Fresh off 2016 losses, Democrats target 2018 Senate races

LAS VEGAS — Democratic-leaning groups turned their attention to the 2018 Senate contest less than two weeks after this year’s divisive race in Nevada, hoping to secure the powerful majority position that eluded them this cycle.

The women’s rights group UltraViolet ran a full-page ad in the Reno Gazette-Journal this week accusing Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who’s up for re-election in two years, of doing nothing when President-elect Donald Trump named Steve Bannon as chief White House strategist.

The group is one of many criticizing the hiring of Bannon, former editor of the far-right media outlet Breitbart News.

“Whether you supported Trump or not, I think we can all agree that an open white supremacist doesn’t belong in the White House,” said Karin Roland, chief campaign officer at UltraViolet. “(Heller) can stand up and say that’s not OK. He has action he can take right now.”

Roland acknowledged that Heller can’t directly block Trump’s choice of advisers but suggested he could refuse to approve other Trump nominees until the president-elect boots Bannon.

Heller spokesmen didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto won Nevada’s hotly contested Senate seat after hammering her opponent, Rep. Joe Heck, over his initial support and later waffling about Trump. But Republicans triumphed nationally, locking down control of the presidency and both chambers of Congress.

Disheartened Democrats are directing their efforts toward the future, drawing from their 2016 playbook by trying to exploit moderate Republicans’ positions on the polarizing president-elect.

Ultraviolet ran similar newspaper ads this week against Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer, who are also up for re-election in 2018.

Flake was vocal in opposing Trump throughout the campaign but has not said whom he voted for. Fischer condemned Trump’s predatory comments about women revealed in an audio recording from 2005 but later renewed her support for him.

Heller spoke out against Trump during the campaign but has yet to say whom he voted for. He said after the election that he was “excited to partner with President-elect Trump.”

State Democratic Party Chair Roberta Lange didn’t miss the opportunity to link Heller to Bannon and controversial attorney general pick Sen. Jeff Sessions, issuing a statement last week saying Heller “owes Nevadans an explanation for his excitement about Trump’s presidency.”


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