3 competitive NV congressional districts attract a crowd of Republican primary hopefuls

And a lot of self-funding

By: - April 19, 2024 5:30 am

More than a dozen Nevada Republicans are hoping to convince voters that they are congressional material. (Photo: Jeniffer Shutt/States Newsroom)

As Congressional Democrats look to flip the House this election, which Republicans currently control with a razor-thin margin, Nevada’s three Democratic congressional incumbents are running to retain their current seats.

A slew of Republican candidates are hoping to take on the three Democrats in the general election. The overwhelming majority of them have previously lost other state and federal offices on numerous occasions, and several of them are running predominantly self-funded campaigns.

Several of the Republican contenders have announced support for, and mimicked the positions of, former President Donald Trump. He has yet to endorse any of the Nevada Republican primary candidates for Congress.

Many of the candidates have attacked Democratic opponents for positions on immigration and called for Congress to “secure the border.” Trump earlier this year tanked a bipartisan-supported bill, opposed by immigrant and civil rights groups, that included tougher immigration enforcement while expanding presidential powers to expel migrants. 

Absent from Republican candidates’ campaign websites is any stance on abortion access.  

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, which Trump has taken credit for, the support for abortion access has been a pivotal question among voters as more states have adopted harsher laws restricting abortion and punishing people for seeking them. 

Congressional District 4

Incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford has raised nearly $3 million in the first quarter of this year, according to the most recently available report from the Federal Election Commission. 

He has $1.7 million cash on hand. 

Horsford first won the district in 2012 but was unseated in the red wave of 2014. He regained the seat in 2018 and has held the seat since.

State lawmakers shifted more Democratic voters into the district during 2021’s redistricting process. The upcoming race is deemed “likely Democrat” according to The Cook Political Report. 

Horsford will face off against one of three Republicans, a group including former North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee. 

Lee is the only current candidate running in all congressional districts who has received an endorsement from Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo.

During his time in the state assembly and senate, Lee was a Democrat. He was then ousted in a primary by Democratic state Sen. Pat Spearman in 2012. He was elected mayor for North Las Vegas in 2013.

Lee switched his party affiliation to Republican in 2021, preparatory to a race for governor in the 2022 Republican primary, finishing fourth.

During that race Lee wrote an op-ed for the Reno Gazette Journal citing his opposition to abortion rights as a key reason he left the Democratic Party.

“This year, our nation has a historic opportunity to end the atrocity of abortion,” Lee wrote.  “On Dec. 1, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case, a case I pray will overturn Roe v. Wade and deliver a historic victory for our nation, the unborn and the global pro-life movement.”

He also falsely claimed Democrats, and some moderate Republicans, supported “abortions up to the moment of birth.”

Transgender Day of Visibility, which has taken place on March 31 every year since 2009 to recognize trans people, this year fell on the same day as Easter, which occurs the first Sunday after the full moon of the spring Equinox. 

Trump’s campaign criticized Biden for acknowledging the annual event on Easter Sunday. Lee joined in on attacks against Biden and Horsford asking on social media “is this how you are showing respect to the many denominations observing this holy Easter weekend?”  

Both Biden and Horsford sent out tweets celebrating Easter. 

Despite the name recognition and endorsements, Lee, who has raised $737,000 with $640,000 cash on hand according to recent FEC filings, doesn’t have the biggest campaign warchest  among contenders in the CD4 Republican primary. Most of Lee’s contributions, $500,000, are in the form of a personal loan from the candidate. 

David Flippo, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, has raised $871,000 according to the FEC’s current filings. However he has less cash on hand than Lee with $292,000. Flippo has contributed $667,000 to his own campaign, according to the FEC

Flippo ran for a Nevada Assembly seat in 2022 but came in third in the Republican primary.  

Another Republican candidate, Bruce Frazy, a former attorney and accountant, hasn’t raised any money. 

Horsford also faces opposition in the Democratic primary from first-time candidate Levy Shultz.

Independent American Party candidate Russell Best and Libertarian Party Tim Ferreira have also filed as candidates in CD4.

Congressional District 3

Despite Trump winning the 3rd Congressional District in 2016, the Congressional seat has been held by Democrats for four consecutive terms. 

Democratic U.S. Rep Susie Lee was first elected to the district in 2018.

Potentially the most competitive race in Nevada, the seat is currently ranked “lean Democrat” by the Cook Political Report. She won her 2022 race by nearly three points.

One of the half-dozen Republicans who have filed to unseat Lee is former Nevada Treasurer Dan Schwartz, who is making his second bid to win a Republican CD3 primary. 

He lost the 2020 Republican primary to Dan Rodimer, a former pro-wrestler who was recently charged with murder. 

Schwartz has run, and lost, in various other Republican primaries, including a 2022 bid for lieutenant governor, where he came in fourth, and the 2018 primary for governor, where he finished a distant second to Adam Laxalt.

