Congressional incumbents dominate in cash on hand as primary challengers outspend them for a chance to advance

A ballot cast in a mailbox

Republicans Dan Rodimer and Dan Schwartz are on strong financial footing heading into the final days of the 3rd Congressional District primary, and, in District 4, Lisa Song Sutton and Jim Marchant have the most in the bank for the home stretch.

Disclosure reports that reflect the last seven weeks of campaigning show that spirited GOP primaries in districts held by Democrats Susie Lee and Steven Horsford have resulted in significant spending while the incumbents enjoy a large cash on hand advantage.

District 3 has seen three competitors spending thousands in the weeks before the June primary, including former state Treasurer Schwartz, who spent upwards of $400,000 in the seven-week pre-primary period alone. In District 4, Song Sutton is leading the eight-way race in expenditures after spending $148,000 during the pre-primary period.

The fundraising pre-primary period covers the time elapsed between the last campaign finance quarterly report and 20 days before the primary election. For Nevada, it covers the period between April 1 and May 20; the deadline for submitting the report was Thursday, ahead of Election Day on June 9.

The only Republican incumbent, Mark Amodei of District 2, has more cash on hand than either of his Democratic competitors but Clint Koble has been the highest spender, burning through more than $47,000 in the pre-primary period.

DISTRICT 1

Encompassing the Las Vegas Strip, downtown Las Vegas and surrounding areas, District 1 is the bluest of Nevada's four congressional districts. Incumbent Dina Titus has held the seat since 2013 after taking 63 percent of the vote in the 2012 election. Before Titus, Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley held the seat from 1999 to 2013.

Dina Titus – Democrat (incumbent)

  • Pre-primary receipts: $13,565
  • Pre-primary spending: $29,575
  • Cash on hand: $314,045

Incumbent Dina Titus reported raising $13,565 and spending $29,575 in the pre-primary period. She has $314,045 in available cash for what will likely be a win for Titus in both the primary and the general election.

Her largest donation in the final days before the primary came in the form of $5,600 from George Marcus, a billionaire real estate broker living in California. Titus' highest expenses were for consultant services.

Before representing District 1, Titus served as a state senator for 20 years beginning in 1988 and then went on to represent District 3 from 2009 to 2011 but was ousted by Republican Joe Heck in 2010.

Citlaly Larios-Elias – Republican

  • Pre-primary receipts: $500
  • Pre-primary spending: $1,946
  • Cash on hand: $257

Citlaly Larios-Elias is a veteran who, after she was discharged after injuring her back and legs, acquired a bachelor’s of fine arts fashion design. After she got married in 2016, she turned her attention to raising her family and decided to run for office after she saw the economic effect of COVID-19.

During the pre-primary period, she raised $500 and spent $1,946. Her funds went toward office supplies, consulting costs, a folding table and fees associated with filing for office. At the end of the pre-primary period, she had $257 in cash on hand. 

This is Larios-Elisa’s first run for office. On her website, she lists endorsements from Nevada Veterans PAC and the controversial organization, Veterans in Politics.

Several candidates running for the seat did not file pre-primary reports or have reported less than $500 in contributions during the period:

  • Kamau Bakari, Independent American
  • Joyce Bentley, Republican
  • Josh Elliot, Republican
  • Eddie Hamilton, Republican
  • Anthony Thomas Jr., Democrat
  • Joseph Maridon, Nonpartisan
  • Allen Rheinhart, Democrat
  • Robert Van Strawder, Libertarian

DISTRICT 2

The district covers the northern third of the state and includes Carson City (the state capital), Reno and vast swaths of rural Northern Nevada. It is the only Republican-leaning district in the state. Republican Rep. Mark Amodei has held the seat since 2011 when he won a special election. In 2018, Amodei defeated Democratic challenger Clint Koble with 58.2 percent of the votes in the general election.

Past officeholders include former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and former Gov. Jim Gibbons — both Republicans.

Mark Amodei  – Republican (incumbent)

  • Pre-primary receipts: $15,765
  • Pre-primary spending: $77,736
  • Cash on hand: $231,504

Amodei leads in spending for District 2, raising $15,765 in the pre-primary period and spending $77,735 on expenses such as advertising, consulting and donor relations including meals and entertainment.

Despite spending the largest amount during the pre-primary period, Amodei still had the most cash on hand out of the other candidates in the district with $231,503 in available funds. His top donors include the National Beer Wholesalers Association, which gave the campaign $2,500, Tuesday Group PAC, which donated $2,000, and the National Association of Realtors and PAC Unitatis – each contributed $1,000.

