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Conservative PAC buying $820,000 of TV ads aimed at Horsford

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Sun Staff

Republican congressional nominee Cresent Hardy, left, is running against Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford in the November general election.

Updated Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014 | 12:56 p.m.

In a campaign season that’s seen just a trickle of outside spending in Nevada, a national Republican political action committee is buying a surprise wave of political ads to influence the Nov. 4 election.

Crossroads GPS, a nonprofit political action committee tied to Republican strategist Karl Rove, will spend $820,000 on TV ads in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District, according to sources familiar with the buy.

The ads will start Wednesday and run through Election Day.

The deluge of last-minute TV ads aims to influence voters to support Mesquite native and Assemblyman Cresent Hardy, a Republican challenging Democratic incumbent Rep. Steven Horsford, who is vying for a second term in the North Las Vegas and central Nevada district.

In a statement, Horsford criticized the buy as a manipulative ploy by Rove. He pointed out that Crossroads GPS unsuccessfully spent money in the district in 2012.

"He does not care about Nevada; he is making a buy because he thinks we are numbers on a spreadsheet, and he wants to gamble," Horsford said.

The ad buy comes as a surprise. With gaffes from Hardy, whose campaign is also in debt about $35,000, Horsford had been considered a sure lock to win a second term and possibly define Nevada’s newest congressional district as a Democratic seat.

But the district is naturally competitive.

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki won counties in the district by 6 percentage points in 2010.

In 2012, the district was the closest race in the state. Horsford won the seat by 50 percent to Republican challenger Danny Tarkanian’s 42 percent.

And early voting numbers indicate Republicans are showing up in more numbers than Democrats across the state, according to political journalist Jon Ralston.

National trends also help explain the ad buy.

With poor presidential ratings and Americans’ security concerns about Ebola and terrorism, Republican operatives have started expanding the playing field into deep blue districts to see how far they can push what is supposed to be a bad year for Democrats nationally.

The ads will dwarf what Horsford has spent so far on TV.

He purchased about $100,000 of air time in October, according to Federal Communications Commission reports, as part of a larger digital strategy. The Crossroads GPS buy is almost twice as much as all the campaign cash Horsford reported Oct. 15.

Because Crossroads GPS is a nonprofit that does not have to disclose its donors, it is prohibited from spending most of its money explicitly campaigning for or against a candidate. Instead, the nonprofit runs issue-oriented ads targeting voters. If you live in Las Vegas or District 4, expect to see the ad on TV a lot these next two weeks.

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