The Asian American Group is backing Democrat Susie Lee for Congress after supporting her opponent, Republican Danny Tarkanian, in the 2016 election.
Dennis Rucker, the group’s executive vice president, said that Lee outperformed Tarkanian when they interviewed the pair together, even answering one of his questions when he forgot what an acronym stood for. He added that while Tarkanian was “probably the better candidate at the time” when he was running against now-Rep. Jacky Rosen for the 3rd Congressional District in 2016, Lee “definitely stood out in comparison,” garnering the most votes within the group for the endorsement.
He also said the fact that Tarkanian only decided to enter the race after an appeal from President Donald Trump urged him to abandon a Republican primary attempt against incumbent Dean Heller for U.S. Senate didn’t sit well with some members of the group.
“We understand that he has to do things politically, but from our standpoint when you’re only doing what the party tells you to do you’re not listening to the people,” Rucker said. “If the people wanted you to run for Senate, you should run for Senate.”
Rucker said that Lee just “had a better interview.”
“We like Danny as a person, but at the end of the day, it just comes down to who’s going to represent the people versus the party,” Rucker said.
In a statement, Asian American Group chairman Mike Vaswani said that Lee “shares our values and will be a strong advocate from the Asian American community in Congress.”
“Susie has demonstrated a commitment to improving educational opportunities, supporting small businesses, and working with anyone who wants to make positive difference,” Vaswani said. “We strongly support Susie Lee for Congress.”
Lee said in a statement that she is “honored” to have the group’s support and is looking forward to working closely with them in the years ahead.
The Asian American Group is the third organization to decide to back Lee after supporting Tarkanian in his bid for the 3rd Congressional District two years ago.
In August, the National Association of Realtors said that it was backing Lee, calling her a “common sense problem solver.” A month later, the Asian American Chamber of Commerce announced its support for Lee as well, calling the education advocate and philanthropist “new blood, new energy.”
On a stage in the Venetian Showroom last weekend, a vice president known for smoothing the rough edges of the politicians he works with spoke in glowing terms about the national economy and Republican congressional candidate Cresent Hardy.
Mike Pence spoke of Hardy having “Nevada values in his veins,” as someone who never quits, who someone will make a great teammate for President Donald Trump, who — like the giant banners behind him declared — was “Nevada Tough.” But when Hardy took the stage, before criticizing his Democratic opponent Steven Horsford for staying in Washington D.C. after losing the same seat in 2014, he added a disclaimer that’s characteristic for the folksy candidate.
“I’m first to admit right off the bat I’m not a polished speaker, I’m a 40-year construction worker,” he said. Trump might have quite the “vernacular,” Hardy added, but “mine’s like dynamite — who knows what’s going to come out of my mouth.”
On the campaign trail in a tough race for a Democratic-leaning district, the self-effacing former congressman touts his roots as fifth-generation Nevada born to a dad with only a fifth-grade education, although he’s no stranger to public office as a former state lawmaker with extensive experience on government boards.
“Cresent strikes an important balance; he is tough and driven, yet he’s also incredibly warm, down-to-earth, and genuinely invested in serving Nevadan families,” Republican National Committee spokeswoman Keelie Broom said about Hardy’s appeal as a candidate.
He’s not afraid to admit a mistake — he says he regrets his decision in the 2016 race to un-endorse President Donald Trump, and Pence, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. are among the party leaders who have forgiven the comments of the past and come to gin up support for him in the Democratic-leaning district in the final weeks of the campaign.
Hardy now speaks in reverent tones about the Trump administration, crediting it with an economic comeback and adding of the president: “his policies are my policies.”
But that’s exactly the problem, according to Horsford. The day of the rally, Horsford was stationed a few miles north outside the Doolittle Senior Center early voting site in historic West Las Vegas, wearing an apron that read “Men Who Cook” and serving barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs to people wearing “I voted” stickers.
“People know what's at stake in this election. The energy no matter what part of the district you're in, people are turning out to make sure their voice is heard,” he said. “They want a representative that's going to be a check on this administration, not another rubber stamp for Donald Trump and his agenda.”
Horsford isn’t taking chances even if the district has a 10-point Democratic advantage. A former head of the Culinary Union’s training academy and former state Senate majority leader, he served a single term in the House before he suffered a tough upset to Hardy in 2014.
This time, there was a bus parked near the barbecue with a giant blue Horsford banner on the side. It was making rounds picking people up in the district and shuttling them to polling places by the dozen.
“I let 'em know this race is close because in 2014 I lost by about 3,000 votes and a lot of us took that for granted and we're not going to let that happen again,” Horsford said. As for how it’s different this time — “We've run a very grassroots, issue-oriented campaign.”
Horsford rattles off a litany of issues he wants the campaign to be about, including protecting pre-existing condition coverage, protecting Medicare and Social Security, and “having the courage to finally do something around gun safety in our country.” He chafes at the Republican narrative that a $1.5 trillion tax cut and slashed regulations have created an economic euphoria, and he argues that many voters are turning out because they haven’t seen the benefits of the tax package.
“Mike Pence, come over here to North Las Vegas and 89106 and tell the people in this community,” he said, referring to the economically distressed ZIP code where the Doolittle Center is located. “I know what the unemployment rate is in my community. It's not a talking point on some stage at the Venetian. It's about real lives that are being affected here in this community.”
