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May 22, 2019

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Horsford becomes Nevada’s first black congressman; Heck wins re-election

Joe Heck

Steve Marcus

Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) reaches out to a young supporter during a GOP Election NIght Watch Party at the Venetian Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

Updated Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 | 12:34 a.m.

Horsford and Tarkanian Debate at Temple Sinai

Candidates for the state's 4th Congressional District Steven Horsford, left, and Danny Tarkanian try to talk at the same time doing a debate at Temple Sinai of Las Vegas in Summerlin Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012. The temple's Men's Club sponsored the debate. Launch slideshow »

Democrat Steven Horsford beat Republican businessman Danny Tarkanian in the 4th Congressional District, becoming the first black congressman to represent Nevada.

Incumbent Rep. Joe Heck, R-Las Vegas, also cruised to re-election, defeating Democrat John Oceguera for a second term.

With former Rep. Dina Titus handily winning her congressional seat and Republican Rep. Mark Amodei cruising to re-election, Nevada’s four seats in the House of Representatives will be split between Democrats and Republicans.

Horsford, the state Senate Majority Leader, bested Tarkanian 50 percent to 42 percent.

“My roots are in this district,” Horsford said in his victory speech. “My life story is contained in its boundaries. This community has stuck with me during tough times. When I lost my father to a gun shot, when my family was struggling... When I needed help the most my community was there for me. That’s why when I run for office, it’s never been about me, it’s been about all of us.”

The newly drawn 4th Congressional District was supposed to be safe for Democrats, who had a 40,000-voter advantage at the close of registration last month. But Horsford — pummeled by independent party ads — was bleeding Democratic votes and state Democratic leadership became concerned. Six weeks ago, the campaign brought in Pilar Weiss, former political director of the Culinary Union, to turn around the campaign.

The diverse district covers urban North Las Vegas, which favors Democrats, as well as vast swaths of Republican rural Nevada — making it a difficult one to peg.

This is Tarkanian’s fourth defeat for elected office, after losing races for state Senate, secretary of state and U.S. Senate.

He battled a looming judgment over a failed real estate deal that Democrats said would force him into bankruptcy. Tarkanian has disputed it will force him into bankruptcy, but the judgement has haunted him throughout the campaign.

“Loss is always difficult, this one especially,” Tarkanian said. “I was a little surprised by the outcome.”

Tarkanian added he would be "taking a step out of politics and moving forward."

In his concession speech, Oceguera said he was proud to have "served this community as a firefighter and in the Nevada Assembly. This was a hard campaign, and even though we came up a little bit short it was worth it.”

Oceguera said he would continue to fight for his community, but did not offer any concrete plans.

“I don’t know what the future holds for me in public life, or outside of it,” Oceguera told the crowd.

Reporter Tovin Lapan and Karoun Demirjian contributed to this report.

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