No, he's not on the ballot, and he probably won't ever be again. But perhaps more than anyone, retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is celebrating the results of Tuesday's primaries in his home state. After all, all of his handpicked candidates won their races.
These weren't just any old congressional primaries: Reid is stepping down at the end of this year, after more than three decades serving in Congress, and the state had many competitive primaries Tuesday (in part because of Reid's exit and the domino effect). Tuesday amounted to one of Reid's last opportunities to actively influence the direction of the Nevada Democratic Party — arguably his favorite game in politics.
What's more, three of his handpicked candidates will be running in some of the nation's most closely watched House and Senate races — including one that could even play a big role in which party controls the Senate for the next two years.
Let's quickly run down the reasons Reid had a great night:
Catherine Cortez Masto, U.S. Senate
Within hours of announcing his retirement last spring, Reid also announced the woman he'd be endorsing to replace him: Nevada's former attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto, whose father was a big player in Nevada politics and who is aiming to be the first Latina ever elected to the Senate. In getting behind a candidate so quickly, Reid ensured his pick didn't face any serious challengers — no easy feat in a state where lots of Democrats were tempted to take advantage of such a rare open seat. The plan worked. Cortez Masto easily won her primary Tuesday. She'll face Rep. Joe Heck, who easily won his own primary, in what is going to be one of the nation's top Senate races. (We currently have it fifth in our top 10 Senate races of 2016.)
Ruben Kihuen, Nevada's 4th Congressional District
Reid's pick was less of a sure thing in this crowded Democratic primary to take on one of the most vulnerable House Republicans in the nation, Rep. Cresent Hardy. Reid went with state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, who is trying to become the first Hispanic elected to Nevada's congressional delegation. But progressive star Lucy Flores, a former state legislator and Bernie Sanders supporter, and philanthropist Susie Lee decided to get in this race anyway, setting up what was expected to be a close primary. (They had more money and/or name recognition than Kihuen.) In the end, it wasn't. Kihuen's victory was wider than expected, reports Las Vegas Sun's Megan Messerly.
Jacky Rosen, Nevada's 3rd Congressional District
Heck is leaving this suburban Las Vegas swing seat to run for Senate, which means it's wide open for the taking on either side. National Democrats at first tried to recruit Lee, whose personal money and connection to Las Vegas's gaming elite would have made them feel more comfortable. In the end, they and Reid settled on Jacky Rosen, a synagogue leader in the district and a first-time congressional candidate. She got in the race relatively late, this spring, and as Messerly points out, was virtually unknown to voters. But she was aggressive in her mailers and fundraising (the state's formidable Democratic Party machine helped, no doubt) and touted Reid's stamp of approval everywhere. It worked.
"I saw that Harry Reid supported her,” voter Michele Topol told the Las Vegas Sun. “I like Harry Reid, so that was enough for me.”
Even better for Reid's plans to turn this seat blue: Perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian — the son of legendary former University of Nevada at Las Vegas basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian — won his primary. The younger Tarkanian is not viewed as Republicans' strongest candidate.
As for the state legislature, we go to Nevada political analyst and Fix friend Jon Ralston, who noted that Democrats are set up well to take back control of the state legislature after Republicans ripped it from them in a disastrous 2014 election: "The prince also could preside over taking back both houses of the Legislature on his way out as the Democrats are now slight favorites to win back both houses lost in 2014."
Even in a race that's going to be an uphill battle for Democrats in Nevada's northern, largely rural, solidly Republican congressional district, Reid claimed a victory. His endorsed Democrat, former real estate investor Chip Evans, won his primary.
Broadly speaking Tuesday, Reid said what he want and got what he wanted.
Reid getting what he wants is a running theme throughout his decades leading Nevada politics. It's not a coincidence that Nevada's slow turn from red to purple coincided with Reid's time serving in some of the most powerful positions in the country. As he has gained power, so has his Democratic Party back home and so has his leverage to influence its direction.
It's also no coincidence that Tuesday's success comes as Reid is on his way out. Above all else, Reid wants to cement his legacy after he steps down in January. When his back is against the wall, he's proven he's willing and effectively able to go to great lengths to give himself and his team an advantage. His improbable 2010 reelection came after years of careful planning and even meddling on both sides of the races.
And it's why, in our rankings of the most competitive Senate races, we repeatedly warn not to bet against Reid — or the candidates he's backing. Tuesday showed why.