- Associated Press - Thursday, July 7, 2016

LAS VEGAS (AP) - An environmental group said Thursday that it is expanding its investment in the Nevada Senate race by nearly sixfold, budgeting about $1.4 million for door-to-door visits supporting a Democrat running to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.

The League of Conservation Voters announced it was putting more money into Catherine Cortez Masto’s competitive race against three-term Republican state Rep. Joe Heck, who received low marks on the group’s legislative report card and was recently named to its “Dirty Dozen” list of targeted candidates.

It’s the only Senate race that the group has been involved with this cycle, although it recently named two other senators in tight races to its list. Outside groups are active in the Senate race in Nevada, which is considered a toss-up and could play a decisive role in which party takes the majority in the U.S. chamber.

“We are making this investment in the Nevada Senate race because voters have a clear choice between environmental champion Catherine Cortez Masto and climate science denier Joe Heck,” Clay Schroers, the group’s national campaigns director, said in a statement. “Heck is dangerously out of touch with Nevada’s families.”

Heck’s campaign pointed to legislation he worked on to clean up an abandoned mine in Henderson and streamline the approval process for renewable energy development.

“As the father of three, of course Dr. Heck cares about the future of our natural environment,” his campaign manager, Brian Baluta, said. “However, the League of Conservation Voters is a D.C.-based partisan special interest that wants to put Nevadans out of work by stopping responsible mining and ranching in the West.”

The league plans to send two waves of field workers to the doors of 152,000 likely voters in the Las Vegas area. It’s an expansion of a $260,000 Nevada effort that the group announced in April.

The group cited Heck’s opposition to President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which aims to phase out coal power plants but is on hold amid a court challenge. It says Heck has received more than $400,000 in campaign contributions from big polluters.

Groups that support specific candidates but operate independently of their official campaigns have poured more than $7 million into the race so far, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Big players in the race include Senate Majority PAC, a group with ties to Reid that’s supporting Cortez Masto; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce supporting Heck; and Freedom Partners Action Fund, a group that’s supporting Heck and is affiliated with the conservative billionaire Koch brothers.

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