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Can Democrats Turn Nevada Blue?

Party Activists Knocking on Doors near Vegas

Dr. Pamela Reeves, Noely Mendoza, and Margaret Lazarus are part of a few dozen Santa Barbarians dubbed the Blue Wave that will travel by bus to Nevada to help Jacky Rosen’s (D) Senate race against incumbent Dean Heller (R). A few seats are still available.
Paul Wellman

A busload of about 32 local Democratic Party activists will leave Santa Barbara for Henderson, Nevada ​— ​just outside Las Vegas ​— ​to knock on doors this weekend on behalf of Democratic Senate candidate Jacky Rosen, who is challenging Republican Senator Dean Heller. By all reckoning, the Nevada Senate race is the tightest in the country ​— ​declared too close to call by all established prognosticators ​— ​with Rosen nominally ahead by less than a percentage point.

“This looks to be the most flippable district in the country right now,” declared Deborah Rogow, a party activist helping to spearhead the effort. Rogow was part of a Santa Barbara contingent of 60 that knocked on about 6,000 doors in 2016 on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “Guess what, Hillary won that one,” Rogow said. With about half as many volunteers making the trip, Rogow said she expects to knock on about half as many doors. Weather forecasts predict temperatures in the 90s.

Rogow said she saw Rosen at an event sponsored by Democratic Congressmember Salud Carbajal last year and liked what she saw. “She’s pro-choice, pro-environment, all the right things,” Rogow said. By contrast, Heller managed to win the Republican primary against a fire-breathing conservative opponent only after President Donald Trump strongly endorsed him. In the Senate, Heller has been reliably pro-Trump. “We don’t want to rely on Susan Collins [a Republican senator from Maine] to break with her party anymore,” Rogow said. “This is an opportunity to flip the entire Senate.” Currently, Republicans enjoy a narrow majority in the Senate, edging out Democrats 51 to 49.

Rogow moved to Santa Barbara from Philadelphia in 2004 with her husband, a UCSB sociologist, and quickly immersed herself in the South Coast political scene. She quickly hit it off with documentary filmmaker Margaret Lazarus, and the two of them got the current bus project rolling, handling the logistics of renting hotel rooms, getting Crushcakes to underwrite the cost of box lunches, and recruiting volunteers. Rogow estimated that older white activists will make up about two-thirds of the crew, with younger students of color making up the rest. The cost of the trip is about $300 per person — even with Silverado Stages Bus Company pitching in a significant discount — but there’s a sliding scale to accommodate those feeling the pinch. About 75 percent of Nevada’s voters live in and around Las Vegas, an area that’s been growing increasingly diverse and Democratic since the recession.

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