- Associated Press - Saturday, June 4, 2016

NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) - It’s anyone’s game in the Democratic-leaning Nevada’s 4th Congressional District, which Democrats hope to reclaim from freshman Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy in November.

The race between three polished, well-funded Democratic candidates is shaping up to be the most competitive in the June 14 primary election, and it shows in the big names that have reached down to intervene: Bernie Sanders, Bill Clinton and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

The front-runners are Lucy Flores, a former state assemblywoman, state Sen. Ruben Kihuen and education advocate Susie Lee.

Here’s a look at the front-runners:

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LUCY FLORES

Lucy Flores’ decision to endorse Democrat Bernie Sanders for president set her apart from her Hillary Clinton-supporting rivals Ruben Kihuen and Susie Lee, but it paid dividends when he sent a fundraising email on her behalf in mid-April.

The pitch sent thousands of small donations pouring in, replenishing Flores’ depleted coffers. In the past two months she’s added more than $600,000 to her war chest, bringing her on par with Kihuen and Lee counting past donations.

All three candidates are now on the airwaves in earnest. On Friday, young volunteers at Flores’ campaign headquarters were assembling yard signs and getting fliers ready for another round of canvassing to back up the ads.

Flores has talked often about her hardscrabble past in North Las Vegas, which included a stint in a gang and an abortion at 16. With encouragement from her probation officer, she got her GED, went on to law school and landed two terms in the Assembly.

She passed up another bid in her safely Democratic Assembly district to shoot for the lieutenant governor’s position in 2014, but lost by wide margins to Republican and then-state Sen. Mark Hutchison. The statewide race did bolster her name recognition, as shown in a poll her campaign released earlier this year.

Flores is known to chart her own course and doesn’t shy away from critiques of her opponents. The biggest endorsements in the race have gone to other candidates, but she wears her go-against-the-flow tendencies as a badge of honor.

“The establishment does not want someone who may or may not agree with them,” she said. “They want that person who’s just going to fall in line and follow the rules, and that’s never been me since I’ve been elected, that’s not going to be me in the future.”

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RUBEN KIHUEN

Dozens of red-shirted Culinary Union members crowded into the Ruben Kihuen campaign headquarters on a recent weekday afternoon, ready to knock on doors in the stifling heat and chalk up votes for the state senator.

The powerful hospitality workers union is one of numerous labor groups that have endorsed Kihuen, who’s regularly seen at the front of union pickets. The group has canvassers visiting homes from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, reaching out to the estimated 27,000 registered Democrats in the district who are members of unions.

Headlining the rally was Reid, the Democratic Party scion who’s starring in TV commercials to support Kihuen, a former staffer.

A Mexican immigrant, Kihuen was elected to the Nevada Assembly at age 26 and has since moved to the state Senate, where he’s in the middle of a four-year term.

Kihuen said he wants to go to Congress to continue the work he started in the Legislature: supporting a higher minimum wage, urging comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship and creating a need-based scholarship.

His opponents have jabbed at his record, with Flores, a former legislative colleague, saying he didn’t introduce enough bills and Lee criticizing a religious freedom bill he backed in 2013.

Kihuen’s campaign is pouring most of its money into a TV ad featuring Reid and fellow endorser Bill Clinton. Kihuen adds that he has a better grass-roots operation than he did in 2012, when he sought to run in the heavily Democratic 1st Congressional District but bowed out early to make way for the ultimate winner - Rep. Dina Titus.

“You can’t go and buy support from volunteers,” Kihuen said at his campaign headquarters, as volunteers prepared to head out and knock on doors. “That gives me even more energy and more motivation to win this race.”

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SUSIE LEE

Lee was out knocking on doors in the heat with her 13-year-old daughter on Thursday, making her pitch to seniors sitting on their porches in the West Las Vegas neighborhood.

She’s familiar with the area because it’s home to low-performing schools that are getting help through some of the nonprofit endeavors she’s led: Communities in Schools, After School All-Stars and Nevada Women’s Philanthropy.

Her opponents have brought up her wealth - she’s married to a casino executive - and suggested it makes her out-of-touch with residents in the diverse, working class district. But she argues that she’s leveraged her money to better the community.

It’s also helped her boost her campaign account and get her message out even though power players such as Reid and the Culinary Union are supporting her opponent. She’s released three TV commercials so far - more than any other candidates.

“I think my chances are excellent … because I’ve been consistent and started early,” Lee said. “I’m in this to win it, that’s for sure. It’s going to be tricky, but I think we’re on a good path.”

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REST OF THE FIELD

Five other Democrats round out the field but have reported far less money than Flores, Lee and Kihuen. They are Dan Rolle, Rodney Smith, Mike Schaefer, Brandon Casutt and Morse Arberry.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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