All eyes will be on the governor’s race when candidate filing opens Monday morning, waiting to see who Harry Reid and the Democratic Party have found to run against Gov. Brian Sandoval.
Reid, the U.S. Senate Majority Leader, said two weeks ago the party will have “a respectable candidate” to challenge the Republican incumbent but declined to say who that is.
Politically, they have to put up a respectable opponent. As the late Sen. Bill Raggio of Reno said years ago, if a popular politician doesn’t have an opponent, he or she is free to meddle in other races. Sandoval’s first campaign report showed he already has some $3 million to fund that sort of meddling if not challenged.
If no threat to Sandoval’s re-election files, the attention will shift to the lieutenant governor’s race since Sandoval is widely expected to challenge Reid in 2016.
Sandoval is regarded as the only Republican who could unseat Reid, which would allow the lieutenant governor to become governor — a scenario that occurred when Richard Bryan won a Senate seat in 1988, making Bob Miller governor.
Sandoval has repeatedly denied having any such plans but he has left every public office for another in midstream — from the Nevada Assembly to the gaming commission to attorney general to U.S. District Judge to governor.
Sandoval attempted to anoint state Sen. Mark Hutchison for lieutenant governor but Sue Lowden, former state Senator, is challenging him in the primary. Assemblywoman Lucy Flores of Las Vegas formally announced on the Democrat side Saturday. The announcement was accompanied by a chorus of Democratic endorsements from Reid as well as leaders of the Senate and Assembly.
Nevada’s other four constitutional offices also are up for grabs this year since all incumbents — Democrats except for Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki — are term-limited out.
Treasurer Kate Marshall is running for secretary of state. Termed-out state Sen. Barbara Cegavske is her Republican challenger. Controller Kim Wallin is running for treasurer. Secretary of State Ross Miller is running for attorney general.
Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto has announced no plans and Krolicki has no place to go politically. His chance to run for governor this cycle was derailed when Sandoval ousted fellow Republican Jim Gibbons after one term.
All candidates for the six constitutional offices file with the Secretary of State’s office. All other offices that represent voters in more than one county file there as well. That includes the two congressional seats held by Carson City Republican Mark Amodei and Las Vegas Democrat Steven Horsford, a number of legislative posts as well as certain board of regents districts among others.
Candidates for local offices, legislative seats and other positions that don’t cross county lines file with their local county voter registrar including the congressional seats held by Democrat Dina Titus and Republican Joe Heck whose districts are located entirely in Clark County.
All four are running again. Amodei is regarded a strong favorite in the western Nevada District 2, but he will see a challenge from political newcomer Brian Dempsey of Gardnerville who plans to file Monday.
Horsford also is facing a challenger: Republican Assemblyman Cresent Hardy of Mesquite. While District 4’s registration leans Democrat because it includes parts of North Las Vegas, it encompasses a large swath of Republican rural Nevada so turnout will decide the victor.
There are a number of primary challenges expected in legislative races, primarily from the right against incumbent Republicans they don’t see as conservative enough.
Reno’s Ben Kieckhefer, whose south-Washoe district includes Carson City, faces perennial candidate Gary Schmidt. Kieckhefer expects to also draw an opponent from the right because of his bill to bar the mentally ill from buying guns and support for a mining tax alternative to the business tax from the teachers’ union.
Control of the Nevada Senate, currently 11-10 Democrat, hangs primarily on challenges to Republican Minority Leader Michael Roberson — author of the mining tax bill — and Democrat Justin Jones — both of Las Vegas. Roberson faces Ron Paul Republican Carl Bunce. Jones may see a Republican primary between two who want him gone: lawyer Becky Harris and, Dr. Vick Gill who ran in 2012.
The Las Vegas seat vacated by Cegavske is also up for grabs and has a slight Democratic registration advantage