Sources: Lombardo set to announce for governor

Undaunted by newly minted Republican Mayor John Lee’s announcement, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo has made the decision to run for governor, sources confirmed Thursday.

Lombardo will formally announce next month and has hired a trio of high-profile GOP operatives, including a former political director for Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee.

The campaign team will be led by Ryan Erwin, a well-respected consultant who oversaw Cresent Hardy’s shocking upset of Rep. Steven Horsford in 2014 and helped Joe Heck win a seat in Congress (and almost secure a U.S. Senate seat). Erwin was involved in efforts to pass Marsy’s Law here and elsewhere and recently was retained by Caitlyn Jenner’s campaign to oust California Gov. Gavin Newsom. I don’t know of a more even-keeled, thoughtful and straight-shooting consultant who has been involved in Nevada politics.

Erwin will be joined by his former partner, Mike Slanker, who has been a consultant to the likes of Brian Sandoval and Dean Heller and is a media expert whose ads have been known to cut (and cut deeply), and Chris Carr, an ex-Trump and RNC operative who will oversee the grassroots/ground game and is as well-regarded as anyone I know across partisan and geographic lines.

It’s a formidable team enhanced by ex-Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, who was interested in running for governor but has agreed to chair Lombardo’s campaign. Hutchison is a formidable fundraiser; his PAC helped the GOP pick up legislative seats last year.

I am reliably told that some gaming companies have informed Lombardo they will give him substantial support, although some will have to play both sides because Gov. Steve Sisolak has such power over their enterprises. It will be interesting to see, especially after a legislative session controlled by Democrats and one that has intermittently infuriated the Strip, whether any companies give only to Lombardo. (This would surprise me.)

The industry’s campaign contributions could well hinge on how the session ends and the resolution of a so-called right to return bill that is the Culinary union’s main objective and has caused a serious rift with and within the industry. 

Lombardo would have to be seen as a favorite in the primary with this kind of firepower and Lee's recent entry into the Republican party. The North Las Vegas mayor also has baggage, including a raft of votes as a Democratic legislator. But Lombardo’s two terms as sheriff notwithstanding, the sheriff’s ability to perform statewide and handle non-law enforcement issues remain uncertain. And he will have to deal with his own record as sheriff, too.

Filing does not open until next March, and I am still not persuaded that candidates who announce this early will actually file. And I am not convinced that Lee, who has floated more trial balloons than anyone in Nevada history before they lost ballast, will sign on the dotted line next year. At least, that is, for governor.

Sisolak is seen as vulnerable by the GOP here and nationally because of criticism he absorbed during the pandemic for health care protocols that were deleterious for the economy. But Democrats are banking on a rebounding economy to put some wind at Sisolak’s back, and a potential GOP primary is not optimal for Republicans. And who knows whether a Trumpian contender (who has not recently switched parties) might get in, making it even more interesting.

Lombardo’s decision, though, ensures this is going to be a very interesting year in Nevada politics, which, as one who has followed it for three and a half decades, almost goes without saying.

Cortez Masto, Lee top prior first-quarter fundraising tallies as congressional campaigns eye 2022 midterms

Congressional representatives across the state reported race-leading fundraising hauls this week, positioning each with an early money advantage more than a year in advance of next summer’s primary elections. 

Leading all fundraising was Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, (D-NV), who reported more than $2.3 million in fundraising ahead of what is expected to be a competitive re-election bid. Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), who is not up for reelection until 2024, reported $341,794.

In the House, District 3 Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) led the state’s delegation with $607,407 raised through the first quarter; District 4’s Steven Horsford (D-NV) followed with $363,210; District 2’s Mark Amodei (R-NV) reported $77,749; and District 1’s Dina Titus (D-NV) reported $48,080.

With so much time left before the formal filing deadline for congressional elections next spring, the field of challengers in each district remains relatively small. Even so, two Republican challengers in the state’s two swing districts reported six-figure fundraising hauls, including Sam Peters in District 4 ($135,000) and April Becker in District 3 ($143,000).

Below are some additional campaign finance numbers for each candidate, broken down by district from greatest cumulative fundraising to least. 

Catherine Cortez Masto (D) — incumbent

Ahead of her first-ever bid for re-election as a U.S. senator and as Democrats prepare to defend their razor-thin margin in the Senate, Cortez Masto reported $2.3 million in fundraising, boosting her cash on hand by roughly 55 percent to nearly $4.7 million. 

A vast majority of that money, about $1.8 million, came from individual donors, including roughly $1.35 million in itemized contributions and $460,000 in small-dollar unitemized donations. Cortez Masto also raised an even $349,000 from PACs, more than $51,000 from political party committees and nearly $86,500 from other fundraising committee transfers.  

With a fundraising total orders of magnitude larger than any other candidate in Nevada through the first quarter, Cortez Masto also has by far the most individual donors of the entire field with thousands of itemized contributions reported, including several dozen contributions of the legal maximum. 

By law, individuals can contribute up to $2,900 per candidate per election (i.e. for the primary and for the general) in federal elections, while PACs and other committees can contribute up to $5,000 per election. Major donors will often contribute that maximum twice, once for the primary and again for the general, up front, giving candidates between $5,800 and $10,000.

Among the many donors who maxed out their contribution to Cortez Masto were a handful of Nevada regulars, including businessman and major Democratic donor Stephen Cloobeck ($2,900 in the first quarter, $5,800 overall) and MGM Resorts International ($5,000).

With nearly $663,000 spent this quarter, no Nevada politician came close to Cortez Masto in outlays. Most of that money, $382,206, went to nine firms involved in fundraising operations, including mailers ($213,406) and online ($168,800). 

Jacky Rosen (D) — incumbent

With more than three years before she’ll face voters again, Rosen reported a comparatively modest $341,794 in contributions last quarter, but her campaign has more than $1.85 million in cash on hand. 

Of that money, most ($226,165) came from individual contributions, with the rest flowing largely from PACs ($14,000) and authorized committee transfers ($97,600).

Among the several dozen donors giving Rosen the legal maximum were Las Vegas Sun owner Brian Greenspun ($5,800) and his wife, Myra Greenspun ($5,800); Niraj Shah, CEO of the furniture retailer Wayfair ($2,900); and a leadership PAC linked to former Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, the Seeking Justice PAC ($5,000).  

Most of the $137,000 spent by Rosen was for regular operating expenditures, though her campaign twice spent $5,000 for online advertising from New York-based firm Assemble the Agency. 

A district that covers much of the southern half of Clark County, including some of the Las Vegas metro’s wealthiest suburbs, District 3 has switched hands between the two major parties three times since its creation in 2002. 

For three cycles, that control has been maintained by Democrats, following a narrow win by Rosen in 2016, and subsequent victories by Lee in 2018 and 2020. Still, a narrow victory in the district by Donald Trump in 2016 and small voter registration gaps have marked District 3 as one of a few-dozen nationwide that may become key to deciding which party controls the House after the 2022 midterms.

