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May 16, 2021

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Roll Call’s take on Nevada’s federal races

The respected Capitol Hill publication says seats of Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Dina Titus are "lean Democratic." But Rep. Dean Heller looks safe for now.

The analysis:

Nevada

Filing deadline: March 12 | Primary: June 8

Senate

Incumbent: Harry Reid (D)

4th Term (61 percent)

Outlook: Leans Democratic

After surviving close contests in his first three Senate elections, Reid won by a breakout margin in 2004 and then gained national prominence in his current role as Senate Majority Leader. Therefore, Reid should be in a solid position to win again in 2010, with Democrats coming off a strong 2008 Nevada campaign in which President Barack Obama easily carried the swing state and his party gained a 2-1 edge in the House. But Reid is highly unpopular right now among Silver State voters, the result of his role as a lead player in partisan fights on Capitol Hill and Nevada’s struggling economy. And as a result, he is looking vulnerable to a GOP challenge next year.

The state Republican Party, however, has struggled to produce a top-tier challenger. The two Republicans widely regarded as the leading potential contenders — Rep. Dean Heller and former Rep. Jon Porter, who lost his 3rd district seat in 2008 — ruled out runs this summer. Nonetheless, hypothetical matchups in recent polls have shown Reid trailing a couple of lesser-known Republicans: Danny Tarkanian, a Las Vegas real estate developer and son of legendary college basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian; and former state Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Lowden, who served two terms in the state Senate in the 1990s. Other declared or likely GOP contenders are state Sen. Mark Amodei; former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle; physician Robin Titus; John Chachas, a New York banker and native of Ely in rural Nevada; and Chuck Kozak, a Reno lawyer.

Any Republican who takes on Reid will have to pull together significant resources. He reported $12 million in campaign receipts as of Sept. 30 with $8.7 million remaining in the bank. That, in turn, enabled him to launch his first two campaign ads in mid-October, both positive spots focused on his efforts on behalf of his home state. But Republican strategists believe whoever emerges as the GOP challenger will be able to rally financial support from around the country.

House

2nd district

Incumbent: Dean Heller (R)

2nd term (52 percent)

Outlook: Likely Republican

Heller comfortably won a second term in 2008 in a rematch with Democrat Jill Derby, despite the significant inroads that Democrats made in the state.

One potential Democratic challenger has come and gone. Cindy Trigg, the Douglas County school board president, said in spring 2009 that she intended to challenge Heller in 2010, but she dropped out in July. The Democrats don’t have another obvious contender.

Heller has politically inoculated himself to some degree with his growing clout in the House. However, his funding advantage is not insurmountable — he reported just more than $315,000 in the bank at the end of September.

3rd district

Incumbent: Dina Titus (D)

1st term (47 percent)

Outlook: Leans Democratic

Titus, the longtime Democratic leader in the state Senate, met a Democratic Party goal in 2008 when she unseated three-term Rep. Jon Porter (R). The 3rd district, which takes in part of Las Vegas and a big portion of its suburbs, was drawn prior to the 2002 elections to be a partisan battleground.

After splitting nearly right down the middle in the 2000 and 2004 presidential contests, the district went for President Barack Obama (D) by a comfortable 12-point margin last year. And Titus this time will be running against a challenger rather than a Republican incumbent. But her 47 percent plurality and 5-point margin over Porter has done nothing to dissuade the Republican Party from staging a targeted effort in 2010 to win the seat back.

The initial Republican recruit, bank executive John Guedry, declared his candidacy in August only to drop out in September, citing undisclosed family reasons. In his stead, former state Sen. Joe Heck, who had launched a long-shot bid for governor, swapped that for the 3rd district contest and is now the frontrunner for the GOP nomination.

He will face a primary challenge from real estate investor Rob Lauer, who is prepared to put some of his own money into his campaign. The state of the economy at the time of the 2010 election, and public opinion about the agenda pursued by Obama and Congressional Democrats, could be decisive in determining whether voters give Titus a second term. The district has been hit hard by foreclosures, a loss of construction jobs and a drop in tourism revenue caused by the deep economic recession.

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