The first time he ran for Congress was a bid in CD4 in 2012. He came in fourth.

The CD3 race this year also includes Drew Johnson, a former think tank founder and policy analyst who narrowly lost his bid against Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones in 2022, music composer and first-time candidate Marty O’Donnell and former Nevada state Sen. Elizabeth Helgelien, who served in the Nevada state Senate in 2010 but resigned in 2012.

Helgelien ran for Senate District 8 in 2018 but lost in the Republican primary. 

Lombardo initially endorsed Assemblywoman Heidi Kasama, who dropped out of the race in January. He hasn’t offered another endorsement. 

Helgelien is endorsed by former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and current U.S. Senate candidate Jim Marchant, a former state assemblyman and election denier who lost in the 2022 race for Nevada Secretary of State.

All the candidates have called for “securing our borders.” 

On his website, Schwartz wrote “we must close the southern border until Congress does its job and fixes America’s broken immigration system.”

Johnson has also called on Congress to “secure the border.” In February, he said he wouldn’t have supported the proposed Congressional border bill saying in a statement that it “won’t come close to ending the border catastrophe.”

“I could not support a bill that doesn’t secure the border, provides taxpayer-funded lawyers to illegal immigrants, and continues to fund endless war overseas without any checks and balances,” he said in a statement.

It’s not just the Republican candidates who have criticized Biden on immigration. 

Lee was recently slammed by immigration advocates after she joined Republicans to vote for a resolution which denounces the Biden administration for creating “the illegal alien crisis at the southwest border” by “halting border wall construction” and “mass releasing millions of illegal aliens into the country.”

So far, Lee has more money on hand than all her opponents, by a large margin. Current FEC filings show she raised $3.1 million in the first quarter of 2024 and has nearly $2.2 million cash on hand 

Schwartz reports raising $818,000 – $800,000 of it consisting of a loan he made to his own campaign – with $723,000 cash on hand. O’Donnell has raised $523,000 with $477,000 cash on hand. Johnson reports $411,000 in receipts, including $300,000 he has loaned to his campaign, and has a little more than half of it in cash on hand. Helgelien has raised $243,000 and has $42,000 on hand.

Other Republican candidates are in the race but filings indicate they haven’t raised any money yet. 

Brian Nadell previously came in fifth in the Republican primary for the 2nd Congressional District in 2022 and fourth in the Republican primary for CD 3 in 2020. 

Steven Schiffman previously ran as a Democrat in two election cycles. He came in sixth in both the 2020 CD 2 Democratic primary and 2018 CD 3 Democratic primary.   

Independent American Party Jon Kamerath is also in the race.

Lee will first face off against first-time candidate RockAthena Brittain in the Democratic primary. 

Congressional District 1

According to FEC filings, the top fundraiser in the race for the 1st Congressional District is Flemming Larsen, who has $1.8 million, the vast majority of it in the form of personal loan from the candidate. He currently has $1.5 million on hand 

Democratic U.S. Rep Dina Titus, who isn’t facing a primary challenger this cycle, raised about $1 million and has $982,000 cash on hand. 

The district has long been seen as politically safe for Titus, who was first elected to the seat in 2013, winning by double digits. 

State lawmakers siphoned off Democratic voters from that district during redistricting and put them into CD 3 and CD4. Despite that, Titus still won her 2022 election by nearly 6 points. 

During her last race Titus faced Mark Robertson, a retired army colonel and certified financial planner. He is running again in the Republican primary this year. 

Larsen, who narrowly lost to Democratic Assemblyman Max Carter in 2022, is endorsed by Republican Lieutenant Gov. Stavros Anthony.

Also running in the primary is Michael Boris, who has raised $30,761 and has $108 on hand. 

The remaining candidates are Jim Blockey and Evan Stone. They don’t have finance reports listed. 

Independent American Party candidate William Hoge and Libertarian Party David Havlicek are also running in CD1.

And Victor Willert, Ron Quince, Gabriel Cornejo and David Gooseen are running as independents with no party affiliation. 

Congressional District 2

Republican U.S. Rep Mark Amodei is running against one other Republican Fred Simon.

Simon, a medical doctor, came in sixth during the Republican primary for governor in 2022.

There is no Democrat running in the election. 

The race also features Independent American Party candidate Lynn Chapman, Libertarian Party Javi Tachiquin. Independent Greg Kidd filed for the seat as an independent with no party affiliation. 

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Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle

Michael Lyle (MJ to some) is an award-winning journalist with Nevada Current. In addition to covering state and local policy and politics, Michael reports extensively on homelessness and housing policy. He graduated from UNLV with B.A. in Journalism and Media Studies and later earned an M.S. in Communications at Syracuse University.

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.