A massive field of challengers for Nevada’s 4th Congressional District will be cut down in the state’s June 9 primary election, as incumbent Democrat Steven Horsford looks to defend against challenges from the left and right in his bid for a third, non-consecutive term in a competitive district.
In all, 15 candidates have filed to challenge Horsford, including five Democrats and eight Republicans. The election will decide one challenger from each major party. Both will join Libertarian Jonathan Royce Esteban and Independent American Barry Rubinson as options in the Nov. 3 general election.
The district includes northern Clark County, southern Lyon County and all of Esmeralda, Lincoln, Mineral, Nye and White Pine counties.
With nearly $1.2 million in the bank and majority party backing, Horsford has a clear advantage going into 2020. Most election forecasters rate the race as “likely Democratic.”
But his Republican challengers hope the work they are putting in now, while Horsford is admittedly focused on legislating during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a ticket headed by President Donald Trump will boost the chances of whoever makes it out of a tough primary.
Several Democrats are also actively campaigning against Horsford, who they say is not living up to the progressive values of the local Democratic electorate.
Some uncertainty surrounds this and all 2020 races in Nevada. Social distancing requirements have slowed all the candidates’ campaigning and fundraising efforts, and the primary election’s all-mail format may yet have an impact on turnout.
The incumbent congressman said in an interview that he is concentrating on providing more aid to Nevadans impacted by COVID-19 through legislation and constituent services.
He is also attempting to plan for the massive economic downturn that has already begun to batter the state, likening it to his time after Sept. 11. as head of the Culinary Union Local 226’s training academy and the 2009 recession, which he worked through as majority leader of the Nevada state Senate.
Horsford said he’s been proud of bills that lowered prescription drug costs and the gender pay gap, raised the minimum wage and provided a pathway to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients that have all passed the House.
His primary reason for seeking re-election, he said, was to “serve the community I had the honor of growing up in.”
Horsford brushed off claims from his opponents that he no longer lives or spends enough time in the district, saying he was born and raised in Nevada and is still in daily contact with his constituents despite the pandemic.
“There will be plenty of time after the primary to discuss qualifications and strengths, and we’ll be ready to do that in the fall,” he said. “Right now, I’m squarely focused on delivering for Nevada’s families.”
Former Assemblyman Jim Marchant has raised about $323,000 and supplemented that with a $110,000 personal loan in his bid to be the district’s Republican challenger.
He believes his experience as a businessman and lobbyist during the tech boom in the 1990s and subsequent time as a one-term legislator in the state’s 37th District makes him the most qualified among the Republicans.
“We’ve never really had a true conservative run in this district, so I decided to give it a shot,” Marchant said.
Marchant said Nevada could be at the center of the universe for a variety of different business sectors, including renewable energy, if it had the right leadership.
He called himself a “unapologetic fiscal conservative” looking to cut spending and taxes.
Lisa Song Sutton
She’s raised $337,000, which includes a $35,000 personal donation. Her average individual donation is $27, she said. She also has far more cash on hand than any other Republican challenger when debts are factored in.
“We can not keep propping up the same types of candidates — keep supporting massive self-funders,” she said. “It shows they are not able to get widespread support.”
Sutton, a millennial daughter of a Korean immigrant and owner of several local businesses, said she is capable of a appealing to a far larger and more diverse group of potential supporters than any of the other Republican challengers.
“2020 is the year private-sector individuals like myself come off the sidelines and get directly involved to really stand up for our communities,” Sutton said.
Republican Sam Peters spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, retiring as a major after earning a Bronze Star during four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has since opened a family insurance agency in Las Vegas.
“Service to this country is something I’ve been doing for a long, long time,” Peters said.
Peters has set out to make it clear he is the Republican primary candidate who most closely aligns with Trump, particularly on immigration.
During his service, he trained K-9 units for drug detection on the U.S.-Mexican border, where he said a wall and increased resources are needed. He quickly tweeted his support this week for a possible executive order banning immigration during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Peters, who has two young children and a third daughter working as a registered nurse, said rebuilding the post-pandemic economy, tightening the federal budget and protecting the Second Amendment are also major priorities.
He has spent more than a year crisscrossing the district and actively campaigning. His campaign has raised about $170,000, and he’s loaned it about $84,000.
Nye County Commissioner Leo Blundo, a Republican, believes being the only challenger currently holding office should speak to his electability. He’s accessible to his constituents around the clock, he said, and would be a stark contrast to Horsford.
“Maybe it’s easier for him to live in Virginia, but I’m a Nevadan,” Blundo said. “I want to represent the values we have here in Nevada.”
Blundo said he has no ties to any special interests and is not afraid to stand up to anyone in politics. If elected, he wants to protect the Second Amendment and see legal immigration enforced, noting that his family left the country when his mother’s visa expired and returned once she gained legal status.
He believes that a combination of local elected experience, a business background and common sense would make him a strong representative in Congress.
