HENDERSON, Nevada (CN) — There are few states where you could find a reality TV star, a former pro wrestler, and a professional poker player in politics at all, let alone in the same race.
But this is Nevada, so welcome to the Republican primary in the 3rd Congressional District — a suburban Las Vegas seat currently held by a Democrat but in the sights of the Republican Party as a possible gain in November.
The winner in the all-mail primary on June 9 will face Representative Susie Lee, who is coming off her first term in November. The GOP race has been marked by talk of forgery, assault, voter fraud and false conservatism.
The candidates drawing the most support and attention are actress Mindy Robinson, 40, an outspoken conservative social media voice with 216,000 Twitter followers; former pro wrestler and attorney Dan Rodimer, 42, who has the support of the NRA and some mainstream Republicans; and Dan Schwartz, 69, a perennial Nevada candidate who has run five campaigns, including one for Nevada treasurer, an office he held from 2015-19.
Other candidates include professional poker player Brian Nadell; former apparel industry executive Cory Newberry; and former teacher and school principal Victor Willert, a native New Yorker and son of Filipino immigrants.
“We’ve got a reality TV star and a pro wrestler, and I do think the guy who has held office before may be able to compete with them,” said Michael Green, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas, political science professor, referring to Schwartz, an outsider who clashed with Nevada GOP leaders.
Schwartz does not support President Donald Trump, for example, and he did not get along with Republican Governor Brian Sandoval when he was treasurer, Green said.
The 3rd District, which stretches from the bottom edge of the Las Vegas strip southeast through Boulder City to the southern tip of the state, is home to 468,000 of the state’s 1.6 million voters, according to the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office numbers for May.
Although 172,000 district voters are registered Democrats compared to 157,000 Republicans, 110,000 independents have helped Republicans hold sway in six of nine elections since 2002, when the district was added to Nevada’s congressional delegation, Green said.
That close split between Democratic and Republican voters is likely to attract national money after the primary, he said.
“The logic is that if any district is going to swing Republican in Nevada, this would be their best hope,” Green said.
Dan Schwartz, who came to Nevada after a career in financial advising and publishing, fits a mold of wealthy people moving to Nevada to wield influence, which was easier decades ago, Green said.
“Today it’s still small in comparison to a lot of other places, so there are a lot of opportunities for a Dan Schwartz that might not exist elsewhere,” he said.
Schwartz declined an interview for this story, citing advice from campaign consultants, but eventually answered questions via email.
Schwartz said experience in office and business makes him the best choice. He said he quintupled returns on the state general fund, opposed a $1.2 billion tax hike and a $750 million boost for a football stadium.
The pandemic is foremost in his thoughts during this campaign, and he wants the economy open. He thinks the market can take care of itself, if we let it.
“Ultimately, public safety and health issues are paramount, but we cannot push our economy into oblivion,” he wrote. “We have to help out those who have lost their jobs and small businessmen who have seen their doors closed. But the real key is the free market. Give it room to operate.”
After citing his own record in office, Schwartz took a jab at Rodimer.