Susie Lee (D) — incumbent

Frequently the top-fundraiser among Nevada’s House delegation, Susie Lee continued her streak last quarter with $607,407 in contributions. After Lee largely depleted her campaign reserves in a pricey bid to keep her seat last year, that first-quarter fundraising has left her campaign with just over $484,000 in cash on hand. 

Nearly all of that money — $493,070 — came from individual contributions, with the remaining $114,000 coming from big-money PAC contributions. 

Among those individual donors were several dozen contributing the $2,900 maximum. Those big money donors were largely local business leaders — including Cashman Equipment CEO MaryKaye Cashman, MGM Resorts International CEO Bill Hornbuckle and former MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren — though the group also included television showrunner and producer Shonda Rhimes.

Among PACs that contributed the $5,000 maximum were a mix of business interests (including PACs related to Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts International), and unions (including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and SMART, the sheet metal and transportation workers union, and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.) 

Lee reported spending nearly $146,000 last quarter, an amount second only to Cortez Masto among the delegation members. Most of that money went to campaign consulting and staffing costs, with the single largest chunk — $32,000 spread over five payments — going to Washington, D.C.-based digital consulting firm Break Something. 

April Becker (R)

After her unsuccessful run for the Legislature in 2020, attorney April Becker is challenging Susie Lee (D) for her seat in Congress. In the first quarter of 2021, Becker raised $143,444 mostly from individual contributors. 

Becker received $2,000 from PACs, such as the Stronger Nevada PAC and (although not officially endorsed by) the campaigns for fellow Republican politicians, former Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei. 

Several of her big individual contributors included family members; donations from individuals with the last name Becker totaled $29,500, nearly a fifth of the total contributions. Local business owners also contributed to Becker, including some car dealership owners: $5,000 from Gary Ackerman of Gaudin Motor Company; Cliff Findlay and Donna Findlay of Findlay Automotive each donated the maximum of $2,900, totaling $5,800; and Donald Forman of United Nissan Vegas gave $5,800.  

Co-owners of the Innovative Pain Care Center, Melissa and Daniel Burkhead, each gave $5,800 totaling $11,600. Other contributors included several medical professionals, real estate investors and attorneys.

In the first quarter, Becker kept most of the money collected, $131,460, reporting spending only $11,983 on more fundraising efforts. 

Mark Robertson (R)

Also hoping to challenge Susie Lee, Army veteran Mark Robertson raised $61,631 in his first time running for a political seat. The sum includes $7,451 he loaned his campaign.  

Although he collected less than half than Becker in the first quarter, retirees were large contributors to his campaign, some nearly reaching the $5,800 maximum for both the primary and general elections. 

Several local architects, engineers and construction contractors were also among the contributors, including $5,000 combined from Kenneth and Michelle Alber of Penta Building Group, $3,000 from Brock Krahenbuhl, a contractor for GTI Landscape and $3,000 from Wayne Horlacher of Horrock Engineers. 

Robertson reported spending $25,148, including $5,250 on campaign consulting, $3,138 on office supplies and $3,270 on video and print advertising production services. After the expenditures, Robertson is left with $44,034 cash on hand. 

A geographically massive district — larger than some states — that encompasses parts of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and much of the state’s central rural counties, District 4 has been held by Democrats for all but one cycle since its creation in 2011. That exception came in 2014, when Republican Cresent Hardy unseated then-freshman Democrat Steven Horsford in an upset. 

Horsford retook the seat in 2018, defeating Hardy in an open race after incumbent Democrat Ruben Kihuen declined to mount his own re-election bid amid a sexual harassment investigation. Horsford later won re-election in 2020, beating Republican Jim Marchant by 5 percentage points. 

Steven Horsford (D) — incumbent

With $363,209 in reported fundraising, Horsford boosted his campaign war chest by more than 50 percent last quarter, lifting his cash on hand to $757,142. 

That fundraising was driven mostly by $205,883 in individual contributions, though Horsford also brought in a much larger share of PAC contributions ($157,251) than his delegation counterparts.

Among Horsford’s single-largest contributors was Las Vegas Sun owner Brian Greenspun and his wife, Myra, who both contributed the $2,900 maximum for the primary and general elections, or $11,600 combined. 

Horsford’s biggest PAC contributions came from a mix of political committees linked to the Democratic Party, unions and corporations. That includes $10,000 from the Congressional Black Caucus PAC (of which Horsford is a member), $5,000 from the public employees union AFSCME and $5,000 from MGM Resorts International.   

A vast majority of the $102,000 spent by Horsford’s campaign last quarter went to operating costs, salaries and consultants, though — like his fellow incumbents — a sizable portion ($21,000) still flowed to a pair of fundraising and finance compliance consultants. 

Sam Peters (R)

After finishing second in last year’s Republican primary for District 4, veteran and local business owner Sam Peters led Republican fundraising efforts in the district this quarter. Peters’ campaign raised more than $135,000, which came entirely from individual contributions.

Those contributions were driven largely by retirees, as two-thirds of the 100 big-money contributions over $200 came from donors listing themselves as retired. Peters’ campaign was also boosted by a few maximum or near-maximum donations, including $5,800 from Frank Suryan Jr., CEO of Lyon Living, a residential development company based in Newport Beach, California, and $5,800 from Suryan’s spouse.

After spending a little more than $24,000, mostly on campaign consulting and fundraising services, Peters ended the quarter with nearly $115,000 in cash on hand, nearly double the amount he had at the end of the first quarter of 2021.

A district that includes Reno and much of rural Northern Nevada, District 2 has for two cycles been the only federal seat in Nevada still held by a Republican. The one-time seat of former Sen. Dean Heller and former Gov. Jim Gibbons, both Republicans, the seat has been held by incumbent Republican Mark Amodei since 2011, when he defeated Democrat Kate Marshall in a special election to replace the outgoing Heller. 

Mark Amodei (R) — incumbent

After Amodei spent close to a thousand dollars more than he raised through the first three months of 2021, his campaign war chest sits at $323,347 entering the second quarter.

His fundraising of nearly $78,000 came largely from big-money contributions totaling more than $50,000, including roughly 30 donations between $1,000 and $2,000. But Amodei was also boosted by several maximum or near-maximum donations from Margaret Cavin, owner of plumbing company J&J Mechanical in Reno ($5,600), and Uwe Rockenfeller, president of Boulder City-based engineering firm Rocky Research ($5,800).

Amodei’s fundraising was also boosted by a few large contributions from political committees, including $5,000 donations from PACs affiliated with MGM Resorts International and New York Life Insurance, $3,500 from a PAC affiliated with the aerospace company Sierra Nevada Corporation and $2,500 from Barrick Gold, a mining company.

Amodei’s spending was distributed across a wide range of categories, as he spent $7,625 on radio advertising, $4,000 on campaign consulting, nearly $20,000 on fundraising consulting, $12,750 on accounting services and more than $7,500 on meals and entertainment for contributor relations — including nearly $700 paid to cigar companies and more than $2,000 spent at Trattoria Alberto, an Italian restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Located in the urban center of Las Vegas, the deep blue District 1 has been held by incumbent Democratic Rep. Dina Titus since 2012. Titus won the seat after losing a previous re-election bid in nearby District 3 in 2010, which she had held for one term after a win over Republican Rep. Joe Heck in 2008.

