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Harry Reid is creating an empty perch in Washington as he retires from the U.S. Senate.

It’s one that nine Republican and four Democratic candidates are hoping to fill. It’s also a nationally watched Senate race, one of only a few that Republicans hope could join their column after the Democratic minority leader makes his exit.

Big donors are betting on either a former Nevada attorney general or a congressman, depending on their political party. Eleven other candidates with fewer resources are running in the June 14 primary, too. One won the 2010 Republican primary, but lost to Reid in the general election.

Here’s a look at who’s running in the June 14 primaries:


The Democratic candidates are Catherine Cortez Masto, Bobby Mahendra, Allen Rheinhart and Liddo Susan O’Briant.

Cortez Masto, who served two terms as the state’s attorney general, said her record of working with Democrats and Republicans on legislation sets her apart from other candidates.

“They need a voice in Washington who knows what it’s like to work hard, who has a proven record of working with Democrats and Republicans to get things done and solve problems in this state,” Cortez Masto said. Her priorities include comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, growing the economy while also growing the state’s renewable energy portfolio.

As attorney general, she said, she worked with Republicans and Democrats to pass bills that include sex-trafficking legislation that helps victims and has tougher penalties for pimps. She also set up a domestic violence fatality review team to look at cases.

Cortez Masto said Republican opponent U.S. Rep. Joe Heck is “part of the mess” in Washington, adding she differs with him on a variety of issues, such as raising the federal minimum wage. Heck has opposed increasing it, Cortez Masto supports increasing it.

Mahendra touted his independence.

“I haven’t raised a single penny from any special interest groups,” he said.

Overall, Mahendra said, unemployment in Nevada is still a problem. “We need to figure out how to get companies to move to Nevada,” he said.

Other issues are secondary, he said, adding “I think every person in Nevada as well as around the country is frustrated with the government. I think people want the government to live on less.”

O’Briant said she wants to make job training easier for people to access. She said she supports Reid’s work in the Senate.

“I think I’m more or less in line with his thinking and feeling,” she said. “I just think I would be a great candidate to step in and carry on that work.”

In addition to job training, she said her overall goal is to “help people with their issues.”

“For the most part, Harry Reid has done a good job of helping the community and I’d like to just kind of stick to that plan with just a little bit of changes to help welfare people and the elderly,” she added.

Rheinhart identifies with the “Black Lives Matter” movement and touts his support of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton.

“I’m going to keep Bernie honest in this thing,” he said.

His priorities include designating the Ku Klux Klan as a terrorist organization and reparations for African-Americans because of the slavery their ancestors suffered.

Rheinhart’s been campaigning door to door as he doesn’t have the resources of well-funded front-runner Cortez Masto.

“They’ll stop and talk,” he said of the people he’s met. “It’s more of a connection.”


GOP candidates are Sharron Angle, D’Nese Davis, Eddie Hamilton, Joe Heck, Thomas Heck, Robert X. Leeds, Carlo “Mazunga” Poliak, Juston Preble and Bill Tarbell.

For Angle, it’s a second run. She won the Republican primary in 2010, and Reid defeated her in the general election.

A former four-term state assemblywoman, Angle was buoyed by the Tea Party Express in 2010. This time around, she’s facing a well-funded GOP opponent in the primary in Joe Heck.

Angle said she brings consistency to voters who know what they’re getting if they support her. She supports getting rid of Obamacare, the nickname for the Affordable Care Act, and requiring voters to show identification before casting ballots. That’s needed, she said, to “make sure we have fair and honest elections.”

“I’m courageous,” she said. “I don’t back down when the right thing needs to be done.”

Davis said she wants to advocate in Congress for real improvements that help veterans, including permanent reforms and accountability at the Veterans Affairs Department. It’s her first run for office and she’s taken part in biker rides and rallies that benefit veterans.

“You have to go after the top,” she said. “And then you will see a lot of things change.”

Veterans aren’t a powerful special interest, and they need help from elected officials who aren’t looking for personal benefits, she said.

“There’s no money in helping veterans,” she said. “There’s no lobbyists that will say, ‘Here, we’ll give you $2 million if you help.’”

Hamilton is an enthusiastic supporter of billionaire businessman and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. He’s made it a central part of his campaign. Hamilton first filed as a candidate using the nickname “Trumblican,” until the Nevada secretary of state’s office made him remove it as it violates state law prohibiting nicknames with a political view.

