accusations of wrongdoing by various players in the senatorial scandal, Hampton, Ensign’s close friend and former chief of staff, was the only person who was charged and convicted of a crime. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of ignoring a one-year cooling-off period and lobbying his ex-boss.
He was placed on one-year’s probation, which has ended.
In June 2009, it became public that the senator and Hampton’s wife had a three-month affair in 2008. Despite that, Ensign hung on to his job until 2011, resigning just before a scathing Senate Ethics Committee report made it clear that Ensign was involved in trying to find work for Hampton after the senator’s affair with Cindy Hampton.
By resigning, Ensign avoided discipline by the Senate Ethics Committee, which recommended the Justice Department investigate him. Despite asking his parents to pay money to the Hamptons, however, Ensign never was charged with anything.
The Hamptons are now divorced. The Ensigns remain together, and he has returned to a veterinarian practice in Boca Park.
Wonder what would happen if the two men ever accidentally bumped into each other?
— Jane Ann Morrison
Two candidates who trailed badly in the Democratic primary contest for governor June 10 have alleged that there were improprieties in the race but have opted not to pursue a recount.
In a race that saw “none of these candidates” win over eight Democratic candidates with nearly 30 percent of the vote, candidates Stephen Frye and Frederick Conquest had sought a recount of votes cast in some of the precincts.
Candidate Bob Goodman, who received nearly 25 percent of the vote, is the winner of the primary and will appear on the ballot opposite GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval in the Nov. 4 general election.
Sandoval, who received nearly 90 percent of the vote in the GOP primary, is expected to trounce his opponents.
In an email to Secretary of State Ross Miller, the two losing candidates, along with candidate Allen Rheinhart, alleged that electronic voting machines at some locations “were hacked or tampered with and the vote records changed, by person or persons unknown.”
They also alleged that there were 35,000 to 40,000 missing votes and that the probability of “none of these candidates” winning more than 16 percent of the vote was zero.
“For Robert Goodman to get 25 percent of the vote and Abdul Shabazz to get over 3 percent of the vote, with no campaigning at all is beyond any possibility given the results from all 17 county results and for Robert Goodman to win 16 counties is well over 3 million to 1 in probability,” they said in the email.
But both Conquest and Frye withdrew their requests when informed that they would have to deposit more than $8,000 each to cover the cost of the recounts, the secretary of state’s office said Friday.
The candidates made a number of other allegations about Goodman, including that he did not list a proper residence in Las Vegas and that he had “vanished” in Manila in the Philippines.
They also hinted that Goodman might withdraw as a candidate.
In an interview with the Review-Journal a few days after his primary win, Goodman gave no hint that he would drop out of the race.
He spoke by phone from the Philippines, where he was pursuing investment and job creation opportunities for Nevada.
Goodman served as director of economic development under former Gov. Mike O’Callaghan in the 1970s.
“I intend to win,” said the 79-year-old. “I may be second to none-of-the-above, but I’m on the ballot.”
For Goodman to be removed from the general election ballot, he would have had to have died or been found mentally incompetent by this past Friday at 5 p.m. Otherwise, his name will remain on the ballot.
— Sean Whaley
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @STetreaultDC. Contact Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj. Contact Jane Ann Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0275. Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at email@example.com or 775-687-3900. Follow him on Twitter @seanw801.