Blundo has raised about $52,000 and spent about $43,000 of it. He is not worried about a fundraising disadvantage, saying he was elected the county commission in 2018 despite being outraised four to one.
Republican Randi Reed wears many hats, working in construction and development while also running a small business with her husband, parenting an 8-year-old and sitting on the board of directors for four local charities.
She said she decided to run once she realized the makeup of the House did not represent her or anyone she had ever met.
“You need someone with very conservative values but who understands people,” Reed said. “None of my competitors has a blue-collar background, and this district has a lot of union workers.”
In addition to the economy, Reed is focused on lowering health care costs while maintaining access, she said. She has a compromised immune system from a pre-existing condition, but she also struggles to afford insurance costs for her employees. She believes a balance can be struck between coverage and cost.
She has raised about $160,000 so far through mostly small-dollar donations, but she added that she is no longer actively asking for money due to financial strains put on Nevadans by COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
Charles Navarro knows the district well, having served as former Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy’s deputy district director. He believes his direct experience in federal process is a key advantage over his Republican opponents.
Navarro is also a U.S. Navy veteran, having served more than 13 years in Washington and Guantanamo Bay. He he previously helped run Hope for Prisoners, a faith-based organization helping the recently incarcerated rejoin society.
“Service is something that has always been deep in my heart,” Navarro said.
He believes the large chunks of rural Nevada within the district have not had their needs met under Democratic leadership, saying that many lack basic health care and public safety amenities. A cancer survivor, health care access is a major issue for Navarro.
“You should not have to drive 100 miles for service,” he said, adding that the few doctors and nurse practitioners in the area can only offer limited services even if someone makes the drive.
Republican small business owner Rebecca Wood said the experience of raising children and grandchildren, as well as employing workers, during her 35 years in Nevada give her a sense of community necessary to represent the district. She believes this longevity makes her unique among the candidates.
“My roots are deep,” she said. “I’ve seen the valley, Las Vegas and the rurals weather so many storms and grow.”
The daughter and wife of veterans, she believes those who served need more access to services, particularly in mental health due to high suicide rates. She is also pushing for more health care access and Second Amendment protections
Wood has raised about $5,300 and loaned herself $5,800. She is not actively fundraising, calling it wasteful, and adding that it shows she “cares about a budget.”
Rosalie Bingham, a Republican, described herself as an entrepreneur focused on curbing waste and environmental issues while also turning a profit.
She said she’s focused on practical solutions that don’t toe a party line, including community mentoring for those on public assistance, a secondary currency based on gold or land and establishing meritocracy principals in the United States.
Bingham is self-funding and attempting to document all her costs and public interactions while campaigning.
Gabrielle “Brie” D’Ayr is one of several Democrats challenging Horsford in the primary. The U.S. Navy veteran is active in local Democratic politics as a lobbyist, member of various groups including Democratic Socialists of America and vice-chair of the Clark County Democratic Party.
D’Ayr feels that Horsford is no longer moving the will of his constituents forward in lieu of supporting his own agenda.
She cited health care as an example. Nevada Democrats consistently cite universal health care as the top issue for the party, she said. It’s part of the Clark County party’s platform. Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose signature platform is Medicare for All, won a clear victory in the state’s presidential caucuses.
“In 2018, Horsford said he’d look at universal health care,” she said. “And he stopped looking once he got elected. His job is to represent everyone in CD-4 and legislate in their best interests.”
D’Ayr is also campaigning for economic development and education in rural communities, protection of public lands and an increase in infrastructure and renewable energy projects.
Democrat Jennifer Eason is attempting to mount a true progressive challenge from Horsford’s left, calling not just for Medicare for All but also Green New Deal legislation, extensive prison reforms and reducing the wealth gap.
She said if elected, she would quickly ally herself with congressional progressives like New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Eason said she is also running to improve the quality of mental health care in the United States, having struggled through the system while trying to get her son necessary help and care.
Eason has only recently begun fundraising and has “less than $500” in her account, she said. She accused Horsford of being absent from his district and in the pocket of corporate donors and casino operators.
“When I drive down (Martin Luther King Boulevard), why does the property look like that?” she said. “Why do schools look like that, but everything in Summerlin looks great?”
Democrat Gregory Kempton said teaching in North Las Vegas motivated his decision to run. He believes there are significant inequities within the education, immigration and health care systems in this country.
“I’m tired of career politicians who don’t work for us,” Kempton said.
The federal government must reform how it funds education, particularly for Title I and Title III schools (those for disadvantaged students and those learning English), he said, while also reining in out-of-control testing demands pushed by companies.
Kempton said he’s witnessed students in East Las Vegas traumatized by what’s happening to their parents over immigration.
“If you’re someone from Central America who wants to the U.S. for a better life, you should not be put on a waiting list for three years,” he said.
Kempton has a section for collecting donations on his website, but neither the state nor the federal government have any fundraising files for him.
Two other Democrats, Christopher Colley and George Brucato, have filed to run against Horsford but did not respond to requests for an interview.