Republicans Set to Challenge Incumbent House Democrats in Battleground Nevada

Republicans Set to Challenge Incumbent House Democrats in Battleground Nevada
Voters cast their ballots in the Nevada primary election in Reno, Nev., on June 14, 2022. (Tom R. Smedes/AP Photo)

The November field is nearly set in Las Vegas, where Republicans will again seek to dislodge incumbent Democrats from three southern Nevada congressional seats the GOP has been eyeing since 2018.

Retired U.S. Army colonel and certified financial planner Mark Robertson and conservative policy analyst Drew Johnson have emerged as winners, while former North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee was leading at 3:30 a.m. PST on June 12, in their crowded June 11 Republican U.S. House primaries.

In northern Nevada’s sprawling Congressional District 2 (CD 2), Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) rolled past Dr. Fred Simon, a surgeon and former restaurant owner, to win his primary and secure a near-lock on an eighth House term. He won’t face a Democrat in the fall, although several independent and third-party candidates will be on the ballot.

The three Las Vegas-area House seats, in Nevada’s CDs 1, 3, and 4, have been dominated for years by Democrats, primarily with support from hospitality industry labor unions, despite ever-winnowing gaps between registered Republicans and Democrats and the growth of unaffiliated voters who often favor conservatives.

All three have been competitive in the last four election cycles and are projected to be so again in 2024. The Cook Political Report, Inside Elections, and Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate them as either “Lean” or “Likely Democratic.”

Mr. Robertson won the 2022 CD 1 Republican primary before losing the general election to six-term Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) and will square off against her again in November. Ms. Titus did not face a primary challenger.

On June 11, Mr. Robertson outperformed restaurateur Flemming Larsen in the CD 1 primary 48.5 to 39 percent, or 11,852 to 9,510 votes, when the race was called by the Associated Press at 10:44 p.m. PST.

“Lot’s of people came out and said, I just got to do it, run again,” he told The Epoch Times. “They reminded me that Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan both lost the first time they ran,” Mr Robertson said.

“Anyway, the reasons I’m running haven’t changed and they’re more urgent than ever, the border, spending. Social Security is heading for a cliff and we’re $35 trillion in debt. We’ve got to get it together. We can do this.”

Mr. Robertson, who served in the Army for 30 years and led combat commands in Afghanistan and Iraq before launching a career in Henderson as a financial planner, was dramatically outspent by Mr. Larsen.

The son of Danish immigrants and a “California refugee,” Mr. Larsen moved to Nevada more than a decade ago. He owns Larsen’s Restaurant chain, steakhouses that reflect his family heritage as butchers.

Mr. Larsen’s May 22 Federal Elections Commission [FEC] filing showed his campaign had raised $1.8 million and had $1.37 million in cash on hand. Much is self-funded. Mr. Robertson’s campaign reported raising $83,296 with $70,319 in the bank on its May 22 FEC filing.

Ms. Titus has nearly $1.1 million in her FEC campaign war chest as of May 22. Four independents and Libertarian David Havlicek have also qualified for the November ballot.

NTD Photo
Nevada Republican Congressional District 3 winner Drew Johnson, standing, greets voters at The Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings, Nev., on May 30, 2024. (Courtesy of Drew Johnson for Nevada)

CD 3: GOP’s Drew Johnson v. Rep. Susie Lee

In CD 3, Mr. Johnson emerged from a seven-candidate Republican primary field as the top vote-getter with 31.9 percent, or 9,089 votes, surpassing former Nevada State Treasurer Dan Schwartz, who received 22.7 percent, or 6,460 votes, and former state lawmaker Elizabeth Helgelien, who garnered 20.5 percent, or 5,839 votes, when the AP called the race at 10:38 p.m. PST with 87 percent of the results counted.

He will take on three-term incumbent Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.) in the fall general election. Ms. Lee easily overcame a nominal challenge by RockAthena Brittain, a transgender DJ, musician, and LGBT activist, to secure her party’s nomination.

CD 3 “is probably the only winnable House seat [Republicans] have” in southern Nevada, Mr. Johnson told The Epoch Times. “This is going to be a top five or six [House] race” in the nation in November.

“So thankfully, I’ve got a team. I couldn’t do it by myself,” he said.

Mr. Johnson’s May 22 FEC filing showed $428,538 raised, $330,000 spent, and $98,533 in the bank, far less than the other CD 3 GOP candidates.

Mr. Schwartz led in fundraising with $921,903 in contributions, according to his campaign’s May 22 FEC filing. His campaign had spent $548,000 and had $373,877 in the bank, three times more than any opponent.

