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Can Horsford Hold Onto His Seat In Nevada's CD4?

Map of Nevada's U.S. Congressional District 4
U.S. Department of the Interior
Wikipedia Commons
Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford is facing five other challengers in the Democratic primary on June 9.

U.S. Congressional seats are up for election this year. And in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District, Democratic incumbent Steven Horsford is campaigning after recently admitting to having an affair outside of his marriage with a congressional intern who did not work for him.

This district encompasses a big portion of Central Nevada down south to Vegas. It does include some of KUNR’s listening communities, like Hawthorne and Yerington, as well as just east of Eureka.

KUNR’s Bree Zender spoke with The Nevada Independent’s Jacob Solis to give us the lowdown ahead of the June 9 primary.

Zender: So Jacob, this is a fairly new congressional district. Can you give me a quick overview of this district’s history?

Solis: So the district was formed in 2012 when Nevada got its fourth seat in the house. [It is] comprised mainly of North Las Vegas and Northwest Las Vegas, as well as a bunch of rural counties in the middle of the state. But most of the voters are democratic. Then what we get there is a pretty strong democratic base. And so we saw in 2012, Steven Horsford, then a majority leader in the state Senate, won his first term there but he lost in 2014. That's largely because of a big Republican sweep statewide. Crescent Hardy won.

[2016 flipped] the script a bit. That presidential election dominated the discussion. And so we saw Democrats win a lot of those seats back, and we saw district four flip back, this time for Rubin Kihuen. Ruben Kihuen did not run for reelection because around 2017, he was accused of sexual harassment from a campaign staffer and amid a House ethics investigation. [And so] he stepped back. And so Steven Horsford, once again, comes back into the picture and he wins reelection. So that brings us to now, to 2020.

Zender: This year there’s a pretty loaded primary ballot. Let’s start with Republicans. There are eight of them in the primary. Who is standing out at this point?

Solis: With so many candidates, the easiest way to distill who's pulling ahead and who's not is fundraising. It's not a perfect metric, but it's a good one to start with. And we see kind of tiers emerge if we look at that. At the top [includes] Jim Marchant, he's a former assemblyman from Las Vegas, and he has led the fundraising race. He self-funded a bit at the beginning, pumping about a $100,000 into his campaign. Now, as he enters the home stretch here, he's got endorsements from a lot of the conservative wing of the Republican party. We've seen people from the house freedom caucus, which is an outgrowth of the old Tea Party.

And then next we have Lisa Song Sutton. She is a former Miss Nevada who is running now as a Republican. She has also done very well in the fundraising race. We've seen a lot of fundraising come to her through the online fundraising platform WinRed, which is the Republican answer to the Democratic ActBlue platform, for anyone familiar with online fundraising.

And then finally we have Sam Peters. He is an insurance agent turned Republican candidate, who has gotten a lot of endorsements from people like Newt Gingrich [and] Ted Nugent. He's also sort of on the more conservative end of the spectrum, sort of aiming for the same kind of voter that a Marchant-type candidate would.

Zender: Steven Horsford has admitted to a years-long affair outside of his marriage. Horsford is competing against five other Democrats in this race. Do you think that the affair will affect his chances?

Solis: You know, it's very difficult to predict anything when it comes to these elections. But I'll say this about the Democratic primary: Horsford has basically run unopposed up until this point. He does have several opponents, but none of them are funded like he is. As an incumbent, he has sort of the electoral power of an incumbent. To do that kind of fundraising, to have that kind of coalition building. And people know who he is, whereas they don't necessarily know who his challengers are. And so will he be defeated in June? I won't speculate, but it will be very difficult for anyone to challenge him.

Zender: This is a largely Democratic district in terms of voter registration — Dems lead by about 10 points over Republicans, with a sizable portion who are registered as nonpartisan. Do you expect this race to be competitive at all after the primary?

Solis: That is a very difficult question to answer. So normally speaking, we'd think that this is a pretty Democratic-leaning district. Now I think the wild card here is Horsford’s affair. We don't know how voters are going to respond to that. And I wouldn't say that the June primary is going to give us a very good sense of how voters will respond to that. And so it's going to be an open question for a really long time. Forty percent of voters are Democratic, and among those nonpartisans, there's no way to tell for sure, but many of them are likely also Democratic-leaning. And so among them, is [there enthusiasm] to vote for Horsford? All these are questions that we're not going to get answers to for a long time, I think.

Bree Zender is a former host and reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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