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September 20, 2014

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Politics:

Sen. Harry Reid upbeat about Democrats’ 2014 chances, less confident in Erin Bilbray, education initiative

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Christopher DeVargas

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid sits down with the Las Vegas Sun on Thursday Aug. 21, 2014.

Sen. Harry Reid, who runs the Democrats' political machine in Nevada and the U.S. Senate, remains upbeat about Democrats' chances in most, but not all, of the important races this fall.

The Senate majority leader, in an interview today with the Las Vegas Sun, repeated his prediction that Democrats will keep control of the Senate, even as some forecasts show the Republicans gaining momentum.

Reid couldn't find a serious challenger to Nevada's popular Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. But he forecasted a sweep for Democrats in four statewide races: controller, treasurer, secretary of state and attorney general.

“I think the glass is really half full in Nevada, not half empty,” Reid said.

He was less confident in what's become the top-of-the-ticket race, lieutenant governor, and he expressed the most concern about Nevada's only competitive Congressional race.

Reid has championed Assemblywoman Lucy Flores for lieutenant governor, but he stopped short of saying she would win, as he did with the four other statewide races. He said he thinks "we're very competitive in the lieutenant governor’s race.” Flores is running against State Sen. Mark Hutchison, Sandoval's handpicked candidate.

Reid had the least flattering comments for the campaign of Erin Bilbray, who is challenging Republican Rep. Joe Heck in the 3rd Congressional District, which includes Henderson and Boulder City.

“Bilbray should win, but her campaign has been hit and miss,” Reid said. “It hasn’t been a great campaign.”

Bilbray's campaign hasn't yet gained the momentum needed to unseat an incumbent and last week she changed campaign managers for the second time. Voter registration in the district is even, but Reid said Heck should be “an easy target” as Democrats try to tie him to House Republican leaders who won’t bring immigration reform to a vote.

From the November ballot to his own 2016 campaign, here’s what else Reid had to say in his interview with the Sun today:

On Obama

The New York Times reported this week on tension between President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress. In their lead example, the Times reported that Reid "seethed quietly" after president cut him off in a meeting and that Reid has told others that he's surprised at how disengaged Obama has become.

In his Sun interview, Reid defended Obama and said the claim that presidents become disengaged with their party leaders is common at the tail end of their terms.

“It’s a tough job he has, and I recognize that and try to work as closely with him as I can,” Reid said.

On the Koch brothers

Reid repeatedly attacked mega-Republican donors Charles and David Koch.

“The Koch brothers control Republicans, most of them anyways,” he said.

Reid said his incessant attacks on the Koch brothers has worked to bring their dark money campaign spending to light, even if it means the duo will spend millions to unseat him when he’s up for re-election in 2016.

“I’m not excited to run against them, but I’m certainly not afraid of them,” he said.

On school funding and the margins tax

Reid is not happy with Nevada’s education system, frequently rated the country's worst. But he declined to take sides on the Education Initiative, also known as the margin tax, on the ballot this fall.

“I’ve got a lot of issues and a country to focus on,” he said. “I’m not focusing on that.”

The proposed tax on the Nov. 4 ballot would levy a 2 percent tax on businesses earning more than $1 million in annual revenue. It is estimated to bring an additional $700 million to Nevada’s schools.

Business leaders fear the tax will cut into profits and cost jobs in a state with the nation's fourth-highest unemployment rate. The teacher’s union say Nevada’s K-12 schools need the money.

Despite his neutral stance, Reid indicated that voters aren’t rallying around the tax.

“Have you’ve seen a poll that there’s any chance of winning,” he said. “If you find one let me know.”

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