Democrat Jacky Rosen is facing off against Republican Danny Tarkanian in the Nevada 3rd, a fight that has drawn record levels of outside spending for a House race. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
By SOO RIN KIM
Nevada is on fire, but it's not the desert heat.
And the fire has spread to other races as well, driving Nevada's 3rd Congressional District to the top of the outside spending chart for House races. That's the seat held by Republican Rep. Joe Heck, one of the competitors for the open Senate slot, and it has turned into a fierce contest between Republican Danny Tarkanian and Democrat Jacky Rosen.
Tarkanian's family name -- he's the son of renowned UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian -- holds a special place in Nevadans' hearts, but he is also a veteran of political campaigns in the state: He's run, unsuccessfully, for state Senate in 2004, Nevada secretary of state in 2006, U.S. Senate in 2010 and a different congressional district in 2012.
With the advantage in name recognition, Tarkanian -- who hasn't shied away from openly endorsing GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump -- has outraised his Democratic counterpart by about $400,000 so far this cycle, and outside spending also favors the Nevada Republican by a little. But Rosen was hand-picked by Reid, the big dog in state politics, and that means she, too, has a lot of help.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has made it clear that supporting Rosen is a big priority for the party by dropping a hefty $3.6 million in independent expenditures into the district. Liberal House Majority PAC -- in effect a super PAC extension of the DCCC --has invested another $1.9 million in ads attacking the Republican candidate.
On the other side of the partisan divide, one group has flipped its allegiance. Conservative 501(c) nonprofit Ending Spending spent about $1.6 million supporting Republican candidate Michael Roberson in his failed bid to defeat Tarkanian in the district's GOP primary, with about half of that going to attacks on Tarkanian. Post-primary, however, the affiliated super PAC Ending Spending Action Fund has spent an additional $1.5 million attacking Democratic nominee Rosen on behalf of Tarkanian.
On top of that, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the super PAC that is essentially its offshoot, Congressional Leadership Fund, have spent about $3 million and $2.4 million, respectively, benefiting Tarkanian.
In total, super PACs, political nonprofits and party committees have plowed a record-breaking $14.7 million into the House race already in their efforts to seize this rare vacancy. Last election cycle, outside groups spent only about $1.9 million in the district.
This is also the first time post-Citizens United that a House race has placed among the top 10 congressional races for outside money. The biggest outside money hub at the House level in 2014, California's 7th District, attracted $13.8 million in such spending by the end of the cycle, but it ranked below 11 Senate races.
Meanwhile, in the Senate match between Heck and his Democratic counterpart and former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, the candidates have raised $26.7 million so far this cycle -- ranking it No. 7 among Senate races -- and have also drawn the third-largest level of outside spending in congressional contests. About $43.6 million of it has been spent to benefit Heck and about $36.4 million for Masto.
The Senate Leadership Fund, with close ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), leads all groups there, plunging $14 million into the effort to turn the seat red. Freedom Partners Action Fund, backed by the Koch brothers, and megalith conservative nonprofit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have dropped $8.3 million and $4.2 million, respectively, to back Heck.
Liberal Senate Majority PAC has spent $7 million so far to counter the Republican efforts. Other big outside groups jumping into the multimillion-dollar effort on Cortez Masto's behalf include the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, League of Conservation Voters, Planned Parenthood Votes and Women Vote!
Both parties have also invested heavily: The National Republican Senatorial Committee has put in $7.4 million, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has laid out just a bit more, $7.6 million.
Expect those numbers to rise every day till Tuesday.