The 4th Congressional District shouldn’t have been open at all, but turned into one of Nevada’s most watched contests when incumbent freshman Rep. Ruben Kihuen faced allegations of sexual harassment last December and later announced he would not seek re-election. It’s one of two pickup opportunities in the state for Republicans, who hope to maintain their majority in the House and avoid the potent backstop that would be a Democrat-controlled House.
Republicans believe the district — which was created in 2012 and which both Hardy and Horsford have represented for a term — is within reach. It includes portions of urban Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, as well vast tracts of rural central Nevada and Hardy’s home turf of Mesquite.
Two competing polls were released in August. A survey released by Hardy supporters showed a tied race but was based on strong Republican turnout; another released by Horsford showed the Democrat with a 10-point advantage, but tracked exactly with the voter registration pattern of the district.
But early vote returns are evidence that the Democratic turnout machine has put their resources where their mouth is, investing heavily in a ground effort in the district and determined not to repeat the mistakes of that low-turnout midterm four years earlier.
Registered Democrats in the Clark County portion of the district (which makes up the vast majority of the district) have a lead of about 12,000, or 11.2 percent, over Republicans in ballots cast as of Thursday. That will be difficult for Hardy to overcome on Election Day.
“It's always going to be whatever it is on Nov. 6,” Hardy said of the early returns after his Pence rally, adding that he wanted to keep talking to his supporters and hosting attention-grabbing events like the Pence rally in the home stretch. “I do what I can control. In politics, there's not a heck of a lot you can control.”
Horsford said he was encouraged that the turnout looks nothing like the dismal levels of the year he lost.
“From what I see, we have three times as many voters coming out than turned out in 2014,” he said. “This is all about organization, mobilization, and turnout and we know how to turn out our voters and we're doing that to make sure we win throughout the ticket.”
Horsford has also notched a fundraising advantage, raising about three times more than Hardy in the most recent campaign finance reporting period.
His side is also ahead on outside spending in the race. Of the more than $10 million spent so far by outside groups, Democratic-backing expenditures accounted for about three-quarters of spending.
While not as high-pitched as those in the 3rd congressional race that pits businessman and frequent candidate Danny Tarkanian against education advocacy group leader Susie Lee, the ads in the race between Hardy and Horsford have featured some sharp attacks.
Hardy — and a large slate of Democratic primary opponents before him — hammered Horsford for moving out of the district after his 2014 loss. Horsford ended up buying a home in Arlington, Virginia, and his family lives there; the former congressman started a business called Resources+ that has been referred to derisively in Republican-backed ads by his opponent as a lobbying firm.
In fact, it’s a public relations firm that focuses on developing a diverse workforce, according to Horsford’s campaign. Aides note that the company works to develop community partnerships and a diverse workforce, but does not advocate for the passage of legislation and is not registered on the lobbyist list.
Horsford defends the move as a way to stay close to his family during his time in Congress. After his loss, he said, it was time for him to allow his wife — Sonya Douglass Horsford — to pursue her own career as a professor.
Hardy, on the other hand, points out that he returned to Nevada after his loss and helped a friend build a pig pen. Surrogates (and Hardy) joke on the trail that it must be some metaphor for preparing for a return trip to Washington.
On the economy, Pence argued that Hardy would fight for lower taxes and fewer regulations, fairer trade deals, a wall on the border, a stronger military and pro-life policies.
Democrats have centered their attacks on Hardy’s votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act and his goal, stated in an interview in 2014, that the retirement age should be raised to 75. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee backed an ad that features a grandfather celebrating his birthday, only to accuse Hardy of trying to make seniors work well into their golden years.
Protections for pre-existing conditions have also taken a prominent role in the campaign as Republicans have tried to roll back Obamacare and as a contingent of attorneys general led by Texas is suing to finish off the law. If the suit is successful, it would end the requirement that insurers cover people even if they have a condition such as diabetes, asthma or cancer.
The issue is personal, as both men suffered heart problems in recent years. Horsford had a six-way bypass in 2013, and Hardy was admitted to the hospital near the end of his unsuccessful 2016 campaign for a stent; the condition was initially described as a heart attack but he was quickly discharged from the hospital. Hardy also has diabetes.
In spite of siding with congressional Republicans for several votes in 2015 to repeal the Affordable Care Act — a move that would have rescinded the pre-existing conditions protections — Hardy says he supports keeping them and has called them one of the few things he likes about Obamacare.
Even Pence told an audience forcefully that Hardy would never take away pre-existing conditions protections. Asked afterward how he would preserve them, Hardy said he wanted to work on some sort of more targeted solution.
“I think it's specific legislation. It doesn't have to be tied in some health care bill. It's something we can solve, what that looks like exactly ... but it has to be something in individual legislation and understanding how we're going to pay for it, how it's going to affect insurances across the board,” Hardy said. “Politicians don't know everything about everything, so you bring professionals in, you find out what the issue is, find out how we can fix it, and find out cause and effect before you pass it.”
Asked about Hardy’s promises to preserve health coverage, Horsford gets fired up.
“They're lying. They're literally in court suing to prevent the Affordable Care Act from being able to be implemented. And the protections for pre-existing conditions. They are absolutely lying to the American people,” he said. “But fortunately, I think the American people see through that lie because they know they've never been for protecting health care. They've been for taking it away. They've been for sabotaging it. They've been for cutting the benefits for Medicare and Medicaid. We've been fighting to expand coverage and our record is solid; theirs is not.”
