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The Three Democrats Vying To Challenge Mark Amodei

Erik Hersman
CC BY-SA 2.0

Three Democratic candidates are vying for Nevada's second Congressional seat, held by two-term Republican incumbent Mark Amodei. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Billman takes a look at who's running to represent that rural district, which has never gone blue.

As Democrats, all three candidates agree on a lot of key issues, including their unanimous support for ballot measures that would tighten gun control in Nevada and allow for the use of recreational marijuana. And on many issues, like climate change, they all recognize an immediate problem even if they differ on what the route should be to a solution. 

So, at this point, what sets them apart? 

"Chip Evans is probably the favorite," explains Seth Richardson, the Reno Gazette-Journal's political reporter. "He's got a lot of support with current and former lawmakers. He did raise $50,000 this quarter. He's got about $26,000 on hand, the last time I checked."

Richardson says Evans, a former chair for the Washoe County Party, has garnered the traditional signs of success so far in this primary race, including an endorsement from Senator Harry Reid. But he isn't ruling anything out just yet, and he points to social media as a potential game-changer for some grassroots candidates.

"Now, the thing that's important to remember is this is a very weird election year where, who knows who's going to be on top come June 15th after the primary. I don't think that anyone one year ago would have thought that a Vermont senator who is a self-described Democratic socialist would be hanging on into May in the presidential race."

Richardson moderated a debate last night held by the UNR chapter of the Young Democrats, where the two lesser known candidates sought to set themselves apart by their previous life experiences.

"So, truly the difference is that I have experience in the military. And I traveled, so I did see different cultures, different ideas," says Dr. Vance Alm, who also notes his work as a physician, saying more doctors are needed to shape healthcare reform.

And now, Rick Shepherd. He owns a small IT business and used to be a Republican:

"I've been an activist for over a decade. I'm the only candidate that occupied Wall Street, so my concerns are at a level of taking care of people so much so that I got on an airplane, I flew to New York City, and I occupied Wall Street."

Chip Evans was noticeably absent from the event. Organizers say he was invited while Evans contends he tried to reschedule. That issue aside, Evans agrees that a candidate's past experience is key.

"It's fair to ask: 'Have you ever been on a civic commission?' I have--I was on the neighborhood advisory board. 'Have you ever had a discussion with a senator, with a vice president? Have you ever presented an issue, given testimony to the legislature or the city council?' I've done all these things."

Perhaps the larger question to discuss when looking at this primary is if a Democratic win is even possible when that's never happened before. Here's Evans' take:

"You know, the way the district is drawn right now, Obama actually won this district in 2008, so how blood red is it? That's a good question to start with."

Seth Richardson with the Gazette-Journal says some Republican insiders are bracing for the possibility of a blue wave overtaking the U.S. Senate and House this year.

"But that being said, it's a pretty safe seat for Mark Amodei. It would take a monumental kind of upset for him to lose this seat."

Voters will decide on Amodei's Democratic challenger on June 14th.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
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