Ed Cohen – Democrat

  • Pre-primary receipts: $17,362
  • Pre-primary spending: $47,299
  • Cash on hand: $2,241

Democratic challenger Ed Cohen raised $17,362 during the pre-primary period and spent $47,299, which left him with $2,241 cash on hand heading into the final days of the primary.

Cohen is a former newspaper reporter who now directs marketing for the National Judicial College in Reno. He has been spending at a steady clip putting money toward consulting, digital advertising and texting services.

Earlier on in the cycle, he gave his campaign a boost with a $31,500 loan to himself.

Clint Koble – Democrat

  • Pre-primary receipts: $36,399 ($140 in loans)
  • Pre-primary spending: $39,263
  • Cash on hand: $1,374

Democratic challenger Clint Koble reported $36,399 in contributions during the pre-primary period and $39,263 in expenditures. Many of the contributions and expenditures are "in-kind" services donated to the campaign, such as people managing social media or coordinating volunteers for the campaign. He has $1,374 cash on hand as the primary approaches.

Koble is a former state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency. Before that, he was the executive director of the Nevada Rural Development Council. Similar to other candidates, most of his spending centered around consulting services, digital media platforms and mailers.

Patricia Ackerman – Democrat

  • Pre-primary receipts: $13,494
  • Pre-primary spending: $28,640
  • Cash on hand: $8,135

A former independent undercover FBI agent, actress, small business owner and Democratic hopeful, Patricia Ackerman raised $13,494 in contributions and spent $28,640 ahead of Election Day. The candidate had $8,135 in cash on hand at the end of the pre-primary period.

Most of Ackerman’s spending focused on mailers, campaign consulting and digital advertisements. Ackerman previously ran for Assembly District 39 in 2018 but lost the seat to Republican incumbent Jim Wheeler, who won with 65.4 percent. 

Rick Shepherd – Democrat

  • Pre-primary receipts: $1,125
  • Pre-primary spending: $10,755
  • Cash on hand: $2,020

Democratic candidate and owner of Synux Technologies in Northern Nevada Rick Shepherd raised $1,125 during the pre-primary period and spent $10,755. Shepherd has a cash on hand balance of $2,020.

Over $9,000 of the candidate’s spending during the period went towards radio, media, and online advertising while the remaining amount covered mailers. 

Several candidates running for the seat did not file pre-primary reports or have reported less than $500 in contributions during the period. These candidates are:

  • Joel Paul Beck, Republican
  • Janine Hansen, Independent American
  • Reynaldo Hernandez, Democrat
  • Jesse Douglas Hurley, Republican
  • Richard John Dunn III, Nonpartisan
  • Ian Luetkehans, Democrat
  • Steve Schiffman, Democrat

DISTRICT 3

District 3 covers the area south of Las Vegas and most of unincorporated Clark County as well Henderson and Boulder City. Democratic incumbent Susie Lee won the seat in the 2018 general election with 51.9 percent, succeeding Democrat Jacky Rosen, who left after one term to run for the U.S. Senate. 

Susie Lee  – Democrat (incumbent)

  • Pre-primary receipts: $190,144
  • Pre-primary spending: $78,807
  • Cash on hand: $2,005,508

Lee leads the district in fundraising for the pre-primary period with total contributions amounting to $190,144. She spent $78,807 in the pre-primary period and has a cash on hand balance of $2,005,508 heading into the final days of the election.

Lee is an education advocate and philanthropist who previously served as the president of the dropout prevention organization Communities in Schools of Nevada and as the founding director of After-School All Stars. Most of Lee’s expenses went toward salaries, digital services and catering.

Dan Schwartz – Republican 

  • Pre-primary receipts: $52,445 ($2,445 in contributions, $50,000 in loans)
  • Pre-primary spending: $423,108
  • Cash on hand: $53,330

Republican challenger Dan Schwartz falls in the middle of the pack of candidates with $52,445 worth of contributions coming in during the pre-primary. However, the majority of the donations came from $50,000 he loaned to his campaign. 

In terms of spending, Schwartz outspent every other candidate in District 3 using $423,108 to pay for consulting, advertisements, phone calls to voters, digital services and other campaign-related expenses. As the primary comes to a close, Schwartz has $53,329 in cash on hand.

Dan Rodimer – Republican

  • Pre-primary receipts: $93,505
  • Pre-primary spending: $196,263
  • Cash on hand: $219,882

During the pre-primary period, Republican hopeful Dan Rodimer, a one-time pro-wrestler, received $93,505 in contributions. Rodimer’s campaign spent $196,236 on various expenses such as mailings, consulting, marketing and social media costs with a large portion of those earmarked for Facebook media placement fees.

