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September 30, 2014

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Politics:

Becky Harris, Republican Senate candidate, talks on Twitter but turns down media interviews

Becky Harris is a PTA mom, lawyer and Republican state Senate candidate.

But that’s about all Harris wants the media to know. She declined interview requests from the Las Vegas Sun about her race against Democratic Sen. Justin Jones.

Asked for an interview, Harris' campaign manager, Billy Rogers, said: “I think we’ll take a pass.”

The battle between Harris and Jones is one of the marquee matchups in the Nov. 4 election. If Harris ousts Jones from his District 9 seat, it likely will reverse the Democrats' 11-10 Senate majority and change the state’s policy agenda for the rest of the decade.

Harris' decision to limit her media exposure is a rare move in politics at any level. Politicians typically run to get in front of any camera they find, not away from them. The more press they get, the more voters know their name.

The upside to not talking with reporters: Harris gets to control the message. The only information voters get comes from her website, mailers, Twitter and ads.

Eric Herzik, a UNR political science professor, said not talking to the media was a risky strategy.

“The opposition will still talk, the press will still write stories and even Republicans are going to say, ‘Who is this person?’” Herzik said.

Nevada’s Republican brass is courting Harris around town and helping to bankroll her campaign.

She’s knocking on doors, shaking hands and dabbling in social media under the aegis of state Sen. Michael Roberson.

Roberson is the Senate minority leader who is tasked with winning back the Senate. Roberson and Harris share the same campaign consultants, Advanced Micro Targeting, and many of the same campaign donors.

Patricia Farley, another Republican Senate candidate in another high-profile race, is working closely with Roberson, as well.

After doing an interview with the Sun in June, Roberson also has stopped giving interviews. He did not respond to several interview requests in the past week.

A former Democrat

Interviews with Nevada political leaders and a search of public records suggest Harris doesn't have anything to hide.

But her political story does have some twists.

She was a registered Democrat in 2002, then switched her party affiliation to Republican two years later.

Republican strategist Chuck Muth said the move from the left to the right shouldn’t be the reason for the campaign’s lack of transparency.

“If that campaign can’t handle the fact that she was a Democrat more than 10 years ago, they have no reason running a campaign,” he said.

Harris has lived in Nevada for 15 years. She ran for state Assembly District 21 last election cycle and lost by just 780 votes to Democrat Andy Eisen.

After losing that election, Harris moved into Senate District 9 within the past year, a fact Jones is trying to exploit.

“Perhaps the reason Justin's opponent is uncomfortable taking a public stance on the issues important to the constituents of District 9 is because she’s lived there less than a year — moving into the district just to run for political office after she failed to win her race last election cycle in Henderson,” said Michelle White, spokeswoman for the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Asked to comment on Jones' criticism, Harris' campaign manager, Rogers, did not respond.

Not the first time

In 2008, Democrats declined media interviews for two Senate candidates: Shirley Breeden and Alison Copening.

Reporters didn’t like it. But it worked. They ousted Republicans Joe Heck and Bob Beers from the Senate.

But their tenure didn’t last long. Breeden and Copening are no longer serving in the Legislature.

At the end of her 2010 U.S. Senate race, Sharron Angle stopped speaking to the media, Herzik said. Angle came under fire after she said the media needed to "ask the questions we want to answer so that they report the news the way we want it to be reported."

She stopped posting her schedule and publicizing events, Herzik said.

Clarification: Becky Harris has not had any interviews published or broadcast with Nevada media during this campaign. She has had interviews published with two out-of-state media outlets, The Wall Street Journal in May and The New York Times in August.

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