Dina Titus (D) — incumbent

With no clear challengers in the district, Titus finished the first quarter with the least money raised of any Nevada incumbent — she received $48,080, which was $1.85 less than she raised through the same period last year.

More than half of those funds were given by four PACs that contributed a combined $25,000. The American Institute of Architects’ PAC, a PAC associated with the Las Vegas Sands Corp. and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers PAC gave $5,000 each, a pro-Israel PAC called Desert Caucus donated $10,000.

Titus also received $14,280 from individuals, including a $1,000 contribution from former Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Coffin and a maximum contribution of $5,800 from Uwe Rockenfeller, president of Boulder City-based engineering firm Rocky Research.

After spending $37,000 in the quarter, Titus brought her cash on hand total to almost $340,000.

Rep. Steven Horsford announces $363,000 in first quarter fundraising

The campaign for Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford announced $363,000 in first-quarter fundraising Tuesday, an amount that lifts his campaign war chest to more than $750,000 through the first three months of the midterm election cycle. 

Those total receipts exceed the $309,000 Horsford raised in the first quarter of 2020, though it falls slightly short of the $370,000 he raised in the same time period in 2019. It also comes a distant second to funds raised by fellow Southern Nevada Democrat Susie Lee, whose campaign announced yesterday that she had raised more than $600,000 through the first quarter. 

Even so, the three-quarters of a million Horsford now maintains in cash on hand is more than double the $309,000 he had at this point last cycle. 

Horsford’s campaign touted in a release Tuesday that more than 1,240 donors contributed to his fundraising last quarter, with a median donation of just $10. Still, ahead of the public filing of campaign finance reports later this week with the Federal Election Commission, it is unclear how much of his fundraising came from PACs or other major donors. 

Horsford was originally elected to represent District 4 — which includes the northern half of metropolitan Las Vegas as well as a handful of counties in the state’s rural center — in 2012, following the district’s creation in a year prior. 

After losing the seat to Republican Cresent Hardy in 2014, Horsford returned in 2018 after incumbent Democrat Ruben Kihuen declined to run for re-election amid allegations of sexual harassment. 

Horsford won re-election last year by a margin of 4.9 percentage points over former Assemblyman Jim Marchant, his narrowest margin of victory in the district so far. That margin, coupled with Republican victory in the district in 2014, will likely once again mark Horsford’s seat as one of several dozen targets for Republicans eager to take control of the House in 2022. 

Election Preview: Rep. Steven Horsford looks to hold off challenge from Jim Marchant in Congressional District 4

In the absence of a statewide race at the top of Nevada’s 2020 ballot, many eyes have fallen to a pair of competitive congressional races that could play a role in deciding which party takes control of the House come November. 

In District 4, incumbent Democrat Steven Horsford has run a re-election race that has largely ignored a challenge from former one-term Republican Assemblyman Jim Marchant, a staunch pro-Trump conservative who’s sought to pressure Horsford on the issues and on character.

In the ads with the most money behind them — and consequently the widest reach — the Horsford campaign has largely held to a positive tone that’s praised his work on Capitol Hill, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

In a TV ad launched late last month, his only major ad buy so far this cycle, Horsford touted his role in passing federal coronavirus relief in March, with a testimonial from a local business praising him for securing Paycheck Protection Program loans for Nevada businesses. 

Steven Horsford waiving to a crowd
Steven Horsford, who won the race for Nevada's 4th Congressional District, speaks during the Nevada Democratic Party election night event at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

The congressman’s online messaging, most notably on Facebook, has more directly challenged Marchant’s bid, though it has done so without ever naming him. Calling him “my Republican opponent,” “my far-right opponent” or often simply “my opponent,” Horsford’s online ads have criticized Marchant’s links to the Freedom Caucus — an evolution of the old Tea Party movement in the House — and his endorsements from groups such as the National Rifle Association. 

Horsford also has frequently used the specter of Republican PAC money as his own fundraising driver, accusing “GOP outside dark money groups” of spending more than $1 million “to spread deceitful ads across Nevada.”

Still, these online ads likely comprise a small portion of Horsford’s overall spending, according to data available through Facebook’s Ad Library. Most individual online ads have been boosted by less than $100 in spending, and the campaign spent just $807 on Facebook ads over the last week. 

Horsford has maintained a sizable lead in the money race, raising more than $3 million cumulatively and entering the final weeks of the election with roughly $1.5 million cash on hand, according to his campaign. 

Marchant has generally lagged behind Horsford’s fundraising, though by how much will remain unknown until campaign finance reports are released on Oct. 15. Through the second quarter, Marchant’s campaign had cumulatively tallied roughly $646,000, of which about $143,000 remained in cash on hand. 

After emerging from the largest competitive primary field in any Nevada congressional race, Marchant has since repeatedly criticized Horsford for being “too far left,” especially on the issue of reforming police departments in the wake of the George Floyd protests this summer. 

Republican congressional candidate Jim Marchant at a rally in support of law enforcement organized by the Nevada Republican Party on Thursday, July 30, 2020 outside the Legislature in Carson City.
Republican congressional candidate Jim Marchant at a rally in support of law enforcement organized by the Nevada Republican Party on Thursday, July 30, 2020 outside the Legislature in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Endorsed by police unions, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and President Trump himself, Marchant has attacked Horsford for being a “radical leftist” and sought to link him to efforts by activists to defund local police departments. 

Police funding remains tied to state and local dollars, however, and members of Congress exert little pressure over such local public safety spending. An ideological analysis by the website Govtrack rates Horsford slightly left of the ideological median among Democrats, but still to the right of representatives such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Rep. Rashida Tlaib, based on bills he sponsored or co-sponsored in 2019. 

Marchant’s campaign also has more recently sought to raise the issue of an affair Horsford admitted to earlier this year between himself and a former intern for Sen. Harry Reid, Gabriela Linder.

Linder first revealed the affair, which she says went on twice — between 2009 and 2010 and 2017 and 2019 — under a pseudonym on a podcast in April. Her identity was later revealed in May by the Review-Journal, after which Horsford confirmed that the affair took place. 

While Marchant’s messaging has tiptoed around the affair itself — one ad proclaims the congressman’s sex life is “none of our business” — it has targeted the ethical implications of the entire episode. 

Namely, Marchant and his Republican allies have seized on a story first reported by the Nevada Current in July that Horsford had paid an unknown amount to Linder using money from his own company, Resources +. 

Horsford’s office denied any ethical wrongdoing, and told the Current that the money did not exceed limits placed on him by House rules. 

News of the affair did little to stop Horsford’s renomination earlier this year in an uncompetitive Democratic primary in which Horsford won more than 75 percent of the vote. Still, it remains unclear how the re-emergence of the issue in Republican messaging may influence voters in the general election, especially in the context of the wider 2020 election, the race for the White House and the complications of voting in the middle of a pandemic.

District 4 at a glance

Nevada’s newest congressional district, District 4 was carved out following re-apportionment from the 2010 census. Among the largest districts in the country by area, its geographically sprawling boundaries encompass both parts of Clark County, including North Las Vegas, as well as a handful of the counties in the state’s rural center, including Nye, White Pine and Lincoln counties. 

With sizable populations of both Black and Hispanic voters in Clark County, District 4 has often — though not always — tilted toward Democrats. Voter registration figures show Democrats lead Republicans 41 percent to 31 percent, with another 21.8 percent of voters registered as non-partisans. 

Horsford, at the time a state senator, was the first to win the district, taking the seat in 2012 by a margin of 8 points over perennial Republican contender Danny Tarkanian. Horsford would later be upset in the 2014 midterms, when Mesquite-area Assemblyman Cresent Hardy won the seat by roughly 2.7 percentage points as part of a wave of Republican victories statewide. 

Democrats flipped the seat once more in 2016, this time with then-State. Sen. Ruben Kihuen, who defeated Hardy by 4 points as Democrats statewide rode to victory in a number of key competitive races. 

But following revelations in late 2017 that Kihuen had sexually harassed a campaign staffer, the incumbent’s decision to forgo a reelection bid in 2018 opened the door for a return for Horsford, who had spent his years outside office working at his own public relations and consulting firm. 

Horsford went on to win easily in 2018’s “blue wave,” besting Hardy in a rematch of the 2014 race by roughly 8.2 percentage points. 

Outside observers have generally forecast a strong edge for Democrats in District 4 based on both demographics and historical voting trends. The Cook Political Report and the University of Virginia Center for Politics rate the district as “Likely Democratic,” while FiveThirtyEight rates the race as “Lean Democratic.”

What to watch in the 2020 primary election: Congressional District 4

A hand arranging "I voted" stickers on a table

As the presidential caucus has drifted into the past and with no statewide offices up for grabs in 2020, a pair of hotly contested congressional primaries on June 9 may draw battle lines for the coming push by the major parties to take or keep control of the House in November. 

That includes District 4, which early on drew a wide field of Republican challengers hoping to flip the seat away from Democrat Steven Horsford. The district, with a large Democratic registration advantage and rated “Likely Democratic” by the Cook Political Report, has for years been held as the tougher of Nevada’s two swing-districts to pry away from Democrats as the GOP looks to retake control of the House. 

That may have changed over the weekend, after Horsford acknowledged Friday carrying on a years-long extramarital affair with a former intern for Sen. Harry Reid. That intern, Gabriela Linder, revealed the relationship in a podcast, and Horsford later issued a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal confirming the relationship.

The admission has upended the political assumptions surrounding the race so far, and some Republican strategists and candidates now see 2020 as the best opportunity to flip the seat in the last four years. 

Horsford has already drawn fire from the wide field of Republican hopefuls looking to unseat him, and some have called on him to be investigated or to resign his seat altogether. At least two Democrats running against him called on him to drop out of the race.

But with no well-funded or well-organized primary challengers on the June ballot, Horsford will likely avoid a referendum on the issue until November. And, among Republicans, the race to take on Horsford remains wide open. Five candidates have mounted well-funded operations, with three more hoping for an outside shot at a spot on the November ballot. 

The Republican Primary

The Republican Primary for District 4 is the most crowded field for any major race in the state in 2020, boasting eight candidates on the June ballot. Among them, five have emerged as relatively well-funded efforts, with three more running smaller campaigns with far longer odds at victory.

And though the Republican field has so-far avoided direct attacks — so, too, have they rushed to occupy a similar ideological space in the era of the Trump White House. 

Jim Marchant, a former one-term Republican assemblyman, staked a claim early on as a conservative stalwart who could oppose Horsford in a general election. In advertising and online, he has touted positive ratings from The American Conservative Union and National Rifle Association and claimed that “the liberal media can’t stand him.”

He’s also sought to draw a close line between himself and Trump, frequently praising the administration and even circulating a gif of himself standing nearby the president after he flew into a Nevada air base for a visit in February. 

Marchant has frequently led the fundraising push over the last year, raising more than $100,000 through the first quarter of 2020 and entering the final run to the primary with roughly $231,000 cash on hand. That number was buoyed early on in 2019 by more than $110,000 in loans to his campaign, though his campaign has since shifted to a reliance on individual donors.  

He has also received key endorsements from high-profile House conservatives, including Arizona Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan — all leaders of the House Freedom Caucus. An outgrowth of the old Tea Party movement, the Freedom Caucus has provided a political force for the party’s conservative wing for half-a-decade, and in recent years has moved in lockstep with the Trump White House. 

But Marchant is not alone in his quest to prove himself as the “right” conservative for District 4. 

Lisa Song Sutton, a former Miss Nevada who now runs her own business in Las Vegas, has stayed neck and neck with Marchant in the fundraising race. Song Sutton entered the home stretch of the campaign with $198,000 on hand, and boasted of having raised it all through individual donors and without candidate loans. 

Running on a platform largely centered around the core GOP platform, including the protection of the 2nd Amendment, opposition to abortion and increased border security, Song Sutton has also prominently added the economic impact of the coronavirus to her personal platform. 

Calling dependence on overseas manufacturing “dangerous,” Song Sutton’s website notes that she “stand[s] ready to help President Trump rebuild the economy and support the America First agenda.”

Though her single most prominent endorsement has come from Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw, Song Sutton has also received nods from a handful of state and local Republicans, including Las Vegas City Councilwomen Michele Fiore and Victoria Seaman and former state GOP Chair Amy Tarkanian.

Last among the top fundraisers is Sam Peters, an insurance agent and veteran who has been endorsed by the likes of former Speaker Newt Gingrich, conservative musician Ted Nugent and local conservative talk radio host Wayne Allyn Root.  

Though FEC filings show Peters has raised more than $254,000 through his entire campaign, he began to lag behind Marchant and Song Sutton in the early part of 2020, raising just over $62,000, spending $90,000 and ending the quarter with just $60,000 on hand.  

Asking voters to help him “fight the swamp” in Washington, D.C., Peters has prioritized the issues of the federal budget and immigration on his platform, calling for, among other things,  a balanced budget amendment and proposing an 11-point plan aimed at “ending illegal immigration.”

Peters also appears to be one of few candidates who have continued to campaign in-person into the pandemic, sharing several selfies this month of visits to a reopening rally in Mesquite and a campaign stop in Pahrump

Nipping at the heels of the top three fundraisers are another two campaigns, those of businesswoman Randi Reed and former congressional staffer and veteran Charles Navarro, who entered the final weeks of the campaign with roughly $27,000 and $24,000 on hand, respectively. 

Branding her campaign with her nickname, “The Fury,” Reed has also mounted a campaign centered around the core party platform, including gun rights, immigration and health care. But amid the coronavirus, Reed has also taken aim at China, calling the virus “China’s Chernobyl” and pushing for a greater separation between the American and Chinese economies.

Touting his time in the Navy and his work as a former re-entry manager for faith-based organization Hope for Prisoners, Navarro has, unlike his rivals, elevated the issues of public lands and education on his platform, amid other calls for reforms to the Medicare, Social Security and criminal justice systems. 

