Though the constant coverage and the mammoth field of Democratic candidates may make the 2020 election seem like it’s around the corner, there is about a year before President Donald Trump and the Democratic challenger face off. For Nevadans, there are also other races on the ballot that are of consequence. Voters will have a chance to select members of the House of Representatives, which is currently controlled by Democrats. Congressional District 3—which includes the southern half of Clark County—and District 4—which comprises North Las Vegas and a large stretch of central Nevada—are so evenly split between Republican and Democratic voters that the winning party will likely be determined by the side with the best voter turnout. The districts have swung between both parties since their creation, and while currently represented by Democratic Reps. Susie Lee and Steven Horsford, they are a Republican focus going into 2020.
“We’re talking about two incumbents facing their first re-election campaign,” said Keith Schipper, a spokesman for the Nevada Republican Party. “One of those incumbents already went through his first re-election campaign before and lost in 2014. So we see some real opportunities there.”
In a statement, Lee’s campaign said her record as a bipartisan legislator would be the focus during her 2020 bid.
“Susie Lee was elected by a wide margin in 2018 in a swing district that was also won by Donald Trump, in large part due to her commitment to working across the aisle to solve local problems affecting our community,” the statement said.
Her campaign also touted her work in Congress on issues affecting Nevada, including education funding, veterans’ benefits and lowering prescription drug pricing.
“She has also focused heavily on constituent services, successfully returning hundreds of thousands of dollars to constituents,” the statement read. “Lee’s common sense, problem-solving approach, along with high voter enthusiasm going into 2020, will be key to our re-election campaign.”
Horsford’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
While Republicans did not fare well in 2018, Nevada GOP officials see Trump as an asset, not a liability, going into 2020.
Schipper said Trump has the ability to pull out a special subset of voters, ones who are energized by his candidacy but lukewarm in other circumstances.
“He brings out a voter, a very passionate voter who really helps actually kind of boost our opportunities across the state and really across the country,” Schipper said.
That can have a trickle-down effect on other races. If Republicans drive party voters to the ballot to vote for Trump, the same voters could vote for Republicans running for seats in Congress.
Michael McDonald, chairman of the Nevada GOP, agreed, saying that Trump can mobilize voters who would otherwise not participate.
“What he’s able to do is bring out people who have either never voted before, or historically vote Democrat or independent, (to) come out and vote for the president because of what he’s done or what he stands for,” McDonald said.
He added that he expects the impeachment inquiry to backfire on Democrats.
“It’s frustrating a lot of people because nothing is getting done,” McDonald said. “All the things that we need here in Nevada are not getting accomplished. All they’re focused on is trying to hurt and take down the president.”
Schipper also believes Trump can turn the tables in Nevada. “Let’s not lose sight of the fact that he narrowly lost this state to Hillary Clinton. Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama by seven points, John McCain lost to Barack Obama by 12 points,” he said. “The president lost by two.”
Candidates for Congress
2020 is right around the corner, and Nevada’s four congressional districts will be up for grabs. Candidates from both major parties have started to file, especially in the 3rd and 4th Districts, to try to unseat the incumbents. Here’s a quick look at who is running as of November 1.
4th Congressional District
• Location: North Las Vegas and a large swath of central rural Nevada.
• Incumbent: Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford
• Jim Marchant, businessman and former Nevada Assemblyman, touts high scores from the American Conservative Union and the National Rifle Association. He supports measures such as President Donald Trump's 2017 tax cut, requiring identification at voting sites, funding school choice programs and rolling back Common Core education standards.
• Randi Reed, a businesswoman who owns a custom furniture business, said there is a disconnect between voters and politicians, and the mandates put on small businesses and the current state of American health care inspired her to enter the race. “As a mother with a pre-existing condition and a young child, health care is a necessity. I know what it’s like to be denied coverage and face unaffordable medical bills. I’ve been forced to get a second full-time job just to be able to afford my family’s plan,” she said.
• Leo Blundo is a Nye County Commissioner and liaison on nuclear issues. Nye County is the site of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, and Blundo has been one of the most outspoken Nye County politicians in favor of it. Blundo said he is a pro-life, pro-gun rights candidate who wants to work on issues including health care and immigration. “I’m … running to help break the cycle of a do-nothing Congress that would rather go on political witch hunts than tackle the issues facing us back home in Nevada,” he said.
• Sam Peters, a veteran who owns an insurance business, positioned himself as a fiscal conservative with Trump-like views immigration. Peters outlined an 11-point immigration plan on his website that includes building a border wall and ending so-called chain migration for non-immediate family members. He’s also positioned himself as pro-gun rights and has said that Roe v. Wade requires deeper discussion but should be enforced as the “law of the land” until prevailing law exists.
• Lisa Song Sutton, a businesswoman and former Miss Nevada, has defined herself in favor of gun rights and increased action on immigration, which she said could include “physical barriers.” She’s against “business-killing” regulations and taxation, and believes “a strong economy is essential to American prosperity,” she said. “To keep our economy strong and continue growth, we must get government out of the way of business.”
• Charles Navarro is a veteran and former re-entry manager with Hope for Prisoners, a reintegration program for convicts. Navarro served in the congressional offices of Rep. Cresent Hardy and California Republican Rep. Howard McKeon.
• Catherine Prato, a nurse and nursing instructor, has made most of her public statements thus far about health care. She has criticized government-run health care in a campaign ad and in an opinion column in the Reno Gazette-Journal.
3rd Congressional District
• Location: Much of Henderson.
• Incumbent: Democratic Rep. Susie Lee.
The district has been represented by both Democrats and Republicans.
• Former Nevada State Treasurer Dan Schwartz has around $200,000 on hand according to the Federal Election Commission. He has said in tweets that he is pushing back against socialist politicians and policies and cites general goals of reducing the national debt and implementing affordable health care policies on his campaign site.
• Former professional wrestler Dan Rodimer, who also has around $200,000 on hand, touts his work with the Clark County School District Safety Advisory Committee and with small businesses. He is backed by former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer but has been dogged by past assault accusations.
This story originally appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.