Ms. Lee, who defeated GOP CD 3 winner April Becker by 3 percentage points in 2022, has raised more than $3.475 million and had $2.455 million in the bank, according to her campaign’s May 22 FEC filing.

Rounding out the seven-candidate field was “Halo” composer Marty O’Donnell, who had notched 20.4 percent, or 5,811 votes, when the race was called. Former U.S. Agency for International Development official Steve Schiffman got 524 votes; cryptocurrency advocate Steve London had 425 votes; and entrepreneur Brian Nadell had 366 votes.

Mr. Johnson said he brings two distinctive attributes to the race that will appeal to district voters.

“We don’t have enough people who understand policy. We’ve got a bunch of people who want to go on Fox News and Newsmax and yell at each other and call Democrats idiots and call each other idiots,” he said. “We need people who can actually write policy, understand how Medicare works, and understand how to fix Social Security.”

He also feels his background resonates with working-class voters.

“I actually grew up in a rural Appalachian trailer with a mom who worked two jobs,” Mr.Johnson said. “Susie Lee has literally never had to work in her life. Every job she’s had is a nonprofit that she’s created with her family’s money. She’s never had to collect coins from cushions to try to buy gas to get to work, and eat ramen, or go without a meal.”

CD 4: Lee Holds Narrow Lead

In CD 4, Mr. Lee was ahead of financial adviser and Iraq War Air Force combat commander Dave Flippo, 48.1 percent to 45.4 percent, or 14,492 to 13,666 votes, at 3:30 a.m. PST on June 12, in the race to earn the Republican nod to challenge three-term incumbent Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) in November.

It was the closest contest on the Congressional primary slate and will be the last called.

Mr. Horsford, who defeated Republican CD 4 primary winner Sam Peters by 4.8 percentage points in 2022, easily outpolled avionics technician and Navy veteran Levy Shultz in his primary.

Mr. Lee served four years in the Nevada Assembly and eight years in the state Senate as a Democrat. In 2012, he unsuccessfully ran for Congress as a Democrat.

In 2021, he switched parties before running for governor, losing the 2022 GOP gubernatorial primary to former Clark County Sheriff and current Gov. Joe Lombardo, who also endorsed him in the CD 4 party preliminary.

Elected North Las Vegas mayor in 2013, Mr. Lee served consecutive terms until resigning to run for the House last year.

Prior to the primary, he told The Epoch Times that his endorsement from former President Trump less than two weeks before the race would give him an advantage, as well as his name recognition in the district—not only as a mayor and a former state lawmaker but also as the owner of a plumbing business he established decades ago and still runs.

Mr. Lee said he knows what kitchen table issues “working class” voters are concerned with because he knows many of the kitchen tables—and the people who sit at them—across the district.

“We need a better form of leadership in CD 4, and I’m going to make that happen,” he said. “I’ve got a great reputation. I’ve created a lot of jobs and diversified our economy with a ton of manufacturing companies. I have a reputation for building jobs, hopes, and dreams for our community and I think people respect that.”

Mr. Flippo said he was the only true conservative in the race, claiming Mr. Lee’s voting record in Nevada’s state house was even more liberal than Mr. Horsford’s when they served together in Carson City.

He was trailing by more than 10 percentage points with 64 percent of the tally counted before a late surge pulled him within 2.7 percentage points, less than 800 votes, of the front-running former mayor with 86 percent of ballots counted.

That tally, posted at 11:30 p.m., remained frozen at 86 percent on AP’s election site for hours. CNN posted an update at 12:40 a.m. that showed Mr. Lee up by 3.7 percent, or by 1,124 votes, with 95 percent of ballots counted while AP’s site stayed at 86 percent. The Nevada Secretary of State site posted no congressional primary results.

Mr. Flippo dominated in Nye County where he garnered nearly 60 percent of the 5,000-plus votes cast there, almost 20 percentage points ahead of Mr. Lee, whose lead was essentially built by taking more than 51 percent of the 26,000 ballots cast in Clark County by 11:30 p.m.

Former attorney and accountant Bruce Frazey, who openly touted a “Never-Trump” fervor, finished a distant third with 6.5 percent, or nearly 2,000 votes, according to the AP’s last update.

“My experience as a state assemblyman and state senator for 12 years, combined with being mayor, gives me quite a big advantage” over party rivals and an “absentee” incumbent, Mr. Lee said.

From The Epoch Times