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Congressman Hardy trails opponents in fundraising

WASHINGTON —€” Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy raised less than $200,000 in the past three months, outpaced by two challengers as he seeks to hold his House seat representing Nye and Esmeralda counties.

Hardy raised $194,039 from April through the end of June, according to a report filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission. The sum was a falloff from the first quarter of the year when he raised $292,250 with help from House leaders and Republican colleagues.

The freshman lawmaker from Mesquite reported he has $417,000 in the bank, which was more than leading Democratic challengers Susie Lee, a philanthropist who had $326,239 cash on hand, and state Sen Ruben Kihuen, who reported $215,000.

But Lee, who entered the race in May to represent the 4th Congressional District, made a bigger splash for the quarter by raising an initial $280,000 and loaning her campaign $50,000. Kihuen gained $214,554 in fundraising that began in earnest after the Legislature adjourned early in June.

Former state Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, another Democrat hopeful, reported raising $106,000 and had $76,523 cash on hand. Former Nevada Assembly Speaker John Oceguera announced his candidacy last week, and had not yet reported finances.

About half of Hardy’™s financial support in the second quarter, $96,900, came from political action committees. Major donors included Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., through his Full House PAC, which gave $5,400. The BlueGrass PAC of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., gave $10,000. Koch Industries gave $2,500.

Hardy’™s cash on hand “œis not a bad nest egg but he should be doing a heck of a lot better as an incumbent, especially with Republicans wanting to hold the House,” said Mark Peplowski, a political science professor at the College of Southern Nevada.

“This should scare Republicans a bit,” Peplowski said.

Among Democrats, Lee is well known in Las Vegas charity and business circles, but is not a conventional political figure and it was important for her to make a strong early impression, Peplowski said.

“She had to make a significant splash with either money or major endorsements in order to be given credibility going into the second half of this year,” he said. “I anticipate she is going to have to bring in at least another $200,000 to $300,000 in the next quarter to show she can maintain that viability.”

Lee collected donations from gaming industry figures including MGM Resorts Chairman Jim Murren and his wife, Heather, and other MGM executives. She also received $2,500 from the political action committee of Caesars Entertainment.

FEC records indicated a number of Lee donors are not regular contributors to political campaigns.

“That is her circle,” Peplowski said. “She is not a regular party person so she’™s bringing in money that is new to the table.”

Kihuen, who ran for Congress briefly in 2012 but dropped out in favor of fellow Democrat Dina Titus, showed signs of being establishment-favored. He collected $2,000 apiece from U.S. Reps. Joe Crowley of New York and Xavier Becerra of California. Both are members of the House Democratic leadership.

Kihuen also is presumed to have the blessing of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, the state’™s top Democrat. His early donors include former Reid aides, Reid political allies in Nevada and the senator’™s son Rory.

Flores, who was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2014, gained early support from contributions outside Nevada, including about $30,000 from donors in California, according to an examination of FEC records. Among her donors were actor Eva Longoria and Tony Hsieh, chief executive of Las Vegas-based Zappos.

The 4th Congressional District consists of most of northern Clark County, part of Lyon County, and all of Lincoln, Mineral, Nye, Esmeralda and White Pine counties.

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