Congressional candidates face little opposition in primary

LAS VEGAS - Nevada's three congressional representatives face little to no opposition from within their party, although there are plenty across the aisle who hope to knock them out of office.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., 53, is the only incumbent facing a challenge in the Sept. 7 primary. Berkley, who was first elected in 1998, represents the 1st Congressional District that includes Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and unincorporated areas of Clark County.

In seeking her fourth term, Berkley called it "a very critical time for our community, our state and our nation," and emphasized her leadership and command of important issues.

"I am known in Washington as the strongest advocate against putting nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, and I will continue that fight," she said.

Her Democratic opposition comes from little-known candidates Brian Kral and Ann Reynolds.

Kral, 48, is a playwright and instructor at the Community College of Southern Nevada who said he would reduce federal testing in schools and call for a reform of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Reynolds, a 55-year-old bookkeeper who supports perennial presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche, said she wants the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and a plan to import water to Southern Nevada from the Arctic.

Facing off in the Republican primary are Lewis Byer, Russ Mickelson and Francisco Tamez.

Tamez, a 50-year-old chemical technician and first-time candidate, said on his Web site that "many politicians, primarily Democrats, seem to view our anti-terrorism actions as if Sept. 11 never happened."

Byer, 56, lost a 2002 bid for Clark County treasurer and has said he spends about 18 hours a day monitoring the situation in Iraq on CNN.

Mickelson, a former Air Force pilot and retired Defense Department employee, has said he supports renewing the Patriot Act and making the Bush administration's tax cuts permanent.

Perhaps the biggest congressional battle may be in the 3rd District, but not until the general election.

Rep. Jon Porter, who faces no opposition in the primary, already has raised more than $1 million. Porter, 46, is a former Boulder City councilman, mayor and state senator who was first elected to Congress two years ago to represent the newly created district that includes Henderson, Boulder City and Laughlin.

"I think now more than ever we need experienced leadership in Washington, someone who knows the community," Porter said.

The early front-runner among the Democrats is wealthy former casino executive Tom Gallagher, a high-profile candidate who has contributed at least $300,000 to his campaign. A Las Vegas Review-Journal poll last month showed Porter leading Gallagher, 56 percent to 32 percent.

"I've been watching what's been going on in Congress for the past year, and I was basically fed up," said Gallagher, 59. "Jon Porter just isn't getting the job done."

The state Democratic Party has helped boost Gallagher's candidacy, bestowing him valuable "talk time" at important events. Gallagher was called on to introduce presidential candidate John Kerry during a campaign stop last month in Henderson and was the only 3rd District candidate to appear onstage during Kerry's Las Vegas rally.

Many of the other five Democratic candidates in the race said they want to repeal the Bush tax cuts and the Patriot Act. Mark Budetich, a 42-year-old Merchant Marine electrician who received 31 percent of the vote in the 2002 Democratic primary, has said he also wants to pursue greater incentives to develop renewable energy.

Rick DeVoe, 47, is a journeyman mechanic and union member. He said he favors an overhaul of the nation's health care system and supports gay marriage. Anna Nevenic, a 57-year-old peace activist and writer who has run unsuccessfully for Congress in California, said she also would repeal the Medicare reform law.

Shanna Phillips, 29, is a high school government teacher who supports the war in Iraq and wants to improve educational opportunities. Ron von Felden is a 61-year-old lawyer, Vietnam War veteran and host of a daily talk radio show who supports the implementation of a lottery-based military draft and the repeal of tax cuts for the top 1 percent of wage earners.

The quietest congressional campaign may be in Nevada's largest district, where Rep. Jim Gibbons is seeking his fifth term. The 2nd Congressional District encompasses most of the state, except for Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City and surrounding areas.

Gibbons, 59, a former combat pilot who served three terms in the state Assembly, is facing no opposition from within the Republican Party. However, he is vowing to earn the votes of as many Nevada residents as possible.

"We're not taking anything for granted," said Gibbons, who chairs two House subcommittees on intelligence. "I believe the experience that I have gained in my life is a valuable contribution not just to the people of Nevada, but to the rest of the country."

Little-known Democratic candidates David Jerome Bennett and Angie Cochran both oppose the war, although they disagree on Yucca Mountain. Cochran, a 61-year-old business owner from Pahrump, said the proposed nuclear waste repository would be good for Nevada.

Both say defeating Gibbons will be difficult. Bennett, a 47-year-old computer systems programmer from Pahrump who is running his first campaign, has acknowledged a difficult time collecting donations. Registered Republican voters outnumber Democrats by almost 50,000 in the district.

Also running in the general election for congressional seats are Libertarian Jim Duensing (1st District); Libertarian Brendan Trainor (2nd District); Independent American Janine Hansen (2nd District); Independent American Richard O'Dell (3rd District); and Libertarian Joseph Silvestri (3rd District).


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