Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2017

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Democrats Rosen, Kihuen flip House seats blue

Democrats Jacky Rosen and Ruben Kihuen flipped two red congressional seats blue Tuesday night, filling one open seat and ousting a Republican incumbent, respectively.

Kihuen defeated freshman Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy 52 percent to 42 percent, while Rosen won 47 percent of the vote in her fight against Republican businessman Danny Tarkanian, who ended up with 46 percent, according to election results.

Kihuen thanked his "hermanos" and "hermanas" in the Culinary Union, brothers and sisters who supported him throughout his congressional campaign.

"I see around this room behind you, and I see people who believed in this campaign from Day One," Kihuen said. "When I first announced my candidacy 19 months ago I was in last place in the polls and some of the only people who believed in our campaign are standing back here with me."

Kihuen endured a brutal, expensive primary fight against two solid Democratic opponents, philanthropist Susie Lee and former Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, while Hardy was able to sail through the primary under the radar and relatively unscathed.

The 4th Congressional District stretches from North Las Vegas to the rural counties in the middle of Nevada, including Lyon, Esmeralda, Lincoln, Mineral, Nye and White Pine.

Throughout the campaign, Kihuen stressed his humble roots throughout the campaign as the son of a housekeeper at the MGM Grand hotel who immigrated to the United States from Mexico as an 8-year-old. He has positioned himself as something of a progressive champion, close to the Culinary Union of which his mom is a member and supportive of goals like raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Kihuen thanked his family for their support throughout his campaign, singling out his mother, Blanca, who has worked at the MGM for 23 years.

"We came to this country because we knew if we worked hard, we sacrificed, we played by the rules, we would achieve the American dream," Kihuen said. "Well today that eight year old kid is about to be a member of the United States House of Representatives."

The two candidates were a study in opposites: Kihuen was young and charismatic, while Hardy was old-school and eschewed the spotlight. And where Kihuen’s stump speeches felt polished and almost too-practiced at times, Hardy’s were honest and straightforward; he was also known for verbal gaffes that frequently landed him in hot water.

Hardy also struggled through his support for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump throughout the campaign — first saying he would support him “100 percent” as the nominee, then backing away from that support after Trump’s lewd comments about women surfaced.

Kihuen highlighted Trump’s support throughout the campaign, just as frequently as Republicans sought to paint Kihuen as “sleazy” and tie him to a Las Vegas city councilman under FBI investigation.

Meanwhile, Democratic political newcomer Jacky Rosen will take over the Southern Nevada House seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Joe Heck.

The former software programmer and synagogue leader triumphed over businessman Danny Tarkanian, who was well-known as the son of legendary UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian.

Tarkanian had unsuccessfully sought public office five times before this year's 3rd Congressional District race, which covers the southern tip of Nevada from Summerlin to Searchlight.

Opponents tried to sink Rosen by portraying her as the hand-picked candidate and puppet of polarizing Democratic Sen. Harry Reid.

Rosen and her allies highlighted Tarkanian's past financial troubles, including a $17 million judgment against him in a real estate deal gone sour.

Heck sought Nevada's open Senate seat rather than a third term representing the swing district, which is almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

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