Steven Horsford to run for U.S. Congress

“Steven Horsford, Nevada’s Democratic majority leader, plans to run for the U.S. House in a bid that could see Nevada elect its first African-American to Congress and put the state Senate under the GOP’s control.”

Horsford will formally declare his candidacy Thursday in North Las Vegas. He hopes to succeed Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley, who is running for the U.S. Senate in 2012.

That would be a good step for Nevada Democrats. If Shelley Berkley can beat Dean Heller and take his seat in the Senate then Senator Harry Reid’s position will be much more productive and then if Horsford can take Berkley’s seat in the House of Representatives that would be icing on the Democrats’ cake.

Horsford, is age 38. He was elected in a heavily Democratic, North Las Vegas-based district in 2004 and became the state’s first black majority leader in 2008. His ascension to one of Nevada’s most powerful posts is notable in this western state, where black voters complained for decades of disenfranchisement. When Horsford became Senate majority leader, he was only the fourth black to serve as a state senator since the Nevada Legislature first convened in 1864.

The Democrats’ other top state lawmaker, Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, was the first to announce his candidacy. Former Democratic Rep. Dina Titus and Democratic state Sens. Ruben Kihuen and John Lee are also vying for a seat. Among the Republicans, Reps. Joe Heck and Mark Amodei will likely seek re-election.

Horsford is expected to run in a district that includes a substantial number of minorities, but he will have to win over white voters. Blacks in Nevada made up 8 percent of the population in 2010, compared to 12.6 nationally.

“Right now, there is no greater priority than putting people back to work and helping to get some security for those who have jobs,” Horsford said. He has his priorities right—jobs—in view of Nevada’s high unemployment rate.

As Nevada’s state majority leader, Horsford was an early critic of Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval’s efforts to reduce education dollars and lobbied for higher taxes to pay for social services. He is a loyal Democratic player, serving as a national Democratic committee member and campaigning for President Barack Obama in 2008. Horsford’s campaign website features a picture of his family with Obama in the Oval Office.

Republicans and Democrats alike describe him as a tough negotiator. In one instance, Horsford ordered all senators into their chamber and told sergeants-at-arms to find three missing lawmakers after the Legislature failed to compromise on public employee and retiree benefits during the 2009 session.

“I am known for working across party lines to get things done,” he said. “What I don’t do is I don’t compromise my ideals and convictions. I don’t sell my constituents out.”

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