|Clark Cty. Commissioner Dario Herrera (Democrat)|
At just 29 years old, Dario Herrera has already racked up a lengthy political resume. A hopeful for the congressional post representing Nevada's new 3rd District, Herrera is currently chairman of the Board of County Commissioners for Clark County, the southeastern Nevada region that includes the city of Las Vegas. He became a county commissioner for the county's District G in 1999 and has chaired the board since 2001.
Herrera was born in Miami, Florida to Cuban immigrants and raised in a single-parent family. He moved to Nevada to attend the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science.
In 1996, at the age of 23, he was elected to the Nevada State Assembly, winning the primary by 30 percentage points and the general election by more than 16 points over his Republican opponent.
In 1997, he served on the Health and Human Services, Judiciary, Commerce, Education, Elections and Procedures, and Ethics Committees. After serving out his two-year term, he ran for commissioner.
During his current campaign for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Herrera has adopted a platform he calls "Nevada's Families First," focusing on providing equal access to healthcare, affordable energy, corporate accountability and insurance reform.
Like his opponent, Republican Jon Porter, Herrera has campaigned against the plan to store nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain; but unlike Porter, Herrera also opposes the privatization of Social Security. Herrera had been running toe to toe in the polls with Porter in the race's early stages. A poll reported in the Las Vegas Sun and conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates in early August showed him trailing by only 3 percentage points.
However, by late August two polls conducted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Mason-Dixon polling firm showed him trailing Porter first by 16 percentage points, then by 11.
Herrera has struggled with Republican allegations that he improperly accepted a $50,000 from the Las Vegas Housing Authority for work as a public relations consultant. Critics have assailed the move, saying the money paid to Herrera exceeded the housing authority's procurement policy requiring a competitive bid for payments above $25,000.
The Las-Vegas Review-Journal reported that housing authority officials acknowledged publicly that the money paid to Herrera, who the Review-Journal says worked without a contract, violated normal procedures.
Herrera has said that he was unaware of the policies and that he didn't know that his $36,000 in payments from the housing authority in 2001 had exceeded the $25,000 limit. In addition, the National Republican Congressional Committee filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission to investigate $27,000 worth of contributions Herrera received from Las Vegas developer Jim Rhodes and his employees.
The committee's complaint alleges the money appeared to be illegally funneled either through Rhodes' employees or through his company, the Review-Journal reported in September. At the time, Rhodes declined comment. Herrera said that Republicans are only trying to distract voters from issues such as Social Security, health care and prescription drug costs, calling the accusations "political garbage."
Porter said voters should take notice of the controversy. "This information is important for voters to know because it speaks to the nature of the decisions Dario has made in his life," Porter said. Herrera continues to receive strong support from African-American and Hispanic leaders and developers.
He retains endorsements from labor organizations like the Nevada State AFL-CIO and the Nevada Fraternal Order of Police and professional groups like the National Association of Social Workers. At the end of August, the Federal Election Commission reported that Herrera spent $606,074 on his campaign and had $782,295 remaining in campaign funds.
--By Raven Tyler, Online NewsHour