Horsford Announces Congressional Run, Says He Has “Very Effective” Campaign Team

As expected and as reported a couple of hours ago by the AP, state Sen. and Democratic majority leader Steven Horsford (SD-4) will tomorrow formally announced he is running for Congress in CD-1, Rep. Shelley Berkley’s seat.

The public announcement will come at the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas, inside the Westside Bistro, tomorrow, October 13, at 2 p.m. (The address is 710 West Lake Mead Blvd in North Las Vegas.)

I chatted with Horsford this afternoon about his candidacy. A few snippets:

Horsford said he has so far tapped the following pros for his team:

– Campaign manager Geoff Mackler who last cycle worked at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Independent Expenditure office. He was in charge of strategy (polling, mail, media, radio, field coordination) for ten congressional campaigns, including challengers Jim Himes, who beat Christopher Shays in Connecticut, and Mike McMahon, who won a Republican open seat in New York.  Prior to that Mackler spent six years at MSHC, a direct mail firm, and has also worked on campaigns in Massachusetts, Michigan and Texas.

Cornell Belcher to do media strategy and polling (same firm that did Obama polling in Nevada in 2008)

GMMB for media research and strategy (note the President’s smiling photo, top left)

Chadderdon Group as his direct mail house

State Sen. Steven Horsford

When listing his reasons for running, Horsford mentioned his commitment to his constituency — including his residency in that community for 38 years — and said he sees people there as “family” and feels an obligation to go to Washington for those who are “frustrated with how broken D.C. is.”

Horsford said that Nevada and its gaming industry “can’t recover and grow until the national economy recovers” so he believes he can do his best work inside the Beltway to help the country get on track.

When asked about district lines and a possible primary challenge, Horsford said:

“Right now there is no primary in this district. No other candidate has announced. My state senate district is contained within this congressional district and covers one-third of its area. I have served this community; people here know me; and I care about them.”


Horsford, now 38, was elected in his North Las Vegas district in 2004 and became senate majority leader in 2008.

He has served in six special sessions and four regular sessions of the Nevada Legislature. In the most recent session, he served as chair of the Senate Finance Committee and also served on the Senate Committee on Revenue and the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections.

Horsford serves as a national Democratic committee member and co-chaired the campaign for Obama in 2008. He is also a member of the DNC’s Rules & Bylaws Committee.

Horsford is the CEO of the Culinary Training Academy, a joint management and labor partnership between participating gaming companies and the Culinary and Bartenders Unions.

If elected to Congress, Horsford plans to step down as CEO.

He is married to Dr. Sonya Horsford, a professor of educational leadership at UNLV. They have three children, Benjamin, Bryson and Ella.

Possible campaign issues

Horsford’s tenure as an elected official has not been without controversy.

In November 2009, KTNV Channel 13 observed Horsford illegally parked, his SUV with his senate license plate visible in a handicapped parking space at a park for a number of hours. He quickly apologized for the “inconvenience.”

In August 2010, in an attempt to raise money, Horsford sent out an email to potential contributors offering access to himself and other Senate leadership in exchange for contributions of between $1,000 and $25,000 to a Democratic victory fund. The day after Nevada News Bureau broke the story, Horsford said it was a “poor action” and told KRNV he was pulling the plug on the program.

Also, this past April, web poker giant PokerStars treated Horsford to a paid “junket” to the Bahamas immediately prior to the introduction of internet poker legislation in Carson City. Horsford said the company asked him to attend a Nassau conference and that he “went to learn more about Internet gaming policy before federal and state governments.” However, Horsford later reimbursed the poker lobby group for the cost of the trip.

(In the original version of this post, I did not not mention that Sen. Horsford later paid Poker Stars for the trip because I was not aware of it. I regret the error.)

Subsequently, it was reported that Horsford had received $37,500 in campaign contributions from the then-federally indicted PokerStars. Forty-eight Nevada legislators in total took some amount of PokerStars money, including some PAC cash. Horsford (and others) later returned the money.

Recent Legislative work

During the 2011 Legislative session, Horsford was a vocal advocate for closing mining tax loopholes. He also requested emergency legislation to conduct a performance audit of the revenue collection functions of the Department of Taxation following questions about the thoroughness of that agency’s review of mining tax payments.

Despite being an outspoken education advocate, Horsford also at one point during the session pressed Nevada System of HIgher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich as he spoke in support of considering higher education campus closures as part of necessary budget reductions.

Horsford was part of the final-days dealmaking between Gov. Brian Sandoval and legislative leaders from both parties in which a budget agreement was announced that included tax extensions and restorations of funding to public and higher education in exchange for significant policy reforms in education and collective bargaining.