Grassroots efforts to turn out voters in Nevada will be key to keeping Nevada’s 4th Congressional District in Democratic hands, according to Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-New Mexico, who is chairman of the House Democrats’ campaign arm.
“I think we are going to continue to see strong activity and turnout when it comes to grassroots organizations’ operations and especially when you look at the strength of the culinary workers in that district,” Lujan, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said on Thursday when he met a group of reporters to discuss several races across the country.
His comments come as a group of progressive organizations, including Planned Parenthood, plan to spend $3 million in Nevada to mobilize 300,000 voters in the state using peer-to-peer texting, digital organizing, as well as providing resources and training community leaders to knock on doors. The Culinary Union also has a formidable political operation and consistently plays a role in helping get out the vote in Southern Nevada.
Lujan said he was confident that Democrats would regain the majority in the House, along with holding on to the 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts; that House Republican are muddying their message on tax cut law with another tax cut bill; and that health care is an issue that benefits Democrats in every race. A recent poll commissioned by the Reno Gazette-Journal found that health care was the most important issue for 17 percent of Nevadans when considering who to vote for in the Senate race.
Fivethirtyeight gives the Democrats a five in six chance to win control of the the House and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball projects Democrats winning between 30 and 35 seats, which would give the Democrats a total of 239 House seats and control of the speakership and all House committees.
Lujan also said Democratic campaigns will not talk about President Donald Trump very much, if at all. “He’s going to do it for us,” Lujan said, making reference to the president’s habit of taking to Twitter to vent about most any issue. The Reno Gazette-Journal found that Trump was the most important issue for 19 percent of Nevadans when considering who to vote for in the Senate race.
Lujan conceded that the House races in Nevada are competitive, but, not surprisingly, he projected Election Night victories for Democrats Steven Horsford, who is running for the 4th Congressional District, and Susie Lee, who is the candidate for the 3rd district seat.
“Nevada, as a whole, is a very competitive state,” he said, adding that turnout will be the key to victory for Democrats, though he argued that his party’s voters are energized and eager to vote.
But “we will continue to hold those two important seats in Nevada,” Lujan said.
Jack Pandol, spokesman for National Republican Congressional Committee, which is focused on electing Republicans to the House, took issue with Lujan’s assessment.
“Chairman Lujan is right, there is a clear contrast between our candidates in Nevada; unfortunately for him, his candidates are deeply unqualified to serve in office,” Pandol said.
The seats are held by Democrats, but Rep. Jacky Rosen, who represents the 3rd district, is running for Senate, and Rep. Ruben Kihuen is not seeking re-election to the 4th district seat following allegations of sexual misconduct, which he denies. The Cook Political Report rates the 3rd district seat as “lean Democrat” and the 4th district seat as “likely Democrat.”
Lee is squaring off against Republican candidate Danny Tarkanian. The NRCC recently appeared to have backed out of Tarkanian’s race in order to plow more funds into the 4th district race. But Lujan indicated the DCCC was keeping an eye on the 3rd district race nevertheless. “We’ll see if that holds true,” he said.
When asked about Lujan’s comments, Pandol said that Lee is too liberal for the district, associating her with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who has been used by the GOP as a symbol for the liberal elite.
“The Democrats’ candidate is an out-of-touch socialite named Susie Lee, who wants to buy a seat in Congress to hobnob with Nancy Pelosi,” Pandol said.
Asked about the growing number of Democratic candidates who have said they would not vote for Pelosi to be Speaker should Democrats win the House majority, Lujan said he doesn’t believe it is a mainstream Democratic view.
“I support the leader, I am a mainstream Democrat,” he said.
In the 4th district, Horsford faces Cresent Hardy in a rematch of the 2014 race, which Hardy won. Hardy was defeated two years later by Kihuen.
Lujan believes that Hardy’s record, including supporting the Republican tax cut bill, which Democrats call “taxscam” and was signed into law last year, and opposition to the Affordable Care Act, would hurt him with voters.
“I think that when you contrast the two candidates with Cresent against Steven, there couldn’t be a stronger contrast,” Lujan said. “If you look at the Republican record that Cresent amassed and the positions that he has stated, where he’s embraced the taxscam as well as repeal and replace, that does not bode well for” the district.
Lujan was also critical of House Republican leaders who recently unveiled another tax cut bill that would make the 2017 tax cuts for individuals permanent. “I just don’t understand how Republicans believe that they are going to move something like this to indeed convince the American people that they do prioritize hardworking middle class families,” Lujan said. “If this was important to Republicans…it should have been in the first bill and it should have been in a bill that they knew they could get to the president of the United States.”
With the election around the corner, the measure is not expected to be considered by the Senate, where Democrats would be needed to advance it.
He also underscored that health care would play a role in framing Hardy and other GOP candidates who have opposed the ACA as against popular provisions, such as the guarantee that those with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied care or charged exorbitant prices for it.
Though he voted to repeal the ACA when he was a member of Congress, at an event last week Hardy said that he doesn’t support efforts to end the law’s insurance protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
Disclosure: The Culinary Union and Susie Lee have donated to The Indy. You can view a full list of donors here.
Updated 9-26-18 at 10:00 a.m. to include the latest ratings from Sabato’s Crystal Ball.