U.S. Senate Race Ramping Up - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

U.S. Senate Race Ramping Up

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While Nevada is considered a swing state in the presidential election, experts say who voters choose to succeed Harry Reid in the Senate may be just as important to the nation's balance of power.

Since January 2016, the Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton campaigns have spent an estimated $3 million on Reno television stations. Catherine Cortez Masto and Joe Heck have spent an estimated* $2.7 million. For the week of September 26th through October 2nd, the senate candidates are expected* to outspend the presidential candidates by more the $150,000.

While the candidates will focus on swing voters in Clark County, where roughly three-quarters of the state's population lives, experts say the U.S. Senate race may come down to the smaller counties. 

"If it's a close election, it's the other 16 counties that will ultimately decide who wins that race," says Fred Lokken, Political Science Professor at TMCC, "So I suspect we're about to see a lot more from both campaigns."

Lokken says Senator Harry Reid will be replaced by a qualified candidate but it is up to voters to decide which of the two directions they want to go, following 30 years of Senator Reid.

"It's very much anticipated that she would have many of the same priorities, but she'd be her own woman with new issues for sure," says Lokken about Cortez Masto, Reid's hand picked opponent. He says Congressman Dr. Joe Heck would represent a major shift in representation, "going not only as a Republican but at least a moderate, perhaps more conservative Republican with a whole new set of issues and agendas."

With a handful of 2016 Senate races as toss-ups, Nevada is key, especially for Democrats looking to regain a majority, "If you're going to retake a chamber," says Lokken, "you don't want to lose any ground."

"{Democrats} can (win) without Nevada but it would be incredibly hard," says Eric Herzik, Chair for the Political Sciences Department at the University of Nevada. "Then all the other races would have to break for the Democrats."

Herzik disagrees with Lokken that for Nevadans, the U.S. Senate race is more important than the Presidential race. 

"I wouldn't say it's more important than the presidential race, but in term of importance going forward of balance of power in the senate, the ability of the next president to get things done, that race is certainly right up there," says Herzik, "the ability to control the senate will influence what the next president, democrat or republican is able to do. And one of the big things you can point to is a supreme court nominee."

To learn more about the candidates and our past coverage of these key races click here.

*Estimates are based on KTVN sales numbers and average market share of TV advertising purchases.

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