Democrats Look to Pick Up Two Seats in Nevada

Posted October 19, 2011 at 6:07pm

Democrats are looking to win the three Las Vegas-area districts that court-appointed special masters drew in a proposed map released Friday.

A district judge must approve the plan next week before it can move forward, and then the state Supreme Court will hear arguments on the redistricting process as a whole in a Nov. 14 hearing.

The map isn’t final, but the preliminary lines have allowed the Congressional candidates and their districts to coalesce.

Democrats have five candidates running in the three Clark County districts, one of which was added in reapportionment. They hope the new map allows them to win the open 1st district of Rep. Shelley Berkley (D), who is running for Senate; the new 4th district located in North Las Vegas and rural counties to the north; and GOP Rep. Joe Heck’s 3rd district, which includes the southern half of Clark County.

Republicans expect to hold the 2nd district that Rep. Mark Amodei won in last month’s special election. They hope to hold Heck’s district and, if everything went their way, possibly even compete in the 4th. But under the proposed lines, a 2-2 split in Nevada’s Congressional delegation would be a win for the GOP as the Democrats aim to take three of the four districts.

“In addition to winning the presidential and Senate elections next year, taking back a majority in the Congressional delegation is absolutely a top priority,” Nevada Democratic Party spokesman Zach Hudson said.

Republicans had hoped the court would draw a Hispanic-majority district, which likely would have resulted in a safer district for Heck. But that didn’t happen under the proposed map.

According to preliminary past performance figures, President Barack Obama would have carried the 1st district with 65 percent, the 3rd district with 54 percent and the 4th district with 56 percent. Obama also would have slightly carried the 2nd district, but it is unlikely Democrats would strongly compete there after a convincing Amodei victory last month in a similar district.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera is already running against Heck in the 3rd district.

“It’s time to replace Joe Heck with someone with a proven track record of getting results,” Oceguera wrote in a fundraising solicitation sent Wednesday.

Oceguera has signed up a top-rate consulting team, including Jason Ralston and John Lapp of Ralston Lapp Media, Pete Brodnitz of Benenson Strategy Group for polling and Achim Bergmann of the Baughman Company for direct mail.

Former Rep. Dina Titus (D) is running again after losing the 3rd district seat to Heck. Titus hasn’t said where she will run — in the 3rd or the 1st district — but insiders expect she’ll run in the 1st, which is the more Democratic of the two and is where she lives.

State Sen. Ruben Kihuen (D) lives in the 1st, setting up a potential showdown with Titus. The district includes the urban center of Las Vegas and has the highest percentage of Hispanic voting-age population.

“That’s our target, and he obviously wants to run where his home is and where he has served,” Kihuen campaign manager Dan Chavez said. “So it’s been carved in a way that is ideal for us.”

State Sen. John Lee lives in the 4th district. He’d be matched up with state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford in the expansive open district, composed of parts of seven counties, including Clark.

Horsford is the most recent entrant to the race after launching his campaign last Thursday. The 38-year-old Las Vegas native, who has ties to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), was elected in 2004, and his ascension to state Senate Majority Leader in 2008 made him the first African-American and youngest to hold that post.

He’s built a strong campaign team of consultants, signing GMMB for media, Liz Chadderdon of the Chadderdon Group for direct mail, Cornell Belcher of Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies for polling and Randy Broz of the Political Development Group for fundraising. His campaign manager is Geoff Mackler, a veteran of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s independent expenditure unit.

Since he entered the race after the Sept. 30 deadline, Horsford was the only one of the five not to file a third-quarter fundraising report. Titus led the way with $201,000 raised, followed by Oceguera with $110,000, Kihuen with $102,000 and Lee with $43,000.

Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) and the
Democratic-controlled Legislature had been unable to agree on a map during the legislative session earlier this year. The Legislature declined to send the governor a third map after its first two were vetoed, leaving the courts to sort out the process.