Two swing House seats in spotlight in battleground of Nevada

Oct 13, 2022, 5:13 AM | Updated: 5:55 am
FILE - Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., meets with supporters at an event Nov. 3, 2020, in Las Vegas. As the...

FILE - Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., meets with supporters at an event Nov. 3, 2020, in Las Vegas. As they have been for most elections the past decade, two of Nevada's four U.S. House races are in the swing-seat spotlight as Democratic incumbents Lee and Steven Horsford seek re-election in the western battleground state. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

RENO, Nev. (AP) — As they have been for most elections the past decade, two of Nevada’s four U.S. House races are in the swing-seat spotlight as Democratic incumbents Reps. Susie Lee and Steven Horsford seek reelection in the western battleground state.

But for the first time in more than 20 years, Republicans also think they have a chance to turn a traditional blue seat red in a Las Vegas district as Nevadans struggle with some of the highest gas prices and unemployment rates in the nation.

Both national parties are watching Nevada, one of the few swing states Donald Trump failed to carry in 2016 and which President Joe Biden won by only 2.4 percentage points in 2020.

Six-term Democratic Rep. Dina Titus anticipates her stiffest challenge in Las Vegas yet against Republican Mark Robertson after Democrats sacrificed parts of their traditional stronghold during redistricting in exchange for some gains in the neighboring swing districts.

Horsford is slightly favored to fend off GOP challenger Samuel Peters in one of those: the 4th Congressional District stretching from the northern outskirts of Vegas into rural communities to the northeast.

In the 3rd district that runs through the Vegas suburb of Henderson all the way to the Arizona border, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report is among those that consider Lee’s race against Republican April Becker a toss-up.

Both are near the top of the list of races nationally that could help determine whether the GOP takes control of the House.

In northern Nevada, Republican Rep. Mark Amodei is all but certain to win reelection to a seventh term in the rural 2nd District, where no Democrat has ever won and this year’s challenger, Elizabeth Mercedes Krause, is largely unknown and woefully underfunded.

Amodei and Peters were among the Republicans who joined Trump earlier this month at a contentious rally in rural Minden south of Carson City.

Trump hasn’t formally endorsed any Nevada House candidates, as he has Adam Laxalt’s bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Joe Lombardo’s challenge to Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak.

But among the GOP challengers, Peters has aligned himself most closely with Trump in his race against Horsford, who won by 4.9 percentage points in 2020. Cook characterizes the race as “leans Democrat.”

A war veteran who lost in the 2020 GOP primary, Peters urged congressional Republicans to contest Biden’s election. He said he wouldn’t have certified it without obtaining more information and has advocated for eliminating electronic voting machines.

In addition to “election integrity” and “fiscal responsibility,” Peters has campaigned most on border security. His 11-point immigration plan begins with completing the wall the Trump administration began on the Mexican border.

Lee, now seeking a third term, won by 3 percentage points in 2020 in the district that has bounced between parties the past decade.

Both national parties are targeting the contest.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, has helped raise money for Lee, a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee who enjoyed a 3-to-1 fundraising advantage through June 30 against Becker, a Republican attorney who narrowly lost her bid to unseat the state Senate leader in 2020.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, has campaigned with Becker and Republican National Committee Chairman Ronna McDaniel appeared with her at an Oct. 7 rally in Las Vegas.

Like other Democrats, Lee has emphasized abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade.

Becker opposes abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and harm to the mother and has the support of groups that oppose abortion. But she notes that abortion is legal in Nevada through 24 weeks under a voter-approved measure, so any federal limits on abortion would be unconstitutional.

Titus, the dean of Nevada’s delegation, is still favored to win a seventh term. But she’s complained that the shift of her newly drawn district into GOP-leaning suburbs makes her more vulnerable as she tries to fend off Robertson.

Robertson, a retired Army colonel and business owner, has focused most on reigning in federal spending, including by eliminating some child care subsidies and paid family leave, which he says should be addressed by state governments.

The last Republican to win there was John Ensign, who served two terms from 1995-99 and later was elected to the Senate, where he was serving a second term when he resigned in 2011 amid an ethics investigation into an extramarital affair.

Ensign’s resignation started a domino effect that led to Amodei winning a special congressional election in Nevada’s rural district in September 2011.

Amodei, now a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, has captured at least 58% of the vote since he won his first full term.

Krause is a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, chairwoman of the Nevada Native Caucus, and co-founder of the Indigenous Educators Empowerment nonprofit. She had only raised about $10,000 through June compared to Amodei’s nearly $800,000 and has been largely invisible throughout the campaign.

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Two swing House seats in spotlight in battleground of Nevada