WASHINGTON — Frank Kassela, a Las Vegas professional poker player and business owner, is organizing a campaign for Congress, an adviser confirmed Monday.
Kassela filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Oct. 24 to run as a Democrat in the 3rd Congressional District that consists of Henderson and rural areas of southern Clark County.
His candidacy pits him against political trainer Erin Bilbray in the Democratic primary for the seat held by Republican Rep. Joe Heck.
Kassela was a Republican who changed his party registration on Oct. 22, according to Clark County records. He did so in frustration with GOP stances on social issues and its handling of the government shutdown, according to Washington-based political adviser Angela Kouters.
“He thinks we need more smart, thoughtful citizens to get involved in government,” Kouters said. “If you just have career politicians or people who are so ideologically dug in, we are not governing.”
Kassela, 45, moved to Las Vegas in 2008 and founded Scrubtastic, a company that sells nurses uniforms and hospital scrubs to the medical industry. He lived previously in Tennessee, where he established Mid-American Specialties, a Memphis-based company that distributes promotion products and office supplies. He also served eight years in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Kassela, whose nickname as a card player is “Lights Out,” has two World Series of Poker bracelets, and was declared Player of the Year in 2010. His career earnings exceed $2.4 million.
Campaign records show Kassela has donated $26,750 to candidates from both parties, including Republicans Herman Cain in 2011 ($1,000), Mitt Romney in 2007 ($1,000), 2008 ($1,000) and 2012 ($2,500); and Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2007 ($2,300)
“Welcome to the race! I look forward to seeing you on the trail,” Bilbray said in a Twitter message to Kassela on Monday. She has complained that Heck did not afford her the same courtesy welcome when she declared her candidacy in July.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at email@example.com or 202-783-1760. Follow @STetreaultDC on Twitter