Bilbray-Kohn leaning to run for Congress after Democratic courtship

Democratic leaders gave Las Vegan Erin Bilbray-Kohn star treatment in Washington this week as they attempt to persuade her to run for Congress.

Following a meeting Wednesday with U.S. Rep. Steve Israel of New York, the head recruiter as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Bilbray-Kohn said she was leaning in favor of running.

“I am weighing toward doing it,” she said, “I just haven’t completely made a decision.” She said she might know in another month or so.

Democrats want Bilbray-Kohn to match against Republican Rep. Joe Heck in the 3rd Congressional District. They want a fresh crack at Heck in the suburban district that President Barack Obama carried over Mitt Romney in November while Heck was winning a second term by beating former Assembly Speaker John Oceguera by 50 percent to 43 percent.

Bilbray-Kohn, 43, is a political consultant and Democratic national committeewoman who founded and directs Emerge Nevada, a nonprofit that trains and supports Democratic women running for public office. Her father is Jim Bilbray, who represented Las Vegas in the House from 1987 until 1994.

A Democratic strategist in Washington said Bilbray-Kohn “is the sort of candidate we would be very interested in.” Party leaders are telling Bilbray-Kohn they consider the district a priority and she would have the money and help she would need to wage a strong race.

Bilbray-Kohn and Democratic recruits from Iowa and Colorado were in Washington this week combining meetings with House leaders with social events surrounding Obama’s second inauguration.

Bilbray-Kohn was a guest at an inauguration luncheon hosted by House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi at the Italian Embassy, where the entertainment reportedly was supplied by Cindy Lauper and John Legend. She also attended a luncheon put on by the women’s fundraising group Emily’s List.

If Bilbray-Kohn decides to run, she will already have gotten a hint of what figures to be a rough and tumble campaign.

Republicans distributed an attack email during the week calling her the “handpicked candidate of Harry Reid,” and accusing her of “hobnobbing with the party elite” while Nevada remains burdened with high unemployment.

“Erin Bilbray is already experiencing the D.C. good life,” Republican spokesman Ian Prior said.

Bilbray-Kohn said she was surprised at the warning shot.

“As long as I can keep a sense of humor I should be OK,” she said.

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