“I was heavily inspired by Mr. Trump’s campaign to make America great again,” Hamilton said. “I think we are the new face of the Republican Party in Nevada and across the country.” Hamilton said he’s convinced Trump “knows how to beat ISIS” and will create jobs in the U.S., adding he wants to be his “go-to guy in the Senate.” Hamilton ran unsuccessfully in the GOP primary for governor in 2014 against incumbent Gov. Brian Sandoval and ran for the U.S. Senate in 2012, losing to Dean Heller.

Joe Heck said he has a background with “real world experience” that relates to major issues, including national security, the economy and health care.

A brigadier general in the Army Reserve, Heck is a physician who has worked as an emergency room doctor and health care administrator. He also started a medical training and consulting business.

Now in his third term in the House, Heck points to work he’s done to pass legislation that includes a bill that ensures Nevada gets its fair share of clean renewable energy from Hoover Dam and a bill that allowed an abandoned mine in Henderson on Bureau of Land Management property to be cleaned up and redeveloped through a public-private partnership. Heck said his approach is to find Democratic co-sponsors to legislation and work together on issues.

Asked about the minimum wage, Heck said his approach is to “increase opportunities for individuals to get into better-pay job,” adding that minimum wage is for an entry-level first job. For example, Heck said, he’s supported increasing workforce training opportunities so people have a chance to move up.

Heck said he’s not opposed to comprehensive immigration, but he is opposed to trying to address all aspects of the issue in one bill. He said a viable guest worker program is needed. He also supports a biometric system that can detect visa overstays.

For the estimated 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants, he said a guest worker program would help them come out of the shadows.

The other candidate named Heck, Thomas Heck, has less political experience. He jokes he “ran for seventh-grade class president.”

He goes by the nickname “SAD Tom,” saying Republicans are “sad about the way things are going.”

“Nevadans are angry,” he said. “I’m sad that Nevadans are angry, and the politicians aren’t listening.”

If he elected, he said he’d focus on building a strong staff with a good research departments to find solutions to the problems.

He wants to run government “like a business,” which means if Congress approves and funds programs, they must meet goals or end if they don’t. Leeds, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2012, would push a variety of issues, such as the “Political Correctness Act,” which would give gays and lesbians the ability to have civil unions instead of marriages. Leeds says he’s “not happy with what the Republicans have done when they’ve had opportunities to make changes.”

Leeds said he’s “just another American who’s really angry.” Leeds praised Trump. “He knows business,” Leeds said. “He’s been a successful leader.”

Poliak said he supports free college tuition, forgiving existing student loans and ending foreign aid.

“I’m not plugged in,” Poliak said. “I represent everyday folks — mainstream America.”

He ran as a Democrat in 2010 when Reid was running for re-election, losing in the primary. He’s also run in Las Vegas city elections.

Poliak said college tuition isn’t fair because it forces people to choose between debt and a degree.

“What happens is you’re discouraging an ordinary person that hasn’t got the money to go ahead and get a degree and the only ones that can do it are those that are rich,” he said.

Preble said he’s a “family guy” running for “true love of our country.” “I just keep feeling as if the good people aren’t standing up and running for office,” he said.

Preble said that if elected, he’s pursue balancing the budget, getting rid of Obamacare and foreign policies that boost the economy.

He’s concerned about the current state of trade policies in the U.S., saying it’s “siphoned off all of our manufacturing and our industry.”

Preble knows the competition from Joe Heck is formidable, and says he’s just “getting my feet wet” and he’ll run office again in 2018.

“Frankly, no one has a chance except Joe Heck,” he said. “He’s going to get it, basically, unless there’s some miracle for one of smaller candidates.”

Tarbell ran in 2014 in the Republican primary for governor, losing to Sandoval by a wide margin. That move, he said, was merely exploratory.

Tarbell, who lives in Sparks, has a weekly radio show called “Just the Facts,” which focuses on different topics without injecting opinion.

It’s a skill he hopes will help him in the election.

“The main difference is my ability to address issues publicly and speak to them clearly,” said Tarbell, a retired Presbyterian minister.

Four independent candidates and one third-party candidate will be on the ballot in November. Independent candidates are Tony Gumina, Thomas “Tom” Sawyer, G.A. Villa and Jarrod M. Williams. Tom Jones, an Independent American, also is on the ballot.

Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2904. Find @BenBotkin1 on Twitter.

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