Republicans line up to deprive Lee of a 4th term

By: - August 21, 2023 4:20 pm

Lee’s district was made more Democratic leaning during redistricting last year. (Photo: Jeniffer Solis)

Next year Nevada Democratic U.S. Rep. Susie Lee will try to do something no Nevadan has ever done: Win the state’s 3rd Congressional District for a fourth time.

Republican Jon Porter, the first person to win election to the seat in 2002 after the district was created following the 2000 Census, was reelected twice, but was denied a fourth term when he was defeated by Democrat Dina Titus in 2008.

Two years later in 2010, the year of the Tea Party and dramatic Democratic congressional losses nationwide, Titus was defeated by Republican Joe Heck, who would serve three terms before leaving the seat to lose a U.S. Senate race to Catherine Cortez Masto in 2016.

That same year, Jacky Rosen was plucked from relative political obscurity by Harry Reid and the Reid machine, and won seat Heck left open by defeating Republican opponent Danny Tarkanian.

Two years later, in 2018, the Reid machine again turned to Rosen, this time to challenge – successfully – Republican Dean Heller for the U.S. Senate.

And that same year, the Reid machine tapped Susie Lee to fill Rosen’s shoes in CD3. The Republican opponent was once again Tarkanian, who lost to Lee by a bigger margin than he had lost to Rosen.

Lee has since dispatched Republican challengers Dan Rodimer, in 2020, and April Becker, in 2022.

Monday, Republican Assemblywoman Heidi Kasama – “Nevada Realtor of the Year, 2015,” according to her bio on the state’s legislative website – announced she will run in the Republican primary for the chance to challenge Lee in the general election in 2024. She joins Drew Johnson, a policy researcher and advocate on the professional right, and Elizabeth Helgelien, who, then known as Elizabeth Halseth, served a portion of a single term in the state Senate before resigning in 2012. Steven London has also filed with the Federal Election Commission as a candidate in CD3.

Between the two of them, Porter and Heck won six of the first seven elections for the CD3 seat, and some of those by very comfortable margins over the Democratic opposition. Even during those years, however, relatively close voter registration numbers prompted both parties to perennially view CD3 as a swing district, and both parties have continued to view the district as competitive. 

But between Rosen and Lee, Democrats have won it four times in a row, ever since Heck relinquished the seat to run for Senate in 2016. State legislative Democrats redrew the district following the 2020 census to make it more Democratic, a move that many – including Democratic Rep. Dina Titus – considered rash at the time, as it also rendered Titus’s traditionally safe first congressional district much more competitive.

As it turned out, the Democratic redistricting gambit paid off in 2022, as Lee, Titus, and Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford all won reelection. Democrats hope the redistricting pays off yet again next year, while Republicans hope they can keep Lee from being the first person to win CD3 four times.

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