Updated March 19, 10:40 p.m. | Former Nevada Rep. Steven Horsford's decision not to seek his old House seat next year has set off jockeying on the Democratic side for one of the party's top pickup opportunities.
Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy defeated Horsford in 2014, but party leaders hoped to convince the former lawmaker to run again this cycle, which should have favorable presidential-level turnout. Several Democrats expected to be interested in the race were waiting on Horsford. His decision against running was first reported by Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston, who tweeted that the former congressman was joining the prominent Las Vegas-based consulting firm R&R Partners. A Democratic source familiar with the discussions confirmed this to CQ Roll Call.
The 4th District, created after the 2010 census, is an appealing opportunity for Nevada Democrats. It includes a large strip of Nevada north of Las Vegas, a mixture of urban and rural areas, and is 30 percent Hispanic.
Candidates do not have to live in the district they are running to represent, so the race could draw a wide field of ambitious Democrats from the Las Vegas area who would prefer not to take on Republican Rep. Joe Heck, who has survived stiff challenges.
Democratic sources who spoke to CQ Roll Call mentioned several possible contenders:
- Former State Assemblywoman Lucy Flores — Flores was backed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid in her 2014 bid for lieutenant governor. In a tweet Wednesday, she said she would "seriously consider" running for the seat.
- State Sen. Ruben Kihuen — Kihuen, who is close with Reid, briefly ran for the 1st District in 2012 but dropped out in deference to Rep. Dina Titus, who was seeking a return to Congress. "I will be discussing the opportunity to run for Congress with my family, constituents, community leaders, and the DCCC in the next few days to help me determine how to move forward," he told CQ Roll Call in a Thursday email.
- State Sen. Pat Spearman — Spearman is a military veteran and minister. She was first elected to the state Senate in 2012. She did not rule out a bid in a Thursday email to CQ Roll Call. “As with all major decisions, I will pray about this and give it thoughtful consideration," she wrote. "I'm honored to be considered as a possible successor to Congressman Horsford."
- Susie Lee — Lee is the president of the board of Communities in Schools of Nevada, a nonprofit founded by philanthropist Elaine Wynn, the wife of casino magnate Steve Wynn. She has never sought political office before, but those contacts could be helpful for fundraising.
- North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee — Lee ran for the 4th District seat in 2012, but dropped out before the primary, ceding the nomination to Horsford.
- Las Vegas Councilman Ricki Barlow — Barlow has served on the city council since 2007.
- State Sen. Kelvin Atkinson — Atkinson's state senate district lies entirely within the boundaries of the 4th District. In an email Thursday, he told CQ Roll Call he was considering a bid now that Horsford was not running. He said he would not make a decision until after the legislative session.
Former Rep. Shelley Berkley, who ran for Senate in 2012, told CQ Roll Call in an email she is not considering a challenge to Hardy. Berkley held the seat in a neighboring district now represented by Titus.
The Nevada Legislature is currently in session, which could affect the pace of getting a campaign off the ground for a few of the potential candidates.
Nevada Democrats have avoided highly competitive primaries over the past few years, with Reid head of the state party.
Correction March 20, 4:15 p.m. An earlier version of this post said Nevada law allows candidates to run in districts outside of where they live. It is a federal law.
Related: Nevada Race Illustrates National Divide Kihuen Drops Out of House Race The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.