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October 24, 2014

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Nevada political roundup: Dems upgrade Derby-Heller race (UPDATED)

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Updated at 4:38 p.m.

This tidbit, which just dropped into our inboxes, is further proof that national Democratic leaders are focusing on Dina Titus' bid to upend incumbent Congressman Jon Porter:

Titus today named a press adviser to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Andrew Stoddard, as the communications director of her campaign. He will begin his new post Aug. 5.

The news release notes, as we have for weeks, that the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report and the Cook Political Report have deemed Nevada's 3rd Congressional election as one of the "most-watched" in the nation this cycle.

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Originally published at 12:24 p.m.

We lead today's Early Line with big news for Democrat Jill Derby and her campaign to unseat incumbent Rep. Dean Heller in Nevada's 2nd Congressional District. The Democratic National Campaign Committee has upgraded Derby's race to its top-tier list of targets, meaning she'll receive financial and field help from the national party.

She faced off against Heller in 2006 and lost by 5 percentage points in the overwhelmingly Republican district. The GOP edge at that time was more than 48,300 voters. Democrats, benefiting from the excitement generated by the state's early presidential caucus, have cut that advantage by nearly 19,000 voters.

Given that Republicans still hold a significant registration edge (nearly 30,000 voters) it's significant that national Democrats are targeting a race like this. Derby's fundraising strength (she raised $293,393 in the second quarter) likely played a big part in convincing the party to upgrade the race. Just last month the DCCC rated her bid as "an emerging race."

Derby joins state Sen. Dina Titus, who's challenging Rep. Jon Porter in the state's 3rd Congressional District, on the national Democrats' elite list.

Check out this piece by the Sun's Lisa Mascaro for more about the dynamics of the race.

--Sen. John Ensign, the R-J reports, plans to keep the $28,000 in donations he's received over the years from Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who was indicted this week for allegedly failing to disclose more than $250,000 in gifts from an oil services company and its chief executive.

Stevens pleaded not guilty Thursday, but the R-J notes that at least 11 Republicans who have received contributions from Stevens have distanced themselves from the Alaska senator, indicating they would donate the money to charity, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

--Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post says Nevada ranks second among battleground states.

--The Wall Street Journal fronts a piece on how Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, has been holding mandatory meetings with some of its store managers and department supervisors to warn them of what may come if Democrats win big in November: a unionized workforce.

Wal-Mart executives are briefing employees on the Employee Free Choice Act, labor's top legislative priority. The bill would make it easier for workers to organize and stiffen penalties for employers that violate labor laws during organizing drives. The implications are clear for Wal-Mart, which has aggressively fought unionization for years, including in Las Vegas.

The bill has become the chief fundraising tool for Sen. John Ensign as he seeks to defend embattled Senate Republicans this cycle.

As the piece notes, Wal-Mart may be walking a fine legal line and the tactics have drawn the ire of SEIU President Andy Stern, who released a statement on the article: "Today's Wall Street Journal story raises serious questions about whether Wal-Mart is attempting to influence its workers’ votes. Hardworking men and women such as Wal-Mart’s average hourly employees are having a tough time making ends meet in this economy, yet Wal-Mart’s board of the directors and the Walton family continues to prosper. Rather than adjusting the company's behavior to improve conditions for its employees, Wal-Mart has chosen to intimidate its workers to maintain the status quo. This time the company may have crossed the line."

The SEIU, he said, may ask for a federal investigation.

A Wal-Mart spokesman responded: "We believe EFCA is a bad bill and we have been on record as opposing it for some time. We feel educating our associates about the bill is the right thing to do."

--The Reno paper has details on the race for the state Supreme Court seat being vacated by retiring Justice Bill Maupin.

--Finally, bad news for Nevada's Hillary Clinton supporters. The New York Times reports that the leaders of an online campaign to pressure Barack Obama into picking Clinton as his running mate have ended their bid.

Clinton won the popular vote in the state's presidential caucus, but Obama bested her in delegates.

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