As the primary winds down, Rodimer has $219,882 in cash on hand. Among the donations Rodimer received, $1,000 came from Dana White, the president of Ultimate Fighting Championship, and $2,800 from P. Lee Halavais, the president of the mining company High Desert Gold Corporation.

Mindy Robinson – Republican

  • Pre-primary receipts: $27,421 ($25,921 in contributions, $1,500 in loans)
  • Pre-primary spending: $24,561
  • Cash on hand: $6,259

Republican challenger Mindy Robinson, an actor and activist, joined the Republican primary at the last minute but brought in $27,421 in contributions during the pre-primary period, including a $1,500 loan to herself. In the pre-primary period, she has spent $24,560 and has $6,259 in cash on hand at its end.

Most of Robinson’s spending has focused on advertising through billboards, radio and newspapers, postage for campaign mailings and get out the vote efforts. More than half of the contributors to her campaign are from other states such as Utah, Massachusetts, California and Colorado.

Several candidates running for the seat did not file pre-primary reports or have reported less than $500 in contributions during the period:

  • Steve Brown, Libertarian
  • Gary Crispin, Democrat
  • Ed S. Bridges II, Independent American
  • Brian Nadell, Republican
  • Corwin “Cory” Newberry, Republican
  • Dennis Sullivan, Democrat
  • Tiffany Ann Watson, Democrat
  • Victor R. Willert, Republican

DISTRICT 4

District 4 encompasses the northern portion of Clark County as well as the central region of the state. Represented by Democrat Steven Horsford, the district is host to a crowded Republican primary this year with an eight-way race for a spot in November’s general election ballot.

Incumbent Horsford previously held the seat from 2013 to 2015 before losing to former Republican Cresent Hardy in the 2014 election. He reclaimed his seat from Hardy in a rematch in 2018.

Steven Horsford – Democrat (incumbent)

  • Pre-primary receipts: $173,092
  • Pre-primary spending: $75,111
  • Cash on hand: $1,281,574

With $173,092 raised during the pre-primary period, Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford yielded the highest amount of contributions out of the candidates in District 4. During that same period of time, he spent $75,111 and has a cash on hand balance of $1,281,573. 

Horsford served as a state senator for eight years before running for the 4th Congressional District in 2013. His reelection campaign was marked with his recent acknowledgment of a years-long extramarital affair that began at the pinnacle of his eight-year legislative career. Some of Horsford’s Republican challengers have called for an investigation into whether public dollars were used to support the affair — an allegation Horsford’s office has denied.

Gabrielle D’Ayr – Democrat

  • Pre-primary receipts: $800
  • Pre-primary spending: $455
  • Cash on hand: $345

Gabrielle D’Ayr, a Democratic candidate taking on Horsford in the primary, has raised $800 and spent $455 during the pre-primary period.

D’Ayr is the vice president of the Nevada Federation of Democratic Women and has largely self-funded her campaign. All of her spending during the period leading up to the primary has been on yard signs.

Jim Marchant – Republican

  • Pre-primary receipts: $55,543
  • Pre-primary spending: $99,347
  • Cash on hand: $187,374

Semi-retired businessman, former assemblyman and Republican hopeful Jim Marchant raised $55,543 during the pre-primary period and spent $99,347 on consulting fees, automated phone calls and other campaign-related expenses. Heading into the end of the primaries, Marchant had a healthy cash on hand balance of $187,374.

Much of that balance comes from $110,100 Marchant loaned himself earlier on in the election cycle.

Charles Navarro – Republican

  • Pre-primary receipts: $10,392
  • Pre-primary spending: $16,801
  • Cash on hand: $18,137

Republican challenger Charles Navarro has reported raising $10,392 and spending $16,801 during the pre-primary period. He has a cash on hand balance of $18,137.

Navarro’s campaign has been partially self-funded, with $9,807 contributed under his own name in the pre-primary period alone. The majority of his spending has gone toward consulting and direct mail services.

A member of the U.S. Navy reserves, Navarro was formerly a re-entry manager with Hope for Prisoners and has worked for multiple representatives in Washington D.C.

Leonardo Blundo – Republican

  • Pre-primary receipts: $2,500
  • Pre-primary spending: $6,977
  • Cash on hand: $3,912

Nye County Commissioner Leonardo Blundo, a Republican, reported raising $2,500 during the pre-primary period and spending $6,977. The campaign has a cash on hand balance of $3,912 going into the primary, but Blundo accrued debts amounting to $10,635 for consulting and printing and design services this period.

