Three Democratic incumbents fight to retain seats in competitive races

By: - October 10, 2022 8:05 am

Nevada incumbent Democratic U.S. Reps. Susie Lee, Steven Horsford and Dina Titus. (Lee photo by by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; Horsford photo by Ariana Figueroa/States Newsroom; Titus photo, Nevada Current file)

Note: This is the second of two stories on the positions of candidates running in Nevada’s three competitive U.S. House seats. The first story examined the positions of Republican candidates.

Though three Democratic incumbents are working to retain their House seats, the 3rd Congressional District, which has been held by U.S. Rep Susie Lee since 2018, is expected to be the most competitive. 

Lee is being challenged by Republican April Becker, a real estate attorney who narrowly lost her bid for a state Senate seat to Democratic Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro in 2020 and filed a lawsuit seeking a new election over alleged and unfounded voter inaccuracies. 

It’s not the first time the district is seen as one of the more competitive races in Southern Nevada. 

Though former President Donald Trump won the district in 2016, CD3 has been held by a congressional Democrat for three consecutive terms.

Lee, who first won the seat in 2018, was one of 31 House members to win a district Trump won. President Joe Biden narrowly won the district back in 2020 while Lee was able to retain her seat.

CD3 was also redrawn by state lawmakers in congressional redistricting and had thousands of registered Democrats moved into the area. 

Like most Republicans, Becker has hammered Lee on inflation hoping the rising costs will swing control of the House. 

In an email to Nevada Current, Lee said Republicans are using rising costs as a talking point rather than supporting policies that reduce costs. 

“It’s just plain wrong, and their refusal to act is telling as to who truly cares about the wellbeing of the American people,” she said.

Lee points to the successful passage of multiple bills that reduced prescription drug costs, invests in climate change, and funds crumbling infrastructure along with the American Rescue Plan, a nearly $2 trillion relief package that provided Nevada $6.7 billion to invest in various facets including housing, child care and other priorities.

Each piece of legislation, Lee said, is helping to reduce the cost of living. 

Most Republicans, including Becker, have tried to link inflation and rising costs to several bills passed including ARPA, despite economists disagreeing over ARPA’s impact on inflation.

Over the summer, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which makes investments in climate change including $370 billion to clean energy programs, $15 billion to the Environmental Protection Agency to help reduce greenhouse gas, and $4.5 billion for Western drought preparedness and response. 

The bill brought long sought-after reforms to prescription drug pricing, including capping insulin copays at $35 for Medicare recipients, which will help an estimated 22,000 Nevadans relying on Medicare. 

“This legislation finally enables Medicare to negotiate prescription drugs, caps out-of-pocket costs for seniors, and immediately extends ACA subsidies that will save Nevadans thousands of dollars per year—because no one should have to choose between putting food on the table and paying for life-saving care,” Lee said. “It also lowers energy costs for our families while creating good-paying, union jobs in our state. We did this with zero Republican support.”

Along with inflation, Democrats are also taking heat for skyrocketing gas prices, though Congress has little authority to address. 

In May, the House passed legislation to crack down on price gouging but the legislation stalled in the Senate, where it needed 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. 

“We passed numerous bills to keep Big Oil from price gouging Americans and fix breakdowns in our food and agriculture supply chain so we can bring down costs at the pump and the supermarket—all with little Republican support,” she said. “Make no mistake. While Republicans sit around and complain about inflation, Democrats are doing something about it.”

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court of the United States overturning a nearly 50 year precedent that offered protections on access to abortion, Democrats have warned a Republican-controlled House would seek a federal abortion ban. 

Though Nevada offers protections for abortion up to 24 weeks, federal legislation could supersede state statute. 

“Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, stripping millions of women across the nation of their right to choose, pro-life extremists are proving what we already knew – that their ultimate goal is to ban abortion nationwide, with no exceptions, and eliminate abortion rights in Nevada,” Lee said. 

More than 100 bills addressing abortion access have been introduced in the House and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced a 15-week abortion ban weeks after saying the issue of abortion is a state’s issue. 

The ban does offer exceptions for life of the mother, incest and rape, but advocates have criticized how the exceptions are crafted – the rape exception, for example, requires the person to first file a police report prior to seeking an abortion. 

Becker, who has said she is pro-life but support exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother, said she wouldn’t support a federal ban. 

Lee called Becker’s stance a “smokescreen.”

“My opponent is endorsed by National Right to Life and Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, which are extreme organizations that stood by Sen. Lindsey Graham when he introduced his national abortion ban legislation,” she said. “These organizations support such a ban with no exceptions.” 

The Democratic redistricting gambit

Polling for all three districts held by Democrats have shown razor thin margins.

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, who was first elected in 2013, faces Republican Mark Robertson for the 1st Congressional District.

The seat has long been seen as a safe district prior to redistricting.  

Following redistricting, Titus criticized state lawmakers and the governor for how congressional districts were redrawn, and warned the move had put all three Democratically held seats at risk in the general election.

Some feared setbacks to Biden’s legislative agenda, parts of which passed the House but failed to overcome Republican filibuster in the Senate or gain support from at least two Democrats who were unwilling to change rules around the filibuster, would leave House candidates in tough races with little to run on ahead of the midterm election.

In April, months before a string of legislative accomplishments, Titus had urged fellow Democrats to highlight the successes that had been won including ARPA.

“That was our agenda, that was the president’s agenda and we need to brag about it,” Titus said. “Not talk about what we didn’t get done, but let’s talk about what we did get done, because it has made a difference.”

Since then, Congress has been able to sign into law several bills including the Inflation Reduction Act, modest gun reforms, legislation to promote domestic semiconductor manufacturing, and a bill providing benefits to veterans exposed to toxic substances.  Biden also took action on student debt relief.

U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, who has represented the 4th Congressional District off and on since 2012, will face Sam Peters, an election denier. 

After winning the district in 2012, Horsford lost the seat in the red wave of 2014. He regained the seat in 2018 and successfully defended it in 2020.

Peters, a retired U.S. Air Force Major, lost the primary for the CD4 in 2020 to Jim Marchant, another election denier who is currently running for Secretary of State.

Like his fellow Republicans in the race, Peters is attacking Horsford over rising inflation. In one ad, he accused Horsford of raising taxes through the Inflation Reduction Act. The legislation institutes a 15% minimum tax on corporations with incomes more than $1 billion and a 1% excise tax on stock buybacks, not taxes on individuals.

In his floor speech voting in favor of the legislation, Horsford said the bill will reduce costs, in particular prescription prices.

“For years, Nevadans have seen their costs of living rise,” Horsford said. “While my Republican colleagues across the aisle have focused on giving away tax cuts for the wealthy, today we vote for seniors in my district and across America who want one thing from Congress right now and that is to lower prescription drug prices.”

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Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle

Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues.