Scott Sonner / AP
Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019 | 2 a.m.
Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who made her name as a consumer advocate following the 2008 financial crisis, will make her first appearance Sunday as a presidential candidate in Las Vegas, the boom-and-bust town that made Nevada the epicenter of the country's foreclosure crisis.
The Massachusetts senator is trying to distinguish herself from a crowded field of 2020 candidates as income inequality emerges as a key issue.
A decade ago, as Nevada led the country in per-capita bankruptcy filings and had one in every 10 homes receiving a foreclosure filing, Warren and members of the congressional oversight panel she chaired visited Las Vegas neighborhoods walloped by foreclosures while overseeing the financial industry's bailout and urging greater protections for borrowers.
These days, the economy in Las Vegas in booming, but growing unease about another potential slump, rising home prices and a shortage of affordable housing may create a welcome audience for the Massachusetts senator's message of economic populism.
"Everybody remembers how difficult that was," said former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, who brought Warren on in 2008 to chair the panel monitoring the bailout of banks, insurers and automakers.
Reid, the former Senate Majority Leader, said while he's not endorsing the senator, she'll have a leg up on other candidates who were not as involved in the issue.
"Her background is pretty significant," Reid said. "Harvard law professor, written books on poverty and the middle class. She's got quite a resume."
Deborah Lomando, a retired geologist and member of the Women's Democratic Club of Clark County, said Warren "has been working for those kinds of issues all of her life. I think that is going to give her some advantage."
Lomando said she likes Warren a lot but hasn't made up her mind about who she'll back in 2020.
Warren, who postponed a visit to Nevada last month to vote in Washington on bills to end the government shutdown, will meet with supporters Sunday at the Springs Preserve, a botanical garden, museum and event center northwest of the Las Vegas Strip.
Her visit sets off a spate of 2020 Democratic contenders coming to Nevada. Next weekend, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown will be in Las Vegas, followed by a trip a few days later from Sen. Kamala Harris, who can make easy visits from her home base in California. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is expected to announce a visit soon and has been a regular in Las Vegas, where his mother lives.
U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, a Las Vegas-area Democrat, said he's encouraged Democrats eying the White House to engage early in Nevada, where its first-in-the-West caucus is seen as a test of a candidate's appeal to unions and a growing, demographically diverse population.
"They really have to get to know the various communities throughout our state," he said. "We are not monolithic."
While a number of presidential prospects have been nurturing ties to Nevada's Democratic Party, Federal Election Commission fundraising reports show Warren gave at least $100,000 to the party and its major candidates last year â€” more than any other contender.
Warren also has a former Reid staffer, Kristen Orthman, on her team.
Reid didn't have much to say about whether Warren's apologies earlier this month for her past claims of Native American heritage will allow her to move on from that issue.
"I think we've heard enough about that," Reid said, declining to comment further.
While Warren's work on the financial crisis will help her with some Democrats, others looking for a more centrist choice aren't sure she's the best pick to defeat President Donald Trump next year.
Deborah Carter, a Las Vegas financial adviser, she said she feels Warren has been too strident against the financial services industry.
"She's come after our business. Some of it is necessary. But I feel like she overshoots," Carter said.
She finds Harris to be the most interesting prospect right now and said, "I think it might a time when a woman could get elected. The women's movement has taken off in direct response to Trump."