The candidate is also a small business owner, running Carmelo’s Bistro in Pahrump. 

Sam Peters – Republican

  • Pre-primary receipts: $34,772
  • Pre-primary spending: $83,178
  • Cash on hand: $11,777

Republican challenger Sam Peters reported raising $34,772 and spending $83,178 during the pre-primary period. As the primary comes to a close, Peters has a cash on hand balance of $11,777.

Peters is the owner of the Vegas-based risk management firm Peters Family Insurance. He retired from the U.S. Air Force as a major in 2013 after more than 20 years of service. Previously, Peters was a member of the board for Summerlin Rotary International. Most of his spending in the pre-primary period went toward advertising and consulting.

Randi Reed – Republican

  • Pre-primary receipts: $625
  • Pre-primary spending: $6,968
  • Cash on hand: $20,816

Republican candidate Randi Reed raised $625 in the pre-primary period and spent more than 10 times that amount at $6,968, leaving the campaign with a cash on hand balance of $20,816.31.

Reed, who has nicknamed her campaign “The Fury,” is the owner of a furniture store in Sparks and has said she is running to make up for the lack of Republican women in Congress. She spent most of her campaign budget on consulting and media buys.

Lisa Song Sutton – Republican

  • Pre-primary receipts: $55,914
  • Pre-primary spending: $147,922
  • Cash on hand: $106,139

Small business owner and Republican hopeful Lisa Song Sutton reported raising $55,914 and spending $147,922 during the pre-primary period, making her the biggest spender on the ballot. As the primary approaches, the campaign has a remaining cash on hand balance of $106,139.

Song Sutton received a $5,000 donation during this period from Elevate PAC or E-PAC, a political action committee focused on electing Republican women to office. The committee also named Sutton one of its “Rising Stars.” 

The owner of Sin City Cupcakes in Las Vegas, Song Sutton has worked exclusively in the private sector, and her experience as a businesswoman is something she has touted throughout her campaign, saying often that it’s time for private sector individuals to “come off the sidelines.”

Rebecca Wood – Republican

  • Pre-primary receipts: $3,692
  • Pre-primary spending: $4,548
  • Cash on hand: $3,323

Republican candidate Rebecca Wood reported raising $3,692 and spending $4,548 in the pre-primary period. As the period comes to an end, the candidate has a cash on hand balance of $3,323.

The majority of Wood’s funding during this period came from merchandise purchases, and much of her spending went toward printing and fulfilling those orders, with $374 spent on BMF Apparel and $2,728 on wholesale printing and distribution.

Wood is a businesswoman and a 30-year Las Vegas resident and is calling herself the “real person” in the race rather than a career politician or someone with “big money.”

Several candidates running for the seat did not file pre-primary reports or have reported less than $500 in contributions during the period. These candidates are:

  • Rosalie Bingham, Republican
  • George J. Brucato, Democrat
  • Christopher Kendall Colley, Democrat
  • Jennifer Eason, Democrat
  • Jonathan Royce Esteban, Libertarian
  • Gregory Kempton, Democrat
  • Barry Rubinson, Independent American

Updated at 12:56 p.m. on June 1, 2020 to correct rankings on pre-primary fundraising in District 2 and clarify the nature of Clint Koble contributions.

Lawmakers tackle bill gradually raising minimum wage to $12 by 2023, first increase in eight years

Sign in front of the legislature

A long-held progressive policy goal of raising Nevada’s minimum wage is again surfacing at the Legislature, with its best chance to pass in nearly two decades coming even as some advocates are asking lawmakers to raise the floor even higher.

Although many of the points made during an Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee hearing on AB456 reiterated past arguments on raising the minimum wage, Wednesday’s hearing was different: For the first time since 1992, Democrats control both legislative chambers and the governor’s office, making passage of a minimum wage bill much more likely than at any point in the past two decades.

Familiar battle lines were drawn during the hearing, with restaurants and business groups opposed and labor organizations and progressive groups in support — though a handful of rank-and-file Democratic advocates testified against the bill for not raising the wage to $15 an hour. Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, the bill’s sponsor, said he believed the final product was a product of compromise but that not raising the wage wasn’t an option.

“I recognize there are many folks who think Assembly Bill 456 doesn’t go far enough,” he said. “I recognize that there are many folks who think AB456 goes too far and that we shouldn't take action at all. And I believe that what is in AB456 reflects a meaningful increase in the wages that our workers can earn, and I think it reflects a good amount of collaboration and work with stakeholders who have not come to a consensus on it but understand the interest and motivation behind increasing the minimum wage.”

Nevada’s minimum wage has not been changed since 2011, with businesses required to pay $8.25 an hour if they do not offer health insurance and $7.25 if health insurance is offered. The current wage was set by a voter-approved constitutional amendment in 2006, creating the tiered system for health insurance and tying the wage to any increases in the federal minimum wage or a cumulative cost of living increase.

The state’s minimum wage law exempts large portions of the state’s workforce, including babysitters, agricultural workers and taxi drivers. Effective minimum wages have increased in at least 27 states and Washington D.C. since January 2014

As amended, the bill would raise the state’s current tiered minimum wage rate by 75 cents in 2020, increasing an additional $1 per year until reaching $12 and $11 per hour in 2023. An amendment presented to the bill removed initial language related to civil litigation for underpayment of wages and a lower per-year increase of 75 cents a year until reaching the $12 and $11 wage marks.

But advocates and Frierson said the state’s eight-year period without any minimum wage increase (tied for the longest period without a wage increase since 1969) had left thousands of workers, from an increasingly diverse demographic and age background, struggling to make ends meet as wages stayed flat. Frierson cited statistics from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute indicating that roughly 13,000 Nevada workers made less than the $8.25 minimum wage, and that an estimated 10 percent of the state's workforce earns less than $9 an hour as proof that a wage raise was needed.

“These are just numbers that I believe are unacceptable,” he said.

Supporters of the bill included a wide swath of progressive groups and labor unions, who highlighted the fact that minimum wage jobs were increasingly being filled by older workers. Pastor Ralph Williamson of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, who heads the Faith Organizing Alliance group, said his North Las Vegas church holds a weekly food bank every Thursday which is attended by many individuals who can’t make enough money at their minimum wage jobs to feed themselves or their families.

“As a pastor, I have a moral obligation to be here. As a faith leader, I cannot continue to see our community suffer due to low wages,” he said. “I cannot continue to see our neighbors, brothers and sisters get preyed upon by certain greedy corporations and businesses that are taking advantage of those making low wages.”

Opponents included several chambers of commerce and various individual restaurants, who said that while they were not in theory opposed to raising the wage floor, wanted certain exemptions and carve-outs for new employee “training” wages or to avoid raising the wages for service industry and other tipped workers.

Sean Higgins, a lobbyist for Golden Entertainment, said the casino company would welcome an increase in the minimum wage for its non-tipped employees, but said without a carve-out for tipped employees the bill would significantly shift the landscape of the state’s gaming and hospitality industry.

“If this gets passed, you will have locations reducing hours, automating, increasing prices and possibly even adding service charges to bills to make up for their bottom line,” he said. “All these have an effect on tipped employees, and the majority of them are negative.”

Those suggestions of creating an alternative subminimum wage structure bristled Democratic Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton — a former waitress, who peppered Higgins and lobbyists for the restaurant industry as to whether their support was contingent on a “tip credit” or not allowing tipped employees to realize a minimum wage higher than the one required by the state Constitution.

“The reason this state is the state that it is, is because tipped employees, the service employees of this state, built this state,” she said. “And the reason they built it, and the reason they came here, is because there was no sub-minimum wage. We own homes, we have health care, we have pensions, we serve in the Legislature, we are good community citizens. We should not be treated differently because we choose to work in an industry where the tip is laid on the table.”

The bill was also opposed by a handful of progressive activists, including Gabrielle d’Ayr, who asked lawmakers to raise the wage floor either more quickly or all the way to $15 an hour.

“Inflation is not going to stand still,” she said. “By the time we get to 2023, even with the conceptual amendment, we will be back where we started.”

The measure falls in line with what Gov. Steve Sisolak said he would support at a January Nevada Independent forum, where the governor said he would support a minimum wage of at least $12 an hour with an increase of “something like $1 a year for three, four years.”

In 2017, Democratic lawmakers approved two bills raising the minimum wage including a Senate effort to bump the wage to $12 per hour over five years. That bill was eventually vetoed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, alongside an effort by Assembly Democrats to establish a minimum level of health benefits required for employers to qualify for the $7.25 per hour minimum.

In 2015, legislative attempts to raise the wage to $15 an hour, $9 an hour and eliminating it entirely and replacing it with a system based on the Consumer Price Index all failed to pass.

A 2017 poll by The Nevada Independent found more than two-thirds of Nevada voters supported a raise to the minimum wage, although the poll did not identify a specific dollar-per-hour target.