Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak has ended months of speculation, announcing he will not challenge Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval in November.
Sisolak’s decision dashes longshot hopes by Democrats of finding a candidate who could give the well-funded, popular incumbent a run at the ballot box. Candidate filing begins in less than two weeks and runs through March 14.
Sisolak made his intentions known in a televised interview Monday night with political journalist Jon Ralston.
“Now is just not the right time for me,” he said. “I did all my due diligence, a lot of research and polling and talked to my family.”
A former university regent, Sisolak was elected to the Clark County Commission in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. Last year he was chosen by the board to serve as chairman.
“I love my job and I’ve got a lot I want to do still,” he said.
Sisolak, 60, spent about $70,000 last summer on polling and consultants to analyze a potential gubernatorial bid.
Sandoval last year raised more than $3 million for his re-election campaign — a sum a late-comer to the race would have a hard time matching. Fundraising was one factor in Sisolak’s decision.
“I’d have to spend full time raising money in order to catch up to him,” he said.
Sisolak’s exit leaves the Democratic Party without a big-name draw on the ballot and makes Sandoval’s re-election almost assured, despite criticism from the conservative wing of the state Republican Party over the extension of taxes and his recent decision to drop support for a lawsuit over Nevada’s gay-marriage ban.
“The Democrats’ saving grace is that conservative Republicans will make a joke that the Democrats already have a candidate — it’s Brian Sandoval,” said Eric Herzik, political scientist at the University of Nevada, Reno.
So far, only candidates with little name recognition or financial support have announced any interest in running for Nevada’s chief elected executive post.
A lack of Democratic star power could have repercussions down the ticket despite a big voter-registration advantage statewide.
“The Democrats now really have to scramble,” Herzik said Tuesday. “Without a candidate, you have implicitly conceded.”
And that could hurt Democratic efforts in other contests on the November ballot, such as the lieutenant governor’s race and some state Senate races in which Republicans hope to wrest control from Democrats, who hold a slim 11-10 advantage in the upper chamber.
Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, has announced her intent to file for lieutenant governor, a key race that could become a springboard to the governor’s mansion should Sandoval win re-election and decide to seek national office in 2016.
Sandoval has endorsed Republican state Sen. Mark Hutchison in that race. Hutchison is being challenged by Sue Lowden, a former state senator who lost to tea party-backed Sharron Angle in a crowded GOP primary field in Nevada’s 2010 U.S. Senate race, which saw the re-election of Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“The Democrats’ saving grace is that conservative Republicans will make a joke that the Democrats already have a candidate — it’s Brian Sandoval.”
political scientist at the University of Nevada, Reno