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Campaign 2018: Harris appointment might hurt GOP in Nevada Senate

Updated January 21, 2018 - 11:27 pm

After her first legislative session as a state senator, Becky Harris found herself wanting to learn everything she could about gaming law.

In fall 2015, Harris applied for UNLV Boyd School of Law’s inaugural master’s degree specializing in gaming law and regulations.

Little did she know it would help open the door for her to become first female chair of the powerful Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Harris, a Republican elected to represent Senate District 9 in 2014, said she was surprised after being told she was under consideration for the post.

“I was gearing up for re-election and looking at this next political season,” said Harris, who was planning to defend her swing district seat this year.

Gov. Brian Sandoval offered her the post Jan. 11, Harris said, and she accepted that night. But she gave the matter serious consideration, she said.

“I felt like I was being represented with two great opportunities to serve,” Harris said. “Ultimately, the opportunity to serve on the Gaming Control Board and the fact that I’ll be the first female chair all were factors that weighed into that decision.”

Harris’ decision carries serious political ramifications for Republicans, who hope to regain control of the Nevada Legislature’s upper chamber in 2018.

Even before the move, District 9 was a top target of Democrats, as it leans blue in terms of voter registration and was held by a Democrat before Harris won it in 2014.

Without an incumbent, that seat becomes even more difficult for Republicans to defend.

Democratic operatives said last week they are vetting candidates and could announce a decision this week.

Cortez Masto sounds off

As the threat of a government shutdown looms,

Nevada’s first female U.S. senator had some tough words for President Donald Trump in an interview published in Cosmopolitan magazine.

“What you hear coming out of his mouth and the comments that he is making, sure looks like there’s racism,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto told the magazine. “And that there’s concerns that he has about people and the color of their skin, absolutely. I don’t know how you can parse the two. Words and actions pretty much indicate who that individual is and what they stand for.”

Cortez Masto, the state’s former attorney general, also weighed in on reaching an immigration deal with Republicans — and whether that might include Trump’s promised border wall.

While most Democrats are generally supportive of border security, Cortez Masto said the wall is “unreasonable” and makes no sense, especially because part of the border between Mexico and Las Vegas already is secured by 700 miles of wall.

Cortez Masto, the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate, defeated former U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., in 2016 to fill the seat of Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who retired after three decades in the Senate.

To read the full interview with Cortez Masto, visit www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/a15337016/catherine-cortez-masto-interview.

Heller the target of new ads

End Citizens United, a traditional political action committee whose goal is to eliminate dark money from politics, launched a six-figure ad campaign attacking Nevada’s vulnerable incumbent GOP Sen. Dean Heller.

The 15-second ad blasts Heller for changing positions during the health care debate last summer, when Nevada’s senior senator eventually voted in favor of a “skinny” repeal that ultimately failed.

The ads will be seen by Nevadans statewide on YouTube and Facebook.

The ad buy comes as part of the PAC’s targeting of what it calls the “Big Money 20,” a group of Republican incumbent senators it says are too close to special interests groups.

Candidate running for third time

Republican Richard Bunce announced Thursday that he is running for Nevada Assembly District 22 for the third straight time.

This time around, Bunce, a Las Vegas software engineer, has significantly more support than before. He touted endorsements from two Henderson Republicans: Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson and Assemblyman Keith Pickard, who is running for the Senate seat Roberson is vacating to run for lieutenant governor.

Bunce is the brother of Clark County Republican Party Chairman Carl Bunce and a former senior political adviser to Ron Paul’s Nevada campaign. Bunce lost in the GOP primaries to then-incumbent Lynn Stewart in 2014 and to Pickard in 2016.

“I want to go to Carson City to ensure that Nevadans have the best options for schools, good paying jobs, safe communities, and a government that doesn’t overregulate or overburden its citizenry,” Bunce said in a statement announcing his candidacy.

Endorsements

Maggie’s List, a national political action committee dedicated to electing Republican women, endorsed former Assemblywoman Victoria Seaman in the race for Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District.

Wes Duncan, a Republican candidate for attorney general, announced endorsements from five Nevada police chiefs: Mesquite Police Chief Troy Tanner, Elko Police Chief Ben Reed, Boulder City Police Chief Timothy Shea, Winnemucca Police Chief Eric Silva and Reno Police Chief Jason Soto.

Contact Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter. Contact Ramona Giwargis at rgiwargis@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4538. Follow @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter.

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