Derby Spending Big in House Race

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Late October usually is the time when the Democratic candidate for Nevada's 2nd Congressional District seat runs out of money while Republicans load up TV newscasts with political advertisements.

Due to a combination of funding and strong GOP incumbents, no
Democrat has won the seat in the heavily Republican district which
spans most of the state.

But this year, Democrat Jill Derby had raised $1.1 million through Sept. 30 in what appears to be a nip-and-tuck race against Republican Dean Heller. A poll conducted for the Las Vegas Review-Journal in mid-September showed the Heller-Derby contest was a statistical dead heat.

"For the first time, Democrats have a candidate who can spend at the last moment," said Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Heller, the secretary of state for the past 12 years, concedes that Derby will outspend him 2-1 in the final weeks leading up to the Nov. 7 election.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has bought $250,000 in ads to slam him and help Derby, Heller said.

"It shows how competitive we are and how successful we have been at fundraising," said Derby, an 18-year member of the Board of Regents. "People are responding to our message of change and a
new direction versus more of the same."

Although Heller had raised $1.3 million as of Sept. 30, he said about $1 million of that went to his primary battle against Sharron Angle and Dawn Gibbons. Counting his debts, his campaign was operating $9,000 in the red at the end of September.

He loaned $100,000 to his campaign. "I am a good bet," Heller joked.

President Bush apparently thought so, too. He visited Reno on Oct. 2 and raised $325,000 for the Heller campaign. But Heller will have to pay flight and security expenses for Bush, leaving him with something over $200,000.

Heller won the primary by 421 votes over Angle, who went to court seeking a new election. A judge threw out her lawsuit.

"The primary was devastating to the Heller campaign," said Fred Lokken, a political science professor at Truckee Meadows Community College. "There is a disconnect, a frustration by Republicans with the Bush administration. It could lead to them staying home on election night."