Nevada Democrats avoided a contentious primary in the open 1st district today as state Sen. Ruben Kihuen announced he was dropping out of the race.
His exit clears a path for a return to Congress for former Rep. Dina Titus, a Democrat defeated in 2010 by now-Rep. Joe Heck. Titus will have no serious competition from Republicans in the general election for this Las Vegas-based district.
“Unfortunately, the reality is that continuing my efforts to win in what would promise to be a resource draining primary at this time is not in the best interest for me, my family, my community and my party,” Kihuen said in a statement that was reported by the Las Vegas Sun’s Jon Ralston.
Kihuen was in Washington, D.C., just two weeks ago to meet with party leaders, and he said in an interview with Roll Call that he felt his natural base among Latinos would help him in a primary against Titus.
The redrawn district, which Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) is vacating to run for Senate, has a 37 percent Latino voting-age population and is a crucial area for statewide Democratic candidates, including Berkley and President Barack Obama.
“My understanding is that Ruben realized that the pathway to victory would have required a divisive, protracted primary that would have taken away from the most important goal: winning Nevada for President Barack Obama,” a Nevada Democratic strategist said. “He's a class act, and this was a savvy move for someone who has a big future in Nevada Democratic politics.”
Kihuen considers Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) a mentor and had signed up a campaign consulting team with at least three connections to Reid. Kihuen worked with GMMB for media, the Mack Crounse Group for direct mail, and the Mellman Group for research and polling.
In a statement, Reid endorsed Titus and said he looks forward to working with her. He also said he expects to see “great things” from Kihuen in the near future.
“Senator Kihuen remains a rising star in Nevada and the Democratic Party,” Reid said.