There also are several cash-strapped campaigns, including that of Nye County Commissioner Leo Blundo, businesswoman Rebecca Wood and self-described entrepreneur Rosalie Bingham. 

All have raised less than $10,000 through the first quarter of 2020, but all have continued to actively promote their campaigns online as they look to distinguish their efforts ahead of June 9. 

About District 4

District 4’s massive geographic boundaries are bigger than some U.S. states, encompassing not just parts of the Las Vegas metro area like Northwest Las Vegas and the City of North Las Vegas, but also a handful of the state’s rural counties, including Nye, White Pine and Lincoln Counties.

That geographic composition has created a balance of voters where the urban and suburban voters of Las Vegas often outweigh the rural voters to their north. All told, 40.8 percent of voters in the district are registered Democrats, while 31.4 percent are registered Republicans and 21.9 percent are registered non-partisans. 

That distribution of voters has created a predominantly Democratic stronghold over the four election cycles since the district was created in 2012. Horsford, then the state Senate majority leader, won the seat’s inaugural election with just over 50 percent of the vote, defeating Republican candidate Danny Tarkanian. 

But amid a historically low voter turnout in the 2014 year’s midterms, Horsford would lose re-election by nearly 3 percentage points to Republican legislator Cresent Hardy. A coup for Republicans in a year where the party swept state, federal and local races up and down the ballot, Hardy’s election would nonetheless be the last GOP victory in District 4.

In 2016, Democratic state legislator Ruben Kihuen bested Hardy by roughly 4 points, contributing to a near-total Democratic sweep of the closely contested federal offices that year alongside victories in the Senate and neighboring District 3. 

Kihuen was forced to abandon a re-election bid in 2018, however, amid sexual misconduct allegations. But as his name and station become another entry among a long list of alleged sexual impropriety on Capitol Hill amid the escalating #MeToo movement, he resisted pushes to resign his post — which ranged from fellow Nevada Democrat Jacky Rosen all the way to then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

When the House later convened an ethics panel to review his conduct, Kihuen bowed out of the race and promised not to launch a reelection bid — an exit that would provide an opportunity for Horsford to reenter the seat that launched his congressional career six years earlier. 

Fending off a handful of primary challengers in the open contest to replace Kihuen on the Democratic ticket, Horsford would eventually beat Hardy — the Republican nominee for the third cycle in a row — by more than 8 percentage points, as he once again garnered more than 50 percent of the vote.  

Horsford has since kept a low electoral profile among the state’s congressional delegation. With his seat more difficult to flip than Rep. Susie Lee’s to the south, national Republicans have so far avoided pumping money and advertising into his district like they have in. 

And among Democrats, Horsford has so-far skirted through 2020 without the need to actively campaign, amassing nearly $1.2 million in cash on hand along the way as he looked toward November. 

He has since begun to take fire from his Democratic rivals, who have joined Republicans in the district in calling for Horsford to be investigated or step out of the race amid the revelation of his extramarital affair.

Whether or not those calls will amount to anything beyond campaign rhetoric, however, remains to be seen.  

For a full breakdown of every race in the 2020 primaries, visit our Election 2020 page. 

Jim Marchant, GOP candidate in 4th Congressional District, announces $156,000 in fourth-quarter fundraising

Voter registration forms

Jim Marchant — the one-time assemblyman now running to be the Republican candidate to take on Democrat Rep. Steven Horsford in Congressional District 4 — announced Wednesday that his campaign raised more than $156,000 in the last quarter of 2019, pushing his cash on hand to just over $209,000 and his yearly fundraising total above $330,000. 

Marchant is one among a crowded, seven-person GOP field jockeying for the chance to take on Horsford in November. Even so, his campaign is just one of two, alongside former Miss Nevada Lisa Song Sutton, to be selected for “on-the-radar” status with the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” program, a nationwide program meant to boost fledgling GOP campaigns in competitive districts. 

Marchant and the Republican field at large have largely lagged behind Horsford in the fundraising race. Horsford announced earlier this month that his campaign raised more than $455,000 in the fourth quarter, pushing his cash on hand past $1 million and his total on the year past $1.6 million. 

Winning the seat may prove an uphill battle for Republicans. Though the geographically sprawling district encompasses much of the state’s rural center, it also includes much of the Las Vegas metro area, including all of North Las Vegas. 

Voter registration statistics from December show 41 percent of voters are registered Democrats, compared to 31 percent registered as Republican. In raw numbers, it’s a gap of more than 36,000 — one only expected to increase with the implementation of the state’s new automatic voter registration law. 

And, since its creation in 2012, the district has been held by Democrats in all but one cycle. That includes two non-consecutive terms by Horsford, who lost his 2014 re-election bid to challenger Cresent Hardy after low-turnout across the state boosted Republicans to nearly every major office. 

Follow the Money: Years after leaving office, Reid and other former politicians continue campaign spending with little oversight

Harry Reid in a blue sport coat with red tie

In the three years since leaving office, Harry Reid has kept a low profile.

Rather than become a cable news talking head or lobbyist, the former Democratic Senate Majority Leader has given the occasional interview, dealt with health problems and held a few events at UNLV discussing anti-Semitism, leadership and the changing role of “Islam in America.”

Reid is far from out of the game, though. His former staff has fanned out to help run top 2020 presidential campaigns, and candidates still make regular calls or visits to the early caucus state’s “kingmaker.” 

But Nevada’s most powerful senator in modern history is still making his influence count in another way — continual use of his federal campaign accounts.

In the years since Reid left the U.S. Senate, his campaign account and leadership political action committee — Friends For Harry Reid and Searchlight Leadership Fund — have regularly continued to file disclosure reports that show a steady stream of campaign expenses, charitable donations and political contributions.

Add it all up and Reid’s two campaign accounts have spent a sizable $564,000 since 2017, with checks cut not only to charities and various campaign expenses, but also nearly $281,000 in contributions to political parties and a mix of state and federal Democrats running for office.

According to his most recently filed quarterly report, Reid still has more than $290,000 in available cash on hand between the two committees, more than two years after leaving office and nearly a decade since his last election.

Reid is far from the only retired federal office-holder to keep using campaign accounts once out of office. A trend of “zombie campaigns” is one taking place nationally and locally in Nevada, where former office-holders — namely former Reps. Joe Heck and Ruben Kihuen — are holding on to hundreds of thousands of dollars while continuing to use their federal campaign accounts after leaving office.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC), which oversees these federal accounts, prohibits candidates from using campaign funds for personal use, but offers little guidance on what candidates should do with their campaign accounts and the funds left over once their time in office comes to an end. 

The commission wrote in a 2013 advisory opinion that campaigns should aim to wind down expenses within six months of leaving office, but there are no hard and fast rules as to when a campaign has to close down — a loophole exploited by dozens of former federal office-holders who used their campaign accounts to buy iPads, country club memberships and other questionable expenses, according to a 2018 Tampa Bay Times investigation.

But lax federal election oversight (the FEC has been effectively shut down since August after a commissioner resigned and left the body with less than a quorum) means former candidates have a wide breadth of options on how to use the money left in their campaign piggybank once they leave office.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Reid declined to address specific spending questions but said the leftover funds were primarily used for charity and contributions to similarly-minded candidates.

“After winding down his official Senate office, Senator Reid has used leftover campaign funds to support local charities that do important work in Nevada communities and to support candidates who will carry the torch forward for the causes he championed while in office,” a spokesman for Reid said in an email. “These activities are permitted by both federal and Nevada law, and the money is not spent on personal use.”  

Reid’s contributions since leaving office

August 16, 2018, was akin to a political Christmas for Nevada Democrats.

On that day, just a few months before the midterm election, Reid’s former Senate account and leadership PAC combined to give $84,500 to Democratic candidates for federal, statewide and legislative races, from a combined $20,000 to gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak to $5,000 each for Democratic state Senate candidates running in key swing districts— Julie Pazina, Melanie Schieble and Marilyn Dondero Loop,

Those contributions fit a pattern of strategic political contributions made by Reid’s political arms — targeting not only top-of-the-ticket races, but also important, less public races down the ballot including city councils and county commissions.

The list of office-holders who have received campaign contributions from Reid is wide and deep: 13 U.S. Senators or Senate candidates, seven House hopefuls, five legislative candidates, six municipal candidates and five of the six statewide “constitutional” officers (governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer).

Here’s the full list of candidates and organizations who received a contribution from Reid’s federal campaign account and his leadership PAC since the start of 2017:

  • $101,000 to the Nevada State Democratic Party in September 2018 (a $1,000 donation was made in November 2017)
  • $20,000 to Nevada Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak’s campaign in August 2018
  • $19,000 total to groups affiliated with Nevada Democratic U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen’s campaign; $14,000 directly to her campaign in June 2017 and $5,000 to Rosen Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee affiliated with Rosen in August 2018
  • $15,000 to Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson’s campaign in August 2018
  • $10,000 to Our Votes, Our Voices, a state-based political action committee formed to fight efforts to recall Democratic state senators in 2017
  • $10,000 to Durbin Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee benefiting the campaign of Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, in June 2019
  • $8,000 to Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford’s campaign; $3,000 in April 2018 and $5,000 in August 2018
  • $5,000 to American Possibilities PAC, which is affiliated with former Vice President Joe Biden, in October 2018
  • $5,000 to Democratic Montana Sen. Jon Tester’s campaign in August 2017
  • $5,000 to former Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen’s campaign in September 2017
  • $5,000 to Democratic Iowa U.S. Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield’s campaign in June 2019
  • $5,000 to Democratic Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall’s campaign in March 2018
  • $5,250 to state Treasurer Zach Conine’s campaign; $250 in March 2018 and $5,000 in August 2018
  • $5,000 to former Democratic state Senate candidate Julie Pazina’s campaign in August 2018
  • $5,000 to Democratic State Sen. Melanie Scheible’s campaign in August 2018
  • $5,000 to former Democratic Secretary of State candidate Nelson Araujo’s campaign in August 2018
  • $5,000 to Clark County Commission candidate Justin Jones’s campaign in August 2018
  • $5,000 to Democratic state Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop’s campaign in August 2018
  • $2,500 to Washington Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s campaign in November 2017
  • $2,500 to Democratic Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s campaign in April 2018
  • $2,000 to New Jersey Democratic U.S. Sen Bob Menendez’s campaign in June 2017
  • $2,500 to Michigan Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s campaign in January 2017
  • $5,000 to Nevada Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford’s campaign in August 2018
  • $12,000 to Nevada Democratic Rep. Susie Lee’s campaign; $4,500 in August 2018, $5,000 in September 2017 and $2,500 in November 2017
  • $2,000 to Arizona Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kelly’s campaign in June 2019
  • $2,000 to California Democratic Rep. Norma Torres’s campaign in May 2019
  • $1,000 to Democratic state Sen. Mo Denis’s campaign in November 2017
  • $1,000 to Las Vegas City Councilwoman Olivia Diaz’s campaign in April 2019 (made after the municipal primary election but before the general election)
  • $1,000 to New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker’s campaign in February 2018
  • $1,000 to former Missouri Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s campaign in February 2018
  • $1,000 to former Las Vegas City Councilman Steven Seroka’s campaign in March 2017
  • $1,000 to Henderson Mayor Debra March’s campaign in February 2017
  • $750 to Utah Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams’s campaign in September 2018
  • $500 to New Mexico Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland’s campaign in May 2018
  • $500 to former judicial candidate James Dean Leavitt’s campaign in October 2018
  • $500 to New Jersey Democratic Rep. Donald Norcross’s campaign in July 2018
  • $500 to Henderson city councilwoman Michelle Romero’s campaign in March 2019
  • $500 to former Indiana Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly’s campaign in December 2017
  • $500 to Rhode Island Democratic U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s campaign in October 2017
  • $500 to former Democratic California congressional candidate Kia Hamadanchy’s campaign in April 2017

But political contributions were just a portion of Reid’s spending since leaving office.

The two committees also reported spending more than $254,000 since 2017 on campaign expenses and wind-down related costs, including moving costs, credit card payments, bank fees, taxes, airline travel, meals and consulting services.

The vast majority of those expenses — $194,000 — came in 2017, the first year after Reid had left office.

But some of the reported spending has a less clear purpose. His campaign reported spending nearly $800 on “officially connected” gifts at a CVS and $20 on a SiriusXM radio subscription, both made in January 2017. He also reported spending nearly $1,200 at the now-closed Driftwood Kitchen in Washington, D.C. in November 2017.

And between February and May of 2017, Reid’s leadership PAC — Searchlight Leadership Fund — spent more than $4,200 on “gifts for donors,” including $1,100 of expenses incurred at Nordstrom, $1,059 at a CVS and $778 at Hermes, a luxury clothing store. 

The leadership PAC also reported paying for more than $12,000 in meals, primarily during the first six months of 2017 when Reid had just left office (the FEC doesn’t allow candidates to use campaign funds for “food purchased for daily consumption” but allows it for campaign meetings or fundraising activities). Outside of 2017, the leadership PAC reported a $450 expense at a Green Valley steakhouse in Henderson in March of 2019.

Reid’s Senate campaign account also reported making several payments for “wind down consulting” and “strategic consulting services” to a firm called Sala Consulting, Ltd. The firm was founded in January 2017 and is run by Chris Anderson, who lists himself as its president on his LinkedIn page and who spent nearly four years as the executive director of Reid’s official Senate campaign account and his affiliated “Leadership PAC,” Searchlight Leadership Fund. 

According to FEC records, $14,500 of the nearly $60,000 paid to Sala Consulting over the last three years has come from Reid’s campaign account or his leadership PAC, including $5,000 in 2017, $2,000 in 2018 and $5,000 in 2019. Outside of small disbursements from Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, all other Sala Consulting income reported through federal campaigns came from Rosen’s campaign, whom Reid “hand-picked” to challenge incumbent Sen. Dean Heller in 2018.

Reid has also made more than $31,000 in charitable contributions from his campaign accounts since leaving office, including a $10,000 check to the UNLV Foundation in November 2017, $1,250 donated to UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law in October 2017 and a combined $3,000 to St. Baldrick’s Foundation, as well as various other charities, including The Shade Tree, the Committee to Aid Abused Women, Children of Mine Youth Center and Dream Big Nevada.

The former Senate majority leader also has not shied away from contributing to media organizations, including:

  • $2,200 to Nevada Public Radio (between three donations)
  • $1,500 to The Nevada Independent
  • $1,250 to Vegas PBS
  • $1,000 to Daily Kos, a left-leaning Internet news website

Money raised

Reid’s campaign hasn’t just made contributions over the last two election cycles; it has also reported raising more than $111,500 since the start of 2017. Some of the funds have come from bank interest, but the vast majority came from one source — a boutique digital firm called Well & Lighthouse, which paid the campaign a total of $108,000 in 2017 for what was described in FEC records as “list sale income.”

Email lists are one of the most valuable commodities in the world of campaigns, especially as candidates have begun to eschew high-dollar fundraisers and rely more on a broader pool of small donors. A primary way to do that is through the sharing, rental or sale of email lists, which is how individuals who sign up or donate to one candidate can soon find themselves bombarded with donation requests from many other, seemingly unrelated candidates.

Since at least the 2012 election cycle, Well & Lighthouse has been a major vendor for Democratic congressional and Senate campaigns — bringing in more than $33.3 million since the 2012 election cycle, or an average of $8.3 million per election cycle, according to data from OpenSecrets.org. The firm also received $1.4 million from the campaign of Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto — Reid’s handpicked successor and former attorney general — in the 2016 election cycle, the second-highest of any candidate that cycle.

Well & Lighthouse was co-founded and is led by Jon-David Schlough, who worked on Reid’s 2010 re-election campaign overseeing digital strategy. His firm did not return a request for comment.

Zombie campaigns

Reid isn’t the only former politician to keep his federal campaign account past retirement; a 2018 Tampa Bay Times investigation into so-called “zombie” accounts found a myriad of questionable spending to likely abuses. These included a former South Carolina congressman-turned-lobbyist who kept his account open for more than two decades, disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley using campaign funds to buy dinner more than a decade after leaving office and a consultant being paid more than $100,000 over 17 months from the campaign account of Hawaii Rep. Mark Takai — despite Takai being dead the entire time.

In total, the investigation found nearly 100 “zombie” campaigns that had continued spending leftover donations on everything from “airline tickets, club memberships, a limo trip, cell phones, parking and new computers.”

The investigation eventually prompted the FEC, which did not have clear-cut rules on the use of campaign funds once out of office, to send letters earlier this year to nearly 27 campaigns asking why their campaigns were still open and posing specific questions on reported spending (Reid’s campaign did not receive a letter).

But enforcement action is unlikely after FEC Commissioner Matthew Petersen resigned in August, dropping the number of active commissioners to three — below the legal requirement to hold a meeting or make any high-level decisions.

The Center for Public Integrity reported that the commission — composed of up to six members, with no more than three of the same political party — has been effectively hobbled since the resignation, with no power to hold meetings, levy fines, issue advisory opinions or work on the backlog of nearly 300 cases on its enforcement docket, many of which may surpass the statute of limitations early next year.

Although there’s little clear guidance under federal campaign law, the Legislature in 2015 passed a law requiring former candidates or public officials to dispose of unspent campaign contributions within four years (the law only applies to candidates for state legislative or local office, not federal races).

Zombies in Nevada

Other former Nevada politicians with leftover cash have elected to either hold on to their campaign contributions, use them in other races or refund checks to contributors. 

One of the more notable examples is former Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen, who elected not to run for re-election in 2017 in the face of sexual misconduct allegations reported by BuzzFeed News and The Nevada Independent (details of which were later confirmed in a House Ethics Committee investigation).

Rather than return his then-substantial campaign war chest of more than $318,000 to donors, Kihuen transferred more than $160,000 to his 2019 campaign for a Las Vegas City Council seat (a move at first questioned by but later deemed acceptable by the Nevada Secretary of State). Kihuen narrowly lost in the primary election.

As of his last quarterly campaign finance report, Kihuen had $151,000 in available cash on hand. Other than nominal fees for storage, web hosting and postage, his other major expenditures include legal consulting ($1,220 to the law firm of Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock) and a $500 contribution to Adrian Boafo, the former chief of staff to Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer and City Council candidate in Maryland.

Others have opted to return donations after losing their races. Former Sen. Dean Heller, who lost his re-election bid in 2018, has already made more than $103,000 in refunds to contributors throughout 2019. He also made a $10,000 charitable donation to a search and rescue task force, and has otherwise not made contributions to other candidates.

His campaign, which raised more than $15 million during the last election cycle, has a relatively paltry $99,000 left in cash on hand.

Similarly, Heller’s 2012 opponent — former Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley — filed termination paperwork for her Senate committee less than a year after losing her race (Berkley forgave more than $249,000 in personal loans while terminating her campaign, suggesting that she had little cash left over at the end of her campaign).

Not all former office-holders have taken Heller or Berkley’s path. Former Republican Rep. Joe Heck, who lost a U.S. Senate bid in 2016, still has more than $189,000 left in his Senate campaign account, and FEC records show his campaign has paid out nearly $296,000 over the last two election cycles.

As with Reid, Heck’s contributions have largely focused on wind-down campaign expenses, but have also benefited political parties and candidates, including $75,000 to the Nevada Republican Party in July 2018 and $5,000 to the Washoe County Republican Party in October 2017. Other contributions to political candidates made by Heck include:

  • $11,000 to former Nevada Republican Adam Laxalt’s gubernatorial campaign throughout 2017 and 2018 
  • $9,000 to groups affiliated with former Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller; $5,000 to his Senate campaign in Sept. 2017 and $5,000 to an affiliated joint fundraising committee, Heller Senate Victory Committee, in April 2018 
  • $8,000 to the campaign of Nevada Republican Rep. Mark Amodei in March 2018 
  • $8,000 to former Nevada Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy’s campaign in January 2018
  • $8,000 to former Arizona Republican Senate candidate Martha McSally in March 2018 (McSally lost her election but was later appointed to a vacant seat in the U.S. Senate) 
  • $7,000 to Americans United for Freedom, a joint fundraising PAC formed to support Republican Senate candidates. The contributions were made in March 2018.
  • $5,000 to Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine-Husted’s campaign in January 2018
  • $4,000 to Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in January 2018
  • $4,000 to former Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita in January 2018
  • $4,000 to Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Lloyd Smucker in May 2018
  • $4,000 to former Nevada Republican congressional candidate Stavros Anthony in September 2017
  • $2,500 to former Maine Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin in June 2017
  • $2,000 to Florida Republican Rep. Brian Mast in September 2018
  • $1,000 to Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo in April 2018
  • $500 to Nevada Supreme Court Justice Lidia Stiglich in May 2018

Heck, who is now a lobbyist for Red Rock Strategies, also gave a $10,000 contribution to Issue One, a “cross-partisan political reform group” that focuses on issues such as campaign finance reform and election security. Heck is listed as one of the group’s “ReFormers” — more than 200 former political figures and congressional representatives. He also gave $1,000 to a group called Nevada State Society, a 501(c)(4) organization composed of Nevadans who live in the Washington, D.C. area (Red Rock Strategies, Heck’s employer, is a “sponsor” of the group, according to its website).

Heck’s campaign also paid $23,400 to WPA Intelligence, a political firm best known for its role in Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign, for a “Survey Study (Services)” in July of 2018.

A different path was taken by former Nevada Rep. Cresent Hardy, a Republican who served one term in Congress between 2014 and 2016, lost his 2016 re-election bid and lost another bid for the seat in 2018. His campaign account with the FEC was transformed this year into an organization called Nevada Values PAC, which has retained more than $197,000 in cash on hand from Hardy’s 2018 election cycle. In paperwork submitted to the FEC in February, Hardy’s new PAC will operate as a Carey Committee (or hybrid PAC) that is allowed to maintain two bank accounts — one of which can make direct contributions to candidates and is subject to FEC rules and regulations, and the other which can accept unlimited donations and operate like a Super PAC, meaning it cannot coordinate with other campaigns or candidates.

Las Vegas nurse joins crowded race for 4th Congressional District

A hand arranging "I voted" stickers on a table

The ever-expanding Republican primary field in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District grew once more Wednesday with the announcement that Catherine Prato, the former director of nursing education for the state’s nursing board, launched a bid to flip the seat of Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford. 

Prato, a registered nurse from Las Vegas, also sits on the Nevada Health Occupations Students of America board as vice chair, in addition to seats at several other nursing organizations. 

She joins a crowded group of seven other Republicans vying for the seat, including former Assemblyman Jim Marchant, Navy veteran and ex-congressional aide Charles Navarro, former Miss Nevada and small-business owner Lisa Song Sutton, Nye County Commissioner Leo Blundo, small-business owner Randi Reed, veteran and small-business owner Sam Peters and small-business owner Rebecca Wood. 

The 4th District — a geographically sprawling district that encompasses both North Las Vegas and much of the state’s rural center — has been represented by both major parties since its creation in 2011. Still, Democrats have won the seat all but one cycle, when Republican Cresent Hardy held the district between 2014 and 2016. 

The seat is now held by Horsford, who — in addition to representing the district from 2012 to 2014 — went on to replace outgoing Democratic incumbent Ruben Kihuen after he declined to run for re-election in the wake of sexual harassment allegations.

Veteran, ex-congressional staffer joins crowded GOP field running for Congressional District 4

Navy veteran and former congressional staffer Charles Navarro launched his bid for Nevada’s 4th Congressional District Thursday, joining a widening field of Republican hopefuls looking to flip the seat red in 2020. 

Since its creation in 2011, the district has flipped back and forth between the major parties, though Democrats have maintained control for three of the last four election cycles. The seat is held by Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, who won it in 2018 after losing it to Republican Cresent Hardy in 2014. 

Now a Petty Officer 1st Class, Navarro spent 12 years in the U.S. Navy, including eight years as a Navy reservist. Navarro also spent time working as Hardy’s military and veterans affairs representative, in addition to a stint on the staff of retired California Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon. 

Most recently, Navarro worked as the re-entry manager for Hope for Prisoners, a faith-based organization which aims to assist prisoners in the transition back into society. 

Navarro joins a crowded field of Republicans looking for the chance to represent the district, including former Assemblyman Jim Marchant, former Miss Nevada and business owner Lisa Song Sutton, Nye County Commissioner Leo Blundo, small-business owner Randi Reed, veteran and small-business owner Sam Peters and small-business owner Rebecca Wood. 

Government-run health insurance is a losing bet

Two empty beds in an emergency room

By Cresent Hardy

Former Vice President and Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden recently threw his health care policy proposal into the ring to square off against his fellow candidates’ various proposed plans. While on the surface not as radical as some of his challengers’ approaches, Biden’s plan does include a public option that will end up putting us on a slow road to a one-size-fits-all approach that simply does not work in health care, particularly for the hospitals, emergency rooms and clinics serving rural communities in Nevada and across the country. Having formerly represented a portion of the rural areas, I know first-hand how they are already suffering because of the lack of accessibility and availability. These proposals, including the "more moderate" public option that is gaining popularity, would only exacerbate the problem. 

There is no question that there are serious problems in our health care system that elected officials and policymakers should address—namely, the high cost of care. However, whether it is the public option Biden calls for or a Medicare-for-all or Medicare buy-in approach championed by some of his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, the fact remains that government-controlled health care will not yield greater cost savings and instead could end up threatening quality and access to care while increasing wait times, taxes and private plan premiums.

A recent piece published by Morning Consult outlines the concerns many in the health care community, particularly rural health care providers, have with this recent national Democratic trend of promoting government-run insurance systems. It’s important to realize that these plans are more than just catchy campaign slogans or taglines—they represent full upheavals of our entire health care system. And, for rural hospitals and communities, these kinds of policies will make the challenges and obstacles they face even worse.

As J.W. Cowan—a rural hospital administrator in Alabama—notes, America’s rural hospitals, ERs, and health care centers are struggling just to keep their doors open and continue serving their communities. According to Cowan, “over one-fifth of the country’s rural hospitals are at high risk of closing, putting patients and local economies in danger.” Policies that would shrink payments to these hospitals—which is exactly what Medicare for all, Medicare buy-in, and even a public option, eventually, would do—will only make it that much harder for vital facilities like these to stay open in Alabama, in Nevada and across the country.

In rural communities nationwide, hospital closures and consolidations have already shrunk access to quality care for millions of Americans. Rapidly expanding at-risk programs like Medicare and Medicaid will only serve to contribute to the financial woes facing our rural health care facilities, expediting these closures and consolidations and further threatening access to care while forcing patients to travel further, wait longer distances, and pay more in order to receive a lower quality of health care. This is not the way to expand affordable, high-quality health coverage to more Americans.

In order to address the problems in our health care system, we need to focus on building on what’s currently working and fixing—or eliminating—what isn’t. There are a number of practical policy changes that could help improve health care in America without resorting to a one-size-fits-all government insurance system—from expanding Medicaid in the states to increasing federal subsidies for low- and middle-income Americans to improving education and enrollment efforts. Most Americans would rather see our elected officials and policymakers work on improving the system we currently have over scrapping the entire thing and building a new, government-run health care insurance system.

To his credit, Biden’s health care proposal does include some more practical policy fixes that would help strengthen the ACA and expand coverage. However, the mere inclusion of the public option undermines any of the more pragmatic solutions his policy puts forward. It may not lead to government-run health care as quickly as Medicare for all would, but it would get us to the same point eventually. Ultimately, the public option is no option for rural health care here in Nevada or anywhere else. 

Our current health care system—in which more than 290 million Americans have coverage that includes essential benefits—may still be in need of some work. But instead of burning the entire system to the ground, let’s focus on putting out the fires where we can and building up what is currently working well. That is how we can best ensure that we continue to expand access to care while lowering costs for all Americans. 

 Cresent Hardy is a former Republican state legislator and former congressman.