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Never too early: Statewide candidates declare their 2018 intentions

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Yasmina Chavez

Voters take to the polls early on election day at the Cheyenne High School polling station in North Las Vegas, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016.

Tue, Jul 11, 2017 (2 a.m.)

Candidates for statewide offices are readying for a 2018 election season that’s been brewing for months, with Democrats seeking to secure gains from the 2016 cycle.

With more than a year to go before the general election in 2018, races for the U.S. Senate and governor’s office have already sparked attention. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., is widely considered the most vulnerable Republican up for re-election nationally in 2018 and is the only GOP senator in the cycle who represents a state won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval is term-limited.

Heller has seen some backlash this year for his refusal to back GOP plans to repeal and replace Obamacare, saying efforts need to be made to protect Nevada and other Medicaid expansion states. Heller has held his Senate seat since 2011.

He faces opposition in 2018 from Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., a political newcomer who has support from former Sen. Harry Reid and an endorsement from Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev. Rosen’s Senate bid opens up her 3rd Congressional District seat in a large part of Clark County, where there are 153,275 Democrats and 142,974 Republicans.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., has said she is considering a Senate bid against Heller. A spokesman for Titus said Monday that she had not made a final decision. Titus faces a safer run to keep her seat in the 1st Congressional District, which includes Las Vegas and has 146,805 registered Democrats compared with 61,886 Republicans.

Cortez Masto said last week that before she endorsed Rosen, Titus had not told her anything specific about the 2018 race.

“Jacky has jumped in,” Cortez Masto said. “She is a stellar candidate.”

Rosen also picked up the endorsement of fellow Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., who is facing a challenge for the 4th Congressional District seat he won in November. Las Vegas City Councilman Stavros Anthony, a Republican and former Metro Police officer, said Monday he will run against Kihuen.

In the governor’s race, bike shop and tour company owner Jared Fisher is running without any political experience. In the Republican primary, he could face the state’s top attorney, who has not officially said whether he will run.

Attorney General Adam Laxalt is coming out of a legislative session marked by accusations that Democrats were intentionally ignoring his bills, some of which were incorporated into other measures backed by the majority party.

Laxalt also faced ethics questions from lawmakers at the Legislature over a recorded conversation with a gaming regulator and was cleared of wrongdoing. A transcript of the conversation shows Laxalt discussing the possibility of weighing in on a case involving casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, announced his candidacy for governor in June. He has said he is against sending public school money to private schools, a central debate surrounding the state’s unfunded Education Savings Account program.

The ESA conflict forced a budget compromise at the Democrat-controlled Legislature, where Republican opposition to leaving money out of the program ended with $20 million in a one-shot appropriation for the Nevada Opportunity Scholarship Program, which ties tax credits to scholarship donations for families that fall below an income cutoff.

Democratic lawmakers have said the compromise was a victory, while some Republicans have said Opportunity Scholarships are still an example of giving families more choice when it comes to education.

June voter registration numbers show Republicans outnumbering Democrats only in the 2nd Congressional District, which makes up the northern part of the state. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., won there in 2016 and was first elected in 2011.

Data from the Secretary of State’s Office show that Democrats make up slightly more than 39 percent of Nevada’s active registered voters while Republicans represent just over 33 percent.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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