On the ground
The Republican National Committee has put its faith in an enhanced ground game this cycle. Officials pointed out that they had 2,000 Republican Leadership Initiative fellows in the state who had been trained to build “neighborhood teams” that could expand their influence.
“The race – as with all of the Nevada races – will be tight, and that’s where our ground game can and will make a difference,” said RNC’s Broom. “We know that targeted voter contact drives votes, and with 2 million targeted voter contacts and counting under our belt to date statewide, we are very confident that we will deliver victories not only for Cresent but for our whole ticket on Tuesday.”
Democrats count on the support of unions, including the Culinary Union and those affiliated with the AFL-CIO. Powered by union-funded canvassers including reinforcements from out of state, the AFL-CIO is on track to knock 500,000 doors by the end of early voting, including both union and non-union households.
“2014 was not a good year for us with regards to our union member participation and our outreach and our get out the vote efforts. It was after that, in 2016, that we made a commitment that we wouldn't let that happen again,” said Rusty McAllister of the AFL-CIO.
The Culinary Union, meanwhile, has a team of 250 canvassers that work up to 10 or 12 hours a day, six days a week, reaching out to union members and their families. Statewide, they knocked 190,000 doors in the seven weeks preceding early voting and plan to ramp up their force to 300 in the three days leading up to and including Election Day.
They leave bilingual hangers on the door that picture Horsford, as well as Democratic Senate candidate Jacky Rosen and gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak.
But ultimately, the decision in the race lies with people like 62-year-old Bill Bufano, a retired member of the Air Force who previously worked at the Veterans Administration and came to a rally for Hardy featuring Eric Trump. He said he’s thrilled with what the president has accomplished in his first term and wishes he could do more if Congress would help him out.
He likes that Hardy is “more of a blue collar guy, not anybody way up high,” he said. And he voted for Hardy “just basically because of the ideas and values that the Republican Party stands for.”
But it will also lie with people like 40-year-old Janise Wiggins, who came to Horsford’s barbecue after voting early at the Doolittle Center. She and her sorority sisters from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. had come to the polls together.
“I'd just like to see that we maintain somebody in there that's going to be very dedicated to health care and making sure that they do everything on the federal level to make sure they support the Affordable Care Act,” said Wiggins, who added that she supported Horsford after working with his office when he was in Congress. “And if there are changes that need to be made to the Affordable Care Act, give very careful consideration to what those changes should be.”
She’s also not buying the argument that the Trump administration is responsible for the strong economy.
“It's kind of like people are taking credit for something that was already in motion,” she said. “If anything, I think maybe they're doing some things that can actually reverse the momentum that has been built over the several years.”
President Donald Trump’s son, Eric, talked up Republican congressional candidate Cresent Hardy — who he called a “truly, truly tremendous person” — and pushed back on criticisms that his father was inflaming the political discourse in a stop at a crowded Summerlin campaign office on Monday.
Hardy is in a tough race against Democrat Steven Horsford in a district that leans Democratic, and the visit from Eric and his wife, Lara, comes two days after Vice President Mike Pence headlined a rally at The Venetian for Hardy. Eric Trump sprinkled his speech with Republican crowd-pleasers, telling the audience that the Democratic platform could be boiled down to abolishing ICE and banning straws, and he praised his father for bringing back the use of the phrase “Merry Christmas.”
“If Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer control, it will be anarchy in this country. Nothing will get accomplished, they will block every piece of legislation and it will halt American progress in a meaningful way,” Eric Trump said in an interview about the stakes of the election, adding that the Democratic leaders seem bent on obstruction. “Everybody should want America to succeed and sometimes it feels like not everybody actually does want America to succeed on the opposite side.”
Hardy, who had rescinded his support for President Trump in the weeks before the 2016 election after the release of Access Hollywood tape in which Trump made sexually aggressive comments about a woman, said he regretted the unendorsement and “shouldn't have been the judge and the jury.” Now, Hardy said of Trump, “His policies are my policies.”
“You just never met anybody that was so genuine and personable,” Hardy said of the president. “He's just a good person. I think if people had the chance to meet him one on one there would hardly be a person out there who wouldn't vote for him.”
Hardy, who previously owned a construction business, credited Trump for the economic boom and said the administration’s efforts to roll back regulations have driven the recovery even more than a major Republican tax overhaul passed last year.
“Right now we're in the number one job sector growth ... anywhere in the nation. That didn't happen from the previous administration,” he said. “That happened because a person who wants us to win. He gives us hope … This guy is giving us hope that we have that capital opportunity as free market capitalists to be able to do what we want the way that we want.”
That argument runs counter to what former President Barack Obama said at a rally in Las Vegas a week earlier: “When you hear all this talk about economic miracles right now, remember who started it,” he said, alluding to his own administration.
“You had people like Heller who quite frankly didn't know him and he didn't know Heller,” Eric Trump said, “and I think it's actually amazing that both, as they've won on so many issues, whether it be Kavanaugh, whether it be massive tax cuts, whether it be, you know, the deregulation that Cresent just mentioned or so many other things — all of a sudden you start winning, you start forming a true bond.”
The president’s son also addressed the latest criticisms directed at his father. In the wake of a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday, Trump has come under fire for his harsh political rhetoric, with critics arguing that the president’s sharp words have agitated the public and instigated crime.
“At the same time, I think when you look at the incidents of this week, they don't represent either political party,” Eric Trump said. “You have a whack job who's the worst piece of garbage in the world, who committed an unthinkable, unthinkable crime. He doesn't represent the left. He doesn't represent the right. He doesn't represent anybody.”
But he didn’t concede that his father — who he said was “the greatest guy in the world. He's got a heart of gold” — needed to soften his tone.
“If he was perfectly PC [politically correct] and he didn't have that same attitude, I don't think he would've gotten elected … maybe the thing that the media points to, what you might call a weakness, it's actually his greatest strength,” he said. “And I don't think that you take that out of a person. I think either you are a fighter and you're always a fighter, or you're not, and he is one and America needed it.”
He also pushed back against alawsuit, first reported by The New York Times, alleging that Trump, his company and three of his children including Eric used the family name to lure vulnerable people into get-rich-quick schemes. At issue are three companies, including one that marketed vitamins and another that put on multi-day seminars to teach people Trump’s business “secrets,” that allegedly provided clandestine payments to the Trump family.
“It's nonsense. They name a claim in the lawsuit — it's a bunch of gibberish,” he said, casting suspicion on the fact the suit was filed eight days before the election. “That's a system that we actually have to destroy in this country, because it's really third world. If you're not happy with somebody on the other side, let's sue them, let's take them to court, let's go right after them, let's weaponize the legal system.”
Eric Trump acknowledged that his visit, and a planned visit from his older brother Don Jr. on Friday, come in part because early voting returns show Democrats turning out at higher levels than Republicans in the already blue-leaning district. He noted that “we care about winning” and it would be “horrible” if Democrats seize control of Congress.
“The races are going to be close and if Trump wins, Cresent wins,” he said. “If Republicans sit back and they say, ‘Hey, you know, life's really good, I got an increase in my job, I've got a great job, no problems, I'm doing really well, I live a nice comfortable life, everything's running awesome, and I'm not going to show up because I'm complacent,’ if that's the attitude, it's going to be a problem.”
But, he said, “If people come out and see how well the economy and everything else is doing, and because of that they want to vote and vote in support, I think it's game over for the Democrats.”
Vice President Mike Pence predicted a vaunted “blue wave” of Democratic voters will hit a “red wall” in Nevada at rallies aimed at boosting Sen. Dean Heller, gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Republican congressional candidate Cresent Hardy.
After a rally in Las Vegas on behalf of Hardy earlier on Saturday, Pence spoke to a crowd of about 900 in a jet hangar at the Carson City Airport alongside Heller and Laxalt, both in tight races. The rally Saturday afternoon came after both candidates marched with supporters through Carson City at the Nevada Day parade.
“I keep hearing about this blue wave,” Pence said. “I have a feeling it’s going to hit a red wall right here in Nevada.”
Heller, who is fighting to retain his Senate seat, is running against newcomer first-term Rep. Jacky Rosen. Pence, who served with Heller in the House of Representatives, said that the senator had a track record of putting “Nevada first.”
“I’ve known this guy a long time,” Pence said, starting a long pitch for electing Heller. “We served in the House of Representatives together. And I’ll tell you what, he’s a Nevada original.”
Pence cast Heller as a principled conservative who should remain in the Senate and who would help the Trump administration pursue its agenda. He cited Heller’s support for repealing the individual mandate for the Affordable Care Act, stronger borders, tax cuts and increased defense spending. Heller, who had a rocky relationship with Trump at the start of his presidency, has since embraced him, telling Trump in Elko last week that “everything you touch turns to gold.”
“It’s really a choice between tax cuts and tax hikes. It’s a choice between stronger borders and open borders,” Pence said. “It’s a choice between a stronger military and greater respect in the world and more military cuts. It’s a choice between independence and dependence. It’s a choice between protecting Medicare as we know it or start this Medicare for all business that will just bankrupt the system and result in less coverage for seniors across this country.”
The vice president also directly addressed the migrant caravan of thousands of Hondurans and Guatemalans attempting to seek asylum in the U.S., saying that it is a “challenge to our border, challenged to our sovereignty” repeating Trump’s claim that you don’t have a country without strong borders.
“As President Trump made clear, this is an assault on our country, and we will not allow it,” he said.
Pence had highlighted his Irish immigrant roots in his morning speech for Hardy, although he said in the afternoon speech that his grandfather “stood in line” and came to the country legally. International and domestic law allow people to seek asylum, although they must pass a so-called credible fear interview if they are to remain in the country and pursue their case.
Pence also encouraged voters to elect Laxalt, who is locked in a tight race with Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak. He touted Laxalt’s service in the military and track record in the attorney’s general office, extending legal representation to veterans and challenging Obama-era regulations like the Waters of the United States rule, known as WOTUS.
“It’s incredible all that he has done for the people of Nevada,” Pence said.
As the crowd waited for Pence, who flew into Reno on Air Force Two, Laxalt opened his remarks by claiming Sisolak will support higher taxes, sanctuary cities and bring a “corrupt” style of politics to the governor’s mansion.
“The stakes could not be higher for our state,” he said. “We have only two directions we can go. We have that direction, we can go the way of California, high taxes, more regulations, crazy ideas. Or, we can choose the path of the Nevada that we all love. The Nevada that is a western, libertarian-leaning, independent spirit where we believe in low taxes, less government. We believe in the people. This is where our future is.”
Eight days into early voting, Laxalt asked his supporters to continue recruiting Republicans to the polls, saying that the campaign needs to “dig deeper” to turn out more voters. Democrats have a slight lead in early voting, and both Laxalt and Heller’s races are likely to be tight.
“That’s your charge,” he said. “Every single one of you. When you run into people, ask them: Have you voted?”
Throughout the campaign, Laxalt has cast himself as the candidate for rural Nevada. In 2014, Laxalt lost the state’s urban counties — Washoe and Clark — but swept the remaining rural counties. On Saturday, Laxalt said he would defend Nevada’s “libertarian” and “independent” spirit as governor and applauded President Trump’s decision to hold a rally in Elko last week.
“We had a president of the United States come to rural Nevada because he cares about rural Nevada,” Laxalt said. “What kind of signal does that send?”
In his remarks introducing Pence, Heller said he would fight for all of Nevada, from Carson City to Las Vegas. Heller also touted his early and unwavered support for Supreme Court Justice Judge Kavanaugh and distinguished himself from Rosen on immigration.
“By the way, I voted for Judge Kavanaugh,” Heller said to applause. “Jacky Rosen says she would have voted no. Jacky Rosen says she’s for open borders. I say we need secure borders.”
After his comments, the crowd erupted in chants of “build the wall.”
After riding his horse Lincoln at the Nevada Day parade earlier Saturday morning, Heller gave his remarks in full cowboy attire, wearing a tan vest and keeping on his brown cowboy hat.
“Happy Nevada Day everybody,” Heller said. “I dress for the occasion.”
Stumping for Hardy
Earlier in the day, an estimated 500 people came to the rally at the Sands Showroom in The Venetian resort on the Las Vegas Strip, where Pence stressed the high stakes of the election.
“It’s about the fate and the control of the Congress of the United States. It’s about whether we’ll have a Republican Speaker who will stand shoulder to shoulder with President Trump to move America forward, or you’ll have Nancy Pelosi,” he said, to boos. “I was in Congress the last time Nancy Pelosi was Speaker of the House, and you don’t ever want that to happen again.”
Pence also addressed a shooting that happened hours earlier at a Pittsburgh synagogue, calling it evil. Authorities said 11 people are dead and at least six injured, including four police officers.
“Our hearts break for the fallen, the families, the injured … We commend these courageous law enforcement for their swift response,” Pence said. “There is no place in America for violence or anti-semitism, and this evil must end.”
Hardy, who served one term in Congress, is in a tough rematch with Democrat Steven Horsford in a district that leans Democratic. At the end of the first week of early voting, Democrats had cast more than 5,000 more votes than Republicans in the Clark County portion of the 4th Congressional District, which accounts for the majority of CD4.
Speaking before Pence, Hardy repeated criticisms from campaign ads that Horsford worked for a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C. after losing the 2014 race, while Hardy moved back to Clark County and worked on a pig farm after losing his 2016 bid for re-election. Horsford’s campaign has pushed back, saying his business, Resources+, is a public relations firm and does not lobby for the passage of legislation.
“I put you first, move forward in the direction you would have me move,” Hardy said. “It’s a wonderful privilege to do so.”
In an interview after the event, Hardy said having the vice president appear on his behalf was “one of the biggest privileges of my life” and “pretty darn cool.” Asked to comment on the early voting trends, Hardy said he would continue to engage and stir up voters.
“It’s always going to be whatever it is on Nov. 6,” he said. “I do what I can control. In politics there’s not a heck of a lot you can control.”
Pence also touted Hardy’s record, saying he has “Nevada values in his veins” and would work closely with the administration to lower taxes, renegotiate trade deals and fix the country’s “broken” immigration system.
“In the short time that Cresent Hardy represented Nevada in Congress, he was recognized as a voice for this state and a voice for conservative values,” he said.
Pence also said Hardy would “always” defend protections for people with pre-existing conditions, a nod to the popular provision of the Affordable Care Act preventing health insurance companies from discriminating or charging more to people with a history of medical conditions or problems. Hardy has said on the campaign trail that the protections are “probably the one thing I really like” out of the federal health-care law, but votedat leastthree times to overturn the entire law during his two years in Congress.
“The pathway toward continuing America’s growth and prosperity goes right through this congressional district and right through Nevada,” he said.
Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Georgia Sen. David Perdue were also on hand to introduce Hardy and the vice president.
Horsford is getting help from labor unions, including the AFL-CIO and the Culinary Union, in an effort to avoid a repeat of 2014, when he lost in an upset to Hardy. The district’s current representative, Democrat Ruben Kihuen, announced in December that he would not run for re-election following several allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior.
Hardy’s fundraising has lagged Horsford’s. In the most recent quarter, Horsford reported raising $929,000 compared with Hardy’s $290,000. In their pre-general election reports with the Federal Election Commission, Horsford reported raising another $250,000 with $388,000 in available cash on hand, while Hardy raised $73,000 and has $59,000 in cash on hand.
But Hardy has had help from national Republicans in power, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who fundraised for him and headlined a roundtable event on criminal justice reform. Hardy was also one of the candidates who gave an introductory speech ahead of President Donald Trump’s recent rally in Las Vegas, even though Hardy had pulled his support of Trump just ahead of the 2016 election (Hardy has since expressed some regret for doing that and said he voted for Trump).
Pence’s visit caps off a busy week in Nevada’s political scene, with visits from President Donald Trump, former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden and likely 2020 presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker all making appearances in the past week. Both parties see Nevada, with its races for U.S. Senate, governor and two competitive U.S. House seats, as a potential pickup opportunity ahead of the midterm elections.
Focus: Danny Tarkanian, the Republican candidate in Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District, and his Democratic opponent, Susie Lee
Who’s paying for it: Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC with ties to House Speaker Paul Ryan
Size of buy: Part of CLF’s more than $3 million buy in Nevada
When it starts: Oct. 26
Where it’s running: Las Vegas
The gist: The 30-second spot, titled “Multimillionaire,” begins by praising Tarkanian as a businessman who “supported the middle-class tax cut that helped create four million jobs and drove unemployment to a fifty-year low.” It then criticizes Lee for owning 17 properties and a private plane and says she “joined (House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi to oppose your twenty-five hundred dollar tax cut,” pointing to her tweets urging people to call their senators and urge them to vote no on the plan.
“Susie Lee. Nancy Pelosi,” the ad says. “Higher taxes. Lost jobs.”
In some ways, history is repeating itself in Nevada’s purplest congressional district.
Businessman Danny Tarkanian, a Las Vegas Republican and son of the late UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, is facing off this fall against education advocate and philanthropist Susie Lee to represent an open, swing House district that stretches from Summerlin to Searchlight. But substitute Lee’s name for that of the district’s current representative, first-term Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, and it could easily be the year 2016 and not 2018.
Making his sixth bid for public office, Tarkanian is once again facing a bevy of attacks over his past business dealings, including his role as a registered agent for several companies later found to be running telemarketing scams (an attack he once won a defamation lawsuit over), a $17 million judgment obtained against him by a federal government agency in the wake of a real estate deal gone bad, and several hundred thousand dollars he received in salary and loans from the children’s basketball charity he runs.
The attacks have been repeated so many times that the ads Democrats are running against him now have plot. In 2016, a Democratic super PAC ran a campaign ad featuring a Tarkanian-esque character burying old campaign signs and business documents in a hole he dug in the desert; this year, the same super PAC has a sequel where the buried signs and documents surface from those holes and are pawed at by a coyote as a tumbleweed blows by.
Though she has remained positive in her ads, Lee dismissed Tarkanian in an interview as a “perennial losing candidate running for one office after another” who “has a slew of ethical baggage that he carries with him.”
But Tarkanian believes that this year will be different than the 2016 election, which he lost to Rosen by a narrow 1.2 percentage points even as President Donald Trump carried the district by 1 point. He said that he is pushing back harder this cycle on what he described as the “lying and deceitful and defamatory ads” from Democrats.
“That’s our biggest difference, responding aggressively,” Tarkanian said. “And I think that’s getting out to people.”
It’s shown in his campaign ads. Earlier this month, he released an ad saying that Lee and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are “bankrolling vicious attack ads, making claims that were proven untrue in court,” and this week released a second spot featuring his mother, Democratic Las Vegas City Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian, calling on Lee to “stop the lies.”
“You tell this lie over and over and over again and people will believe it,” Lois Tarkanian said. “And I don’t think people realize what it does to the rest of the family.”
At the same time, Lee, who is running as a political newcomer and moderate Democrat as Rosen did, is facing similar lines of attack to those used two years ago. Where a Rosen-as-marionette danced on stacks of hundred dollar bills and was portrayed as a puppet of the Democratic establishment, Lee’s face appears next to Pelosi’s at the top of a hammer bell carnival game. (Ads against Lee also seek to paint her as out of touch by pointing to the 17 properties she owns with her casino executive husband, a perception she tries to counteract on the trail by talking about her working-class roots in Ohio.)
Lee acknowledged similarities between herself and Rosen, including her desire to work across party lines as part of the House Bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus as Rosen has. But she said that she is focused on highlighting her positive record working for a nonprofit dropout prevention organization.
“It wasn’t based on Democrat or Republican or independent. It was really about looking at the problems facing our community and trying to find a path forward and produce a program that really got results,” Lee said. “I’ve been very clear that I’m willing to work across the aisle. I think my track record demonstrates I’ve done it in the past.”
And 2018 is not 2016. For starters, it is a midterm election, which means less wind in the sails of Democrats who historically turn out in higher numbers during presidential election years. Out of the eight terms it has existed, Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District has only been represented by Democrats for two terms, with both victories (Dina Titus in ‘08 and Rosen in ‘16) in presidential election years.
But Lee said that she is encouraged by strong early voting turnout numbers from Democrats, who have banked a few thousand vote lead between early votes and absentee ballots in the first few days of voting statewide but only a 500 vote margin in the 3rd District. She also thinks she has a strong shot at winning over nonpartisan voters, who make up 23 percent of registered voters in the district.
“They really focus on the quality of the candidate, and what I’m hearing from voters in this district is they want to see someone who will be really committed to working together,” Lee said.
The political climate is also different than it was two years ago. Although the district voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, there remains a question of how happy the suburban voters are about what the president has accomplished during his first two years as president and what Congress has done to further that agenda
Tarkanian — who was nudged out of a U.S. Senate primary and into the House race by President Donald Trump and has been running an “America First” campaign — is betting that voters’ support for Trump’s accomplishments will help buoy him to victory. At campaign events, Tarkanian often talks about the economy, the U.S. relationship with North Korea, border security and school choice.
“It’s a clear distinction on the issues, and I will win easily if that’s where the focus stays on,” Tarkanian said.
But Lee is focusing on where she believes the administration and Congress have fallen short over the last two years, namely, Republicans’ attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act last year. She said it is the “number one issue bar one” that voters talk to her about at the doors and out at community forums.
“People are incredibly worried about the rollback of the Affordable Care Act and what impact it’s going to have here in Nevada,” Lee said. “The Affordable Care Act was not perfect. There need to be some changes made to it, but Nevada saw a large decrease in uninsured people here in Nevada and they’re really concerned that those gains are going to be rolled back.”
Lee also said that she believes there are issues on which she can work across the aisle with the Trump Administration, including infrastructure spending, which she said is “incredibly important” to ensuring the future of Nevada’s tourism industry.
“We in Nevada need to be really hyper-focused on bringing that type of investment money to our state,” Lee said.
Although the race is still included on national lists of top House races to watch this year, many rankings have moved the seat to “lean Democrat” — it was considered a swing seat last year — despite the Democrats’ meager 1.6 percentage point voter registration advantage over Republicans. That’s reflected in spending totals from outside groups, which have been generally less enthusiastic about devoting resources to the seat this year compared to other races especially as Republicans and Democrats battle for control of the House in other swing seats.
The district received the most third-party spending, which includes money spent directly by super PACs and tax-exempt nonprofits in support of or in opposition to a candidate, of any House race in 2016 with a total of $16.9 million spent. This year, it ranks 27th on a list of races with the most outside spending with $7.3 million spent so far.
On the left, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic party’s arm focused on House elections, has been responsible for almost all of the spending ($2.9 million) apart from a small $146,000 assist from the House Majority PAC, the main super PAC backing House Democrats. On the right, Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC with ties to House Speaker Paul Ryan, has poured $2 million into the race and the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action has spent $1.4 million, while the National Republican Campaign Committee has pulled out of Nevada altogether and is focusing its resources elsewhere.
And on the candidate side, Lee has by far outraised and outspent Tarkanian — by $2.1 million and $1.8 million, respectively. But Tarkanian said that it just means that he has to use his dollars wisely.
“We have a lot less bandwidth, so we have to be more effective with our messaging,” Tarkanian said.
For her part, Lee said that she’s “feeling good” about the race though she acknowledges it will likely be a close one. Tarkanian, too, said he’s fighting for every vote in a race that could again come down to a percentage point by going to every event he possibly can, including some events where he is the only Republican candidate in the room.
“I’m going to every single place, including Democratic strongholds, talking about the issues, explaining away the lies that my opponent is saying,” Tarkanian said. “We’re trying to get out to as many of the voters as we can. A few thousand votes may determine it.”
Focus: Democratic congressional candidate Susie Lee
Who's paying for it: Republican congressional candidate Danny Tarkanian’s campaign
Size of buy: Tarkanian’s campaign did not respond to a question about the size of the buy
When it starts: Oct. 23
Where it's running: Las Vegas
The gist: Las Vegas City Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian, a Democrat, tells Lee to “stop the lies” about her son, Danny Tarkanian, who is running as a Republican for Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District. In the ad, Lois Tarkanian notes that “other people lost in court” for using similar attacks, referencing a 2005 defamation lawsuit her son won against then-state Sen. Mike Schneider.
“I didn’t expect it of Susie Lee,” Lois Tarkanian says. “... They don’t care because you tell this lie over and over and over again and people will believe it. And I don’t think people realize what it does to the rest of the family.”
Focus: Republican congressional candidate Danny Tarkanian
Who's paying for it: House Majority PAC, the top super PAC supporting House Democrats
Size of buy: $1.1 million
When it starts: Oct. 23
Where it's running: Las Vegas
The gist: The new 30-second ad, titled “Surfacing,” picks up where an ad that House Majority PAC ran against Tarkanian during his 2016 bid for the same congressional seat — featuring a Tarkanian-esque character burying old campaign signs, documents and phones in a hole in the middle of the desert — left off. The new spot features half-buried documents and campaign signs surfacing out of those holes in the desert and repeats lines of attack that have been used against Tarkanian since his first campaign for state Senate in 2004.
The ad highlights a $17 million judgment the federal government obtained against Tarkanian in the wake of a real estate deal gone bad, accuses Tarkanian of setting up “over a dozen fake charities,” and attacks him over his role in setting up telemarketing companies later found to be running scams. (Tarkanian has said that he set up the companies but had no involvement in the day-to-day operations of any of them; he won a defamation lawsuit against state Sen. Mike Schneider for using a similar line of attack in 2004 and is bringing a defamation lawsuit against Rep. Jacky Rosen for the 2016 campaign.)
Nevada Democrats in competitive federal races greatly outraised their Republican counterparts over the last three months, according to quarterly campaign finance reports submitted Monday.
In the state’s three most competitive races for U.S. Senate, Congressional District 3 and Congressional District 4, the Democratic candidates reported outraising their opponents by significant margins. The reporting period runs from July 1 through September 30, and the Federal Election Commission required them by Oct. 15.
In the state’s nationally watched U.S. Senate race, GOP Sen. Dean Heller reported raising less than a third of the haul reported by Democratic challenger and Rep. Jacky Rosen, who brought in more than $7.1 million. And House Democratic candidates Susie Lee and Steven Horsford about tripled the totals raised by their respective Republican opponents.
Still, spending from outside groups and PACs will likely even the balance over the final weeks before the midterm election, and all three races are expected to be close.
Here’s a closer look at the fundraising totals reported by each major candidate.
Rosen raised $7.1 million over the three-month fundraising period, more than doubling the $3.5 million she raised in the last fundraising quarter. At the same time, Republican U.S. Sen. Dean Heller only raised $2.2 million. Rosen’s haul includes $6.3 million in direct contributions and about $770,000 in transfers from other committees while Heller’s includes $2.1 million in total contributions and roughly $67,000 in transfers.
Heller’s haul included about 175 contributions of the maximum allowed $2,700, while Rosen received nearly 500 max contributions. Rosen ended the quarter with more $2.6 million in available campaign funds, while Heller ended it with $2.7 million.
Some of Heller’s top donors included the International Warehouse Logistics Association, Raytheon and Aetna. Rosen’s included UNITE Here! (the parent union of the local Culinary Union), Blue Shield of California, and EMILY’s List.
A pricey fundraiser with President Donald Trump last month also didn’t strongly tip the scales for Heller. “Win Nevada,” a joint fundraising committee composed of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and Heller and congressional hopeful Danny Tarkanian’s campaigns raised about $207,000 from the fundraiser with the president.
Tarkanian’s campaign received just over $20,000 from the organization, while Heller’s campaign took in around $16,000. The committee transferred the bulk of the funds to the NRSC ($68,000) and NRCC ($37,000)
Democrat Susie Lee more than doubled the contributions of Republican opponent Tarkanian, raising a massive $1.78 million over the fundraising quarter to his smaller $660,000 haul. Lee spent $2.14 million over the same time period and ended the quarter with $787,000 in the bank, while Tarkanian spent about $840,000 with $480,000 on hand.
Lee received about $1.13 million from individuals, $250,000 from PACs and $400,000 in transfers from other committees. Almost all of Tarkanian’s contributions this quarter came from individuals, with only $8,700 coming from PACs.
More than 100 people gave the maximum $2,700 contribution to Tarkanian, including billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam, Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin, Congressman Greg Gianforte and his wife Susan, and four members of the Herbst family. Nearly 200 individuals gave the maximum to Lee, including billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Oklahoma and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. She also received $5,000 from MGM Resorts, NV Energy, Barrick Gold, and several union PACs.
Last quarter, Lee raised about $850,000 while Tarkanian brought in roughly $307,000.
Former Rep. Steven Horsford reported raising $929,000 in the last quarter and spending $747,000. He started the month of October with $380,000 cash on hand heading into the final stretch of the campaign.
It was more than three times what his Republican opponent, former Rep. Cresent Hardy, raised during the last quarter. Hardy brought in $290,000, spent $482,000 and ended the period with $108,000.
More than 100 groups and individuals gave the maximum $2,700 donation to Horsford. Among those donors were Native American tribes from California, Oklahoma and Louisiana; Las Vegas attorneys Robert Eglet and Christian Gabroy; Steve Sisolak’s campaign consultant Jim Ferrence; Daniel and Robin Greenspun; Larry Lehrner, husband of ex-Rep. Shelley Berkley; Bruce Sagan, chairman of the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper; William Schoenfeld, head of a Hong Kong-based real estate investment company; California billionaire Tom Steyer; and Democratic Assemblyman Justin Watkins.
Horsford’s campaign also drew money from a long list of PACs, including ones for MGM Resorts, the League of Conservation Voters, abortion rights group NARAL, tobacco company Altria, Barrick Gold, the Humane Society and a variety of unions.
Hardy’s major donors included Rep. Greg Gianforte, Dotty’s tavern founder Craig Estey, the Dollar Loan Center and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s campaign. A variety of PACs supported Hardy, including those for the National Rifle Association, Koch Industries and Allegiant Airlines.
Last quarter, Horsford raised $433,000 to Hardy’s $229,000.
Republican Rep. Mark Amodei reported raising more than $199,000 over the fundraising period while spending more than $238,000 over the same time frame. Amodei ended the reporting period with nearly $356,000 in available cash on hand, a decrease of more than $40,000 since the start of the reporting period.
More than $111,000 of Amodei’s contributions came from individuals, while $86,000 came from political action committees.
His general election opponent, Democrat Clint Koble, reported raising just over $45,000 over the fundraising period while spending more than $53,000, leaving him slightly more than $2,000 in available campaign funds.
Democratic Rep. Dina Titus reported $116,000 over the reporting period, while spending close to $220,000. She ended the quarter with more than $246,000 in cash on hand.
Her Republican opponent, Joyce Bentley, hasn’t reported raising any funds.
Focus: Democratic candidate for Congressional District 4 Steven Horsford
Who’s paying for it: Horsford’s campaign
Size of buy: Not disclosed
When it starts: This week
Where’s it running: Ads will run on TV and digitally in Las Vegas
The gist: The ad centers on Horsford’s grandmother, who, the ad says, spent nearly 30 years in assisted living following a stroke — care the ad says was financially supported by Social Security and Medicaid. Horsford goes on to tie his Republican opponent Cresent Hardy to GOP efforts from June of this year to cut entitlement programs, such as Social Security, as part of a broader budget deal that likely won’t be fully considered until after the midterm elections.