Published Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 | 10:44 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 | 11:22 p.m.
With a win that was unthinkable a month ago, Republican Assemblyman Cresent Hardy ousted Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford to represent North Las Vegas and central Nevada in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Horsford conceded the race to Hardy in a speech late tonight. At the time, Hardy was leading by 3,100 votes to represent the 4th Congressional District, Nevada's newest district created in 2012 to encompass a growing population.
"We did what nobody thought could be done," Hardy said in a brief victory speech during Republicans' election night party at Red Rock Resort in Summerlin.
Horsford, a first-term Washington lawmaker, was seen as a rising star in the Democratic party.
In his two years in Congress, Horsford championed Democratic causes such as comprehensive immigration reform and extending unemployment benefits. He sat on powerful committees such as Financial Services and Oversight and Government Reform. He helped pass a lands bill through the House of Representatives that will bring a copper mine and jobs to economically depressed Yerington.
"Thank you for the opportunity of a lifetime," Horsford, a North Las Vegas resident, told fellow Democrats in a concession speech. "I'm a poor kid raised by a single mother who lost a father to a gunshot."
But Horsford's accomplishments weren't enough to overcome a powerful Republican ground game in the state that took advantage of an unpopular Democratic president. Horsford only won the district's portion of Democratic-leaning Clark County by a 1,500 vote margin; in 2012 he won the area by a 29,000 vote margin.
Hardy, a 56-year-old businessman and farmer from Mesquite, was a little-known candidate until two weeks ago.
The fifth-generation Nevadan and self-described "constitutional conservative" campaigned on a message for voters to send him to Washington so he could loosen the power Congress has over the state.
Hardy supports a flat tax that applies equally to all taxpayers, opposes same-sex marriage and supports comprehensive immigration reform. He beat Tea Party candidate Niger Innis in a June primary to challenge Horsford.
Republicans say they always knew this race would be close. Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval won the district in 2010 by 6 percentage points, and they've invested time knocking on doors and making phone calls to get those voters back out.
Of the 303,000 total voters in the 4th Congressional District, about 130,000 are registered Democrats, about 97,000 Republicans and about 70,000 Independents and nonpartisans, according to the Nevada Secretary of State.
Media and pundits wrote off Hardy's chances against the well-financed Horsford as recently as September, when Hardy told donors he agreed with Mitt Romney's controversial 47 percent comment.
That all changed in the final two weeks before Tuesday's election. Republicans showed up en masse to early voting starting Oct. 18. Shortly after, a Super PAC with ties to President George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove announced it was spending $1 million against Horsford. That prompted another half million of spending from Washington Democrats and Republicans to try to alter the race.
Suddenly, Hardy's campaign had life. He carried it through to a surprising victory Tuesday.
"This country is in poor shape," Hardy said. "I think we need to do everything we can to keep God in this country. ... I will rely on his influence. I won’t make any decision without that.”