House races bring in big bucks from outside
October 18, 2012
Nevada’s two competitive House races are drawing big bucks from outside groups trying to influence the election, though it’s a lopsided third-party money matchup in the state’s new congressional district — a factor that could have Democrats rolling snake eyes in November on what once seemed like a sound bet.In the 4th District race between Republican Danny Tarkanian and Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, outside groups led by the National Republican Congressional Committee have spent about $2 million to oppose Horsford. On the flip side, Federal Election Commission reports show only about $415,000 has come from outside to try to tarnish Tarkanian, who’s hoping the fourth time’s a charm after three failed attempts at the ballot box. Outside groups have spent about $3.3 million to influence the race, the overwhelming majority of which has been aimed at defeating Horsford, according to the FEC. Labor groups, however, funneled in about $500,000 to support the Democrat.The state’s newest congressional district encompasses a large swath of conservative rural Nevada. But its urban core in southern Nevada has a strong minority and Democratic base. District wide, Democrats hold a more than 34,000 registration advantage — an edge Democrats once believed would catapult Horsford to Congress.“I think they sort of saw the registration numbers and said this was a safe district,” said David Damore, a political scientist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.But polls show the race razor-thin, if not tilting toward Tarkanian.“The registration lulled people into a sense of somewhat complacency on the Democratic side,” Dan Hart, a Democratic consultant not involved in the Horsford campaign, said Wednesday. “I think people are clearly now aware the registration advantage enjoyed in that district is not being reflected in the polling.”Campaign finance reports filed this week show Tarkanian, the son of former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, raised $414,000 in the past quarter, compared with $391,999 raised by Horsford, the state’s first black Senate majority leader who hopes to become the first black elected to Congress from the Silver State.The outside money game is a different story in Nevada’s 3rd District, identified early on as a priority for national Democrats and evidenced by the amount of spending by Democrats and Republicans alike.The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent $1.5 million opposing the re-election of Republican Rep. Joe Heck, who is being challenged by John Oceguera, the Democratic state Assembly speaker. The National Republican Congressional Committee in turn has doled out $1.3 million to bash Oceguera. Combined, that race has drawn $3.8 million in outside money, FEC records show.Heck outpaced Oceguera slightly in quarterly campaign contributions, reporting $358,000 to Oceguera’s $353,000.