It is clear that Sen. Dean Heller (R) is the most vulnerable Republican seeking re-election in 2018. When first elected to his federal statewide post back in 2012, he did so with only a 46% win factor, taking advantage of relatively strong independent candidates being in the race.
With Hillary Clinton carrying Nevada last November, the Democrats retaining former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s open seat, and then converting two Republican US House districts, in addition with capturing both houses of the state legislature, it was thought that potential Heller Senate challengers would already be lining up. Such, however, has yet to prove true. At this point, Sen. Heller still has not drawn an official opponent.
Late last week, Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) confirmed that she is considering entering the Senate race next year. This might not be so bad for Sen. Heller, since Ms. Titus’ statewide record is not impressive.
While a state Senator, Titus won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2006, a strong Democratic year as we remember, and though she was opposing a candidate who attracted negative publicity in the campaign’s last week that involved a Las Vegas show girl, Ms. Titus still lost the general election by four percentage points. She would return in 2008 to unseat then-Rep. Jon Porter (R-Henderson) in the marginal 3rd District, but lost it two years later to former state Sen. Joe Heck (R). In 2012, Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) left the safe Democratic Las Vegas House district to run for the Senate, allowing Titus to return to the House.
We can expect Nevada to provide us yet another hard fought political contest in 2018, but so far Sen. Heller, after a brief flirtation with running for Governor, is off to a strong start.
Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s (D-El Paso) decision to challenge Sen. Ted Cruz (R) next year leaves open the heavily Hispanic 16th District for the 2018 election. Though a 79% + Hispanic district, with an even greater such participation factor in the Democratic primary, Mr. O’Rourke, then an El Paso City Councilman, was still able to deny veteran Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-El Paso) re-nomination back in 2012 proving that an Anglo candidate can still win there.
O’Rourke’s Senate announcement means that 13 US House seats are already in the open category for the next election, including five that are currently vacant and I special election mode. Of the 13 open seats, nine are Republican-held.
Texas’ 16th District, which encompasses El Paso’s city and suburbs, can expect a competitive Democratic primary. Already, talk of state Rep. Cesar Blanco (D) and Mayor Oscar Leeser (D) entering the open seat race is becoming prevalent. Others will undoubtedly join to create what is expected to be a large field of candidates.
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