- Associated Press - Friday, June 24, 2016

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Winning a southern Nevada congressional district that’s split almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans won’t be cheap - a fact underscored by hefty airtime reservations and the advent of a new super PAC solely focused on helping Republican Danny Tarkanian.

Organizers announced Thursday that they were launching Empower Nevada, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money supporting Tarkanian’s bid against Democrat Jacky Rosen, a Henderson synagogue leader and political newcomer backed by powerful Democratic Sen. Harry Reid. That’s on top of other signs of big spending: the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have each reserved more than $6 million in Las Vegas airtime for the area’s two House races.

“This is an important seat, and it’s going to be a tough race in a very competitive state,” said Brian Seitchik, a political consultant working with the super PAC. “We know the Reid machine will be in full effect … we want to make sure we are there to help Danny Tarkanian get to the finish line.”

Nevada Democratic Party spokesman Stewart Boss described the super PAC formation as a “desperate move to try to save what will be (Tarkanian’s) sixth failed run for office.” There’s no Rosen-specific super PAC, although her race could benefit from powerhouses including the House Majority PAC that’s reserved $3 million in Las Vegas airtime.

Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District has been held for three terms by Republican Rep. Joe Heck, who’s leaving to run for Reid’s U.S. Senate seat. But it has a 1 percentage-point Democratic registration advantage, and the district narrowly picked Obama over Romney in 2012.

The nonpartisan Rothenberg and Gonzales Political Report rates it a “pure toss-up” - one of only a dozen of the country’s 435 House races that’s in that category. It’s expected to be a magnet for outside spending.

Tarkanian’s had experience with big outside money in the past - most recently at the brunt of a last-minute, $1.5 million ad blitz from Ending Spending, a dark money group supporting his primary opponent, state Sen. Michael Roberson. The deluge of negative commercials dredging up a Tarkanian bankruptcy and $17 million legal judgment were unable to sink the businessman, who enjoys name recognition as the son of late, legendary basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian. He beat Roberson by 8 percentage points.

“I assume the Democrats will be at least that bad, if not worse,” Tarkanian said on election night about the negative ads. “What can they say now that’s going to change so that it will work?”

Democrats hope Tarkanian’s past financial baggage, which hurt him in some of his previous unsuccessful bids for office, will be more punishing in the general election than it proved to be in the primary. The negative ads left an impression on some 3rd District voters interviewed on election night, who said they didn’t know much about other candidates but could recall the “Dirty Danny” nickname from the commercials.

“He is another dirty one who has bankrupted and let people take the hit on stuff,” said Marian Stanton, 76, who said she voted for Rosen and was firmly in the Democratic camp. “There’s nothing about him that I respect.”

Democrats also hope to harness anti-Donald Trump fervor to take down Tarkanian, who went further in his support for Trump than fellow GOP candidates in Nevada by introducing the billionaire businessman at a Las Vegas rally June 18.

Meanwhile, Republicans hope to trumpet Rosen’s endorsement from the polarizing Reid, characterizing her as the Washington’s choice in the era of the outsider and highlighting Democrats’ failed attempts to recruit others for the race in the months before Rosen announced she was in.

“Once again, Senator Reid has enlisted the B Team of the inexperienced to carry his message of big government that does little to solve Nevadans problems,” said Republican Nevada Treasurer Dan Schwartz, who chairs the super PAC supporting Tarkanian.

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