Dems get top challenger for Nevada Senate fight

Dems get top challenger for Nevada Senate fight
© Greg Nash

Freshman Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen announced her Nevada Senate bid Thursday, hoping to take on Republican Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerElection Countdown: Florida fight ends with Scott, DeSantis wins | Dems see Sunbelt in play for 2020 | Trump to campaign in Mississippi ahead of runoff | GOP wipeout in Orange County | Ortiz Jones concedes in Texas House race Dem gains put Sunbelt in play for 2020 Cortez Masto named Dem Senate campaign chairwoman MORE in the state's general election next year.

The Nevada race represents one of the few offensive opportunities in the Senate for Democrats, who face a daunting map elsewhere in the country with many incumbents defending their seats. Landing a perceived top-tier candidate like Rosen in Nevada, a state that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWatergate’s John Dean: Nixon would tell Trump 'he's going too far' Senate Homeland Security chairman requests briefing on Ivanka Trump emails House GOP to hold hearing into DOJ’s probe of Clinton Foundation MORE won in 2016, boosts their hopes of taking Heller's seat. 

Rosen blasted the Trump administration in a Thursday statement announcing her bid, making it clear that opposition to President Trump will be a centerpiece of her bid against Heller.   

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"Now more than ever, Nevadans deserve a Senator they can trust to be an independent voice standing up to President Trump, not his enabler. Senator Heller might not sound like President Trump, but his voting record shows he supported Trump’s agenda 100% of the time in his first 100 days," she said.

"This Senate seat couldn’t be more important — already this year, Senator Heller has been a deciding vote to confirm Trump’s deeply unqualified Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, to allow states to defund Planned Parenthood clinics, and to let internet providers sell your data to the highest bidder without your consent. For years, Senator Heller has been voting over and over again to slash Medicaid funding and repeal the Affordable Care Act instead of working to fix it. Our voices aren’t being represented."

Rosen is a new face in Congress, a freshman who won her tightly contested seat in November by just 1 percentage point. Before serving in Congress, Rosen worked as a computer programmer and as the president of a synagogue. 

As of March, Rosen had $220,000 in her campaign account. Rosen will announce her second-quarter fundraising totals by the end of the next week.  

Rosen told The Nevada Independent that former Senate Democratic Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDems wonder if Sherrod Brown could be their magic man Nevada New Members 2019 Meet the lawyer Democrats call when it's recount time MORE encouraged her to run against Heller. Reid can play a kingmaker role in Nevada politics and had a substantial role in helping Catherine Cortez Masto win a bid to fill his seat in 2016 after he announced his retirement. 

Cortez Masto endorsed Rosen on Thursday afternoon, shortly after Rosen entered the race. 

But while Rosen impressed Democrats with her strong campaigning last cycle, her quick jump into a Senate race will likely foster a line of attack from Republicans looking to accuse her of opportunism, since she's only held her congressional seat for six months. 

Her decision to run means that she can't run for reelection to the House, a move that will reopen the competitive seat once again as Democrats try to take back the House majority.

Heller has served in the seat since 2011, when he was appointed to fill the seat of then-Sen. John Ensign, a Republican who resigned amid an ethics probe. He won reelection in 2012 by a 1-point margin. 

Recently, Heller has found himself in hot water as Republicans negotiate an unpopular healthcare plan. After Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, one of the most popular Republican politicians in the state, blasted the plan for dismantling ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion, which Nevada accepted, Heller announced that he could not support the bill in its current form.  

That prompted a Trump-aligned super PAC to launch a million-dollar ad buy against Heller that called on him to back the bill, an attack that's since been pulled after pushback from Republican lawmakers. 

Rosen enters the race as the leading candidate on the Democratic side with a clear path to the nomination. But that could change.

Fellow Democratic Rep. Dina Titus continues to weigh a bid and said on Wednesday that she's not concerned about Rosen's decision. 

"I can't control what Sen. Reid does nor what Jacky Rosen does nor what Dean Heller does," Titus said in a television appearance, according to the Las Vegas Sun

"I can only control what Dina Titus does. So I will make my decision based on that — not on Sen. Reid's preferences, whatever they may be, and for whatever reason they are."

Titus also made it clear multiple times in the interview that she would not defer to Reid's handpicked candidate, noting that she defeated Reid's pick in 2006 on the way to capturing the Democratic nomination for governor, though she would later lose in the general election. She called Rosen a "nice lady" and played up her own career in politics. 

"She is new to politics. Maybe that has some appeal. People might want somebody who has not been part of the process. But I am proud of my record, and I think Nevada has got some really tough fights and needs somebody who is seasoned in the ring," Titus said.