Las Vegas Sun

May 26, 2022

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Rep. Steven Horsford, once a sure bet, fights for his political life

Cresent Hardy and Steven Horsford

Sun Staff

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

As recently as two weeks ago, Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford appeared on his way to an easy victory in his first re-election bid to represent North Las Vegas and central Nevada in Congress.

Now he's in the fight of his political life.

Republicans had barely put up a challenge for the state's newest district by nominating little-known and unpolished Mesquite native Assemblyman Cresent Hardy. In debt and unable to raise serious money, Hardy seemingly put the nail in his political coffin in when he told donors at a September fundraiser he agreed with Mitt Romney's infamous 47 percent comment.

But when the polls opened in Nevada on Oct. 18, everything went wrong for Horsford. Nevada Republicans are riding a national wave this election cycle, motivated in part by an unpopular Democratic president and the first major election since his health care reform law went into effect.

By contrast, Democrats in the state aren't voting in large numbers. The party didn't put up a challenger to popular Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, and Democrats are notoriously bad at voting in midterm elections.

As of Wednesday, Republicans had out-voted Democrats 44 percent to 39 percent in Nevada's 4th Congressional District. They've even taken a one-percentage point lead in Democratic strongholds of the district such as Clark County, according to data provided by Hardy's campaign. Such a strong showing has surprised Republican insiders.

"You have to look back to the '90s to find early voting numbers that have looked this good for Republicans," said Scott Scheid, Hardy's campaign manager.

Four days before the election, it's a real possibility that Horsford, a rising star in the national Democratic party, could lose his seat Tuesday to a virtually unknown candidate.

The next few days will be crucial for both sides. Democrats are throwing everything they have to motivate their voters: President Barack Obama himself narrated a radio ad for Horsford.

Former President Bill Clinton held a rally in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Vice President Joe Biden is coming to town Saturday. Horsford has raised more than $80,000 this week alone from Washington Democrats.

Will all that be enough to motivate Democrats to go to vote?

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. In 2012, Horsford was behind in the polls but ended up handedly beating Republican Danny Tarkanian.

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.

Now, it's an all-out sprint to the finish line. Pushing things along are outside political groups, which have flushed more than $1.5 million into the district these past two weeks.

The path to victory for Horsford is narrowing. His team must hope a substantial amount of the district's Independent and nonpartisan voters choose him. Nonpartisan national ratings groups have downgraded Horsford's chances of winning, though not quite predicting the race will go to Hardy.

Horsford's Nevada colleagues in Congress aren't having nearly as tough of a time.

Republicans' early voting likely boosted Rep. Joe Heck's chances of winning a third term in the swing district representing Henderson and Boulder City. Democratic Rep. Dina Titus still appears to have a relatively safe re-election to her second term representing Las Vegas. And in the north, Rep. Mark Amodei is in a solidly Republican district.

The race for Nevada's 4th Congressional District is surprisingly close, but it's not over.

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