CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — The race for Nevada's 3rd Congressional District seat was officially underway Monday with the announcement by Erin Bilbray-Kohn that she will challenge incumbent Republican Rep. Joe Heck in next year's election.
Bilbray-Kohn, a national committeewoman who has been courted by the Democratic Party to take on Heck, said she is running because "Washington is broken" and Heck "has become part of the problem."
Heck's campaign responded later in the day, calling Bilbray-Kohn a "liberal activist, fundraiser and Democrat spin-doctor" and asking supporters for money.
"My new opponent has spent her entire career crafting messages to manipulate voter behavior," Heck's statement said. "The people of Nevada deserve an honest conversation free from professional partisan political spin."
Bilbray-Kohn is the daughter of former Democratic Rep. James Bilbray, who was elected to Congress in 1986 and served through 1994.
She is also the founder of Emerge Nevada, a nonprofit organization that works to attract more Democratic women to run for elected office and participate in politics.
Bilbray-Kohn stepped down as the organization's executive director this spring but is still serving as a consultant, earning $5,000 per month. In April party lawyers sought an opinion from the Federal Election Commission on whether she could retain her consulting job and still run for Congress.
The FEC last month said that she could.
The 44-year-old mother of two says she's running to protect the middle class.
"I'm running for Congress because I'm a mom who cares about the future of my daughters, a small businesswoman who knows what it takes to create jobs and a community leader who has spent my life working to make southern Nevada a better place for all of us who call it home," Bilbray-Kohn said in a statement announcing her campaign.
She and her husband, Noah Kohn, a Las Vegas pediatrician, also established a free health clinic for children.
Nevada's 3rd Congressional District encompasses the southern tip of Nevada, including Henderson, Boulder City, Laughlin and unincorporated areas of Clark County.
Records as of May show Democrats hold a 10,000 voter registration edge over Republicans, but there are more than 65,000 registered as non-partisan, ensuring the campaign will be a focal point of the 2014 election.
Heck, who is a physician and Army reservist, unseated Dina Titus in a close 2010 election and was re-elected last November, defeating former Nevada Assembly Speaker John Oceguera.
Titus returned to Congress in January after running in Congressional District 1, a safe Democratic district held previously by Shelley Berkley, a seven-term congresswoman who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2012 and lost to Republican Sen. Dean Heller.