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Plenty of challengers flock to Nevada’s congressional races

Updated March 17, 2020 - 1:06 pm

All four of Nevada’s incumbent members of Congress have drawn at least a half-dozen opponents each, although only two are running in competitive swing seats.

Voter registration and uninterrupted incumbency continue to heavily favor Rep. Dina Titus in Las Vegas’ 1st Congressional District and Rep. Mark Amodei in Northern Nevada’s 2nd. But Rep. Susie Lee’s Las Vegas seat and Rep. Steven Horsford’s 4th Congressional District, which stretches from North Las Vegas to rural Nevada, have both changed party hands in recent years.

3rd District

Lee defeated Republican Danny Tarkanian in 2018 to capture a district that narrowly favored President Donald Trump in 2016. The 3rd District encompasses southern Clark County, including Henderson and Boulder City.

She has far outraised her challengers, pulling in more than $2 million in 2019, en route to her first campaign during a presidential year.

Voter registration favors a Democrat, but narrowly: 167,500 Democrats to 154,081 Republicans as of February. Some 134,000 voters are registered as either nonpartisan or with a third party.

In response to an interview inquiry, Lee’s campaign manager Tess Seger said Lee was tied up working with Congress this week on COVID-19 crisis relief.

Seger said Lee has worked hard to deliver on lowering prescription drug costs, increasing school funding and lowering child care costs.

“(Lee) knows that this is going to be the most competitive race in Nevada,” Seger said. “However, when it comes to fighting for Nevada’s 3rd District, Susie also knows that she will outwork and out-deliver every candidate in this race.”

Lee’s two most serious challengers appear to be Republicans “Big Dan” Rodimer, a small-business owner and former WWE professional wrestler, and Dan Schwartz, former Nevada treasurer and a businessman and U.S. Army veteran.

“I have five kids and a sixth on the way, and I am worried about the future of my children and all children here in Nevada,” Rodimer said in an interview this week.

Education and continued deregulation of the economy are key issues for Rodimer, who owns a small business in Summerlin. He raised about $500,000 in 2019, including $165,000 in personal loans to his campaign that have yet to be paid back as of Dec. 31. He has about $300,000 left to spend.

He is an ardent Trump supporter and said the president’s immediate family asked him to run. Although the national parties officially stay out of most primaries, he is listed as a “contender” in the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” program.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsed Rodimer earlier this week.

Rodimer criticized Lee for, in his estimation, failing to work with the president despite campaign promises to do so.

He also criticized

Schwartz said his internal polling shows him well ahead of Rodimer, so he’s focused on Lee.

“She does not represent this district,” Schwartz said. “She voted for impeachment and the Green New Deal. She’s done nothing on immigration and education. (She) has only passed some unimportant bills.”

The House has not voted on the legislation commonly referred to as the Green New Deal, and Lee has stated that she supports and opposes different parts of the bill.

Schwartz has raised about $565,000, but nearly $430,000 of that has come through personal loans that have yet to be paid back as of Dec. 31. He has about $447,000 left on hand.

Only Schwartz and Rodimer have filed financial reports according to federal records, but four other Republicans registered this week as challengers: Brian Nadell, Corwin “Cory” Newberry, Mindy Robinson and Victor R. Willert.

Two Democrats, Tiffany Ann Watson and Dennis Sullivan, filed to challenge Lee, with Libertarian Steve Brown, Independent American Ed S. Bridges II and unaffiliated candidate Gary Crispin.

4th District

Horsford first captured the 4th District seat in 2012 before losing it in 2014 and recovering it in 2018. The district covers northern Clark and southern Lyon counties, and White Pine, Nye, Mineral, Esmeralda and Lincoln counties.

The demographics appear well in his favor, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans by almost 40,000.

Like Lee, he has outraised his opponents by quite a bit, with about $1.5 million gained in 2019.

Horsford’s campaign said he was unable to be interviewed for this story because of his work in Congress on COVID-19 response aid.

Three of Horsford’s Republican challengers have amassed six-digit campaign funds and spent at least the past several months campaigning: Businesswoman and former Miss Nevada United States Lisa Song Sutton, businessman and U.S. Air Force veteran Sam Peters and businessman and former Nevada Assemblyman Jim Marchant.

Sutton said she has averaged 2,000 driving miles a month campaigning across the district to “inspire people like myself to get off the sidelines and get engaged,” including her fellow GOP women, young people and small-business owners. She’s focused on bringing greater economic opportunity and veterans support to the district.

“I am the only candidate in this (Republican primary) who is bringing new people and excitement to this race,” said Sutton, who added her average donation in the fourth quarter of 2019 was $27.

Sutton has raised a little more than $250,000, with almost all coming from individual donations, apart from a $35,000 self-donation.

She said that, as other campaigns have slowed due to COVID-19 fears nixing traditional political work such as knocking on doors and hosting town halls, she’s prepared to run a digitally focused operation through tools like Facebook Live, Google Hangouts and Zoom.

Peters, who earned a Bronze Star during four deployments to Afghanistan in a 20-year military career, said he has reached out to more voters than any other 4th District candidate, including Horsford, by holding more town halls throughout the district in the last year than all of them combined.

His focus is on immigration, saying he fought for this country to defend it against socialism and open borders.

Peters, who runs his own insurance agency, said he is a defender of the Second Amendment who fought openly against Nevada’s red flag law, which allows for the confiscation of guns from anyone accused of domestic violence.

He railed against Horsford and the Democratic-controlled House’s handling of the budget, while adding that Nevada could take advantage of significant economic opportunities on its public lands.

Peters has raised about $283,000, with nearly $158,000 coming from personal loans — about half of which his campaign has paid back as of Dec. 31.

Like Peters, Marchant opposes the state’s red flag law and called for tighter border security. He believes there is a compromise to be had that allows undocumented immigrants to stay in America through visas, but they must “get in line” for legal status.

Marchant said his platform has grown to mirror Trump’s in almost all ways, adding that Congress needs more members who “put America first.” He praised the GOP tax code overhaul and said he would like to see something similar to deal specifically with the needs of small business.

Marchant considers himself the front-runner to challenge Horsford, as he’s the only serious challenger to have held elected office. He won election to the Assembly’s 37th District in 2016 but lost his re-election bid to Democrat Shea Backus in 2018 by fewer than 200 votes.

He has been backed by incoming House Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona. Marchant also said that he has raised the most money with over $333,000 in 2019, but about $110,000 of that has come through personal loans that were not paid back as of Dec. 31.

Three other Republicans have been somewhat active fundraisers: Leo Blundo, Randi Reed and Charles Navarro.

Republicans Rosalie Bingham and Rebecca Wood have also filed for the race.

Four Democrats have filed to challenge Horsford in the primary: George J. Brucato, Christopher Colley, Jennifer Eason and Gregory Kempton.

Jonathan Esteban has filed as a Libertarian, and Barry Rubinson is running as an Independent American.

2nd District

Amodei faces two Democratic challengers who appear to be actively fundraising: Clint Koble, who lost to Amodei by 17 points in 2018, and Patricia Ackerman.

Five other Democrats have filed in the northern Nevada district: Ed Cohen, Reynaldo Hernandez, Ian Luetkehans, Steve Schiffman and Rick Shepherd.

Joel Paul Beck is also challenging Amodei in the Republican primary, while Janine Hansen is running as an Independent American and Richard Dunn III as a nonpartisan.

1st District

None of the challengers in Titus’ heavily Democratic 1st District, which encompasses most of Las Vegas and a chunk of unincorporated Clark County, appear to have begun fundraising, according to federal records.

Four Republicans filed for the race: Joyce Bentley, who Titus beat by more than 30 percentage points in 2018, Josh Elliott, Eddie Hamilton and Citlaly Larios-Elias.

Democrats Allen Rheinhart and Anthony Thomas Jr. have also filed, as has Independent American Kamau Bakari, Libertarian Robert Van Strawder Jr. and nonpartisan Joseph Maridon Jr.

Contact Rory Appleton at RAppleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0276. Follow @RoryDoesPhonics on Twitter.

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