The presidential election isn’t the only nightmare awaiting us in November. Welcome to Congressional Cacophony, a feature on The Slot about House and Senate races that really, really matter. Suggestions? Pitches? Email us.
The Nevada Senate race is already a fun one, pitting a Latina Democrat against an anti-abortion Republican Trump supporter who once wrongly claimed Muslims were implementing Sharia law because he misread a story on a fake news website. But it’s gotten even more exciting with an influx of cash from Koch Brothers-linked groups, who have made it their personal mission to defeat Catherine Cortez Masto by burying her under a blizzard of attack ads.
Cortez Masto, the former Nevada Attorney General, is in a very, very close race with Congressman Joe Heck, a physician and veteran. They both want to succeed Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who’s retiring; a recent poll shows that Masto is ahead by a single point. (A July poll found that Heck was leading by two points then.)
Capturing Reid’s old seat is deeply important to Republicans, given that it could cement their control of the Senate. Heck is getting a lot of support, as the Washington Post pointed out recently, even among minority groups, because of his, hmm, creative way of managing issues like immigration reform, which he sometimes supports and sometimes seems to oppose, depending on who he’s talking to:
As a state senator and candidate for governor, he refused to sign the Americans for Tax Reform pledge; as a House candidate, he signed it. In 2010, he appeared at a tea party rally with Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, now a Trump endorser who amplifies his panic about Mexican immigration; in 2013, Heck was one of few House Republicans who favored immigration reform — then opposed the measures that came before the House.
As a result, Asian business owners recall the days that Heck visited and put in a shift; Latino voters hear Spanish-language ads on Pandora describing how Heck really does want immigration reform.
Buzzfeed reported in June that Heck claimed during a town hall that Muslims were trying to implement Sharia law in Michigan, which he used to explain his opposition to letting Syrian refugees enter the United States.
“Depending on where, like, there are certain pockets throughout the country, like, certainly up in Michigan, is a high area, where there are areas where they have tried to implement their version of Sharia law in the United States,” Heck said. That’s not in any way true, having originated in 2013 from a fake website called the National Report.
The Las Vegas Review Journal reported recently that outside groups are spending eye-popping amounts of money on races in Nevada, including the Freedom Partners Action Fund, one of a group of super PACs linked to the Koch brothers. The group is spending $1.2 million in ad buys on attack ads against Cortez Masto that Politifact has found are deeply inaccurate. Several claim that as Attorney General, Cortez Masto carried out a vendetta against Uber on behalf of the taxi industry.
Meanwhile, another Koch Brothers-backed group, Americans For Prosperity, has spent some $37,000 so far on anti-Cortez Masto mailers, phone calls, as well as paying canvassers. A third, the Libre Initiative, is partly funded by and is trying to persuade Latinx voters to vote for Heck, by doing things like telling them that charter schools are better for their families.
That’s not even getting into other groups that are running attack ads against Cortez Masto, like the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which basically blames her for Obama’s “weak foreign policy” and, by extension, ISIS:
In the latest one, another GOP-backed group, the Senate leadership fund, blames Cortez Masto for rape kits not being tested while she was Attorney General:
But the article that the ad cites, from October 2014, quotes the Joyful Heart Foundation faulting the Las Vegas police for not sending their rape kits for testing. Cortez Masto or her office aren’t even mentioned.
The blizzard of attacks is pretty extraordinary. Meanwhile, Democrats are focused on Joe Heck’s unflinching support for Donald Trump, which, to be honest, might be all they need to say.