Las Vegas Sun
Published Wednesday, April 22, 2015 | 8:24 a.m.
Updated Wednesday, April 22, 2015 | 9:50 a.m.
WASHINGTON — Lucy Flores, a former Nevada assemblywoman and candidate for lieutenant governor, is running for a seat in Congress, she announced today.
“Hardworking people deserve an opportunity to get ahead,” Flores said in a news release announcing her candidacy. “I want to go to Congress to make certain we invest in our community and we have an economy that works for everyone.”
The announcement sets up a Democratic primary battle that pits Flores against state Sen. Ruben Kihuen in a diverse congressional district that Democrats believe they can recapture in 2016.
Flores and Kihuen are running for Nevada’s 4th Congressional District, which spans from North Las Vegas through central, rural Nevada and touches six counties in all.
Rep. Cresent Hardy is just three months into his first term representing the district.
Flores last made headlines as Sen. Harry Reid’s hand-picked candidate to run against Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison. But her behind-the-scenes, rough politicking style didn’t win her many friends among Nevada Democrats, and she lost the race by almost 26 percentage points.
Democrats believe Hardy is vulnerable because he’s a far-right candidate representing a majority-minority district with about a third of voters registering as Hispanic. Both Flores and Kihuen are Latino, which could be an advantage in a year where presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has a strong ground-game in Nevada dedicated to getting Latinos and Asian Americans to the polls for Democrats.
Nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based political analyst Charlie Cook says the district’s demographics and likely Democratic turnout in a presidential year makes Hardy one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the nation.
The Democratic nominee could also be buoyed by a high-profile Senate race to replace Reid, who is not seeking another term. Former Democratic attorney general Catherine Cortez-Masto is the only candidate on either side so far to announce.
Other Nevada Democrats are also considering entering the race to challenge Hardy, including former congressional candidate John Oceguera.
But a heated Democratic primary could weaken whichever Democrat wins the nomination to challenge Hardy, who is not facing a primary challenge.
National Republicans are working hard in Washington to attack Flores and Kihuen as overly ambitious politicians.
The National Republican Congressional Committee points out Kihuen lives in the neighboring 1st Congressional District (it is legal in Nevada to live in one district and represent another) and that Flores lost her statewide race badly in 2014.
Which candidate the influential Reid backs will be key. He’s had a history with both.
Reid supported Kihuen when he entered the primary to represent Las Vegas in Congress. But Kihuen stepped down after Rep. Dina Titus raised more money than he did.
Reid has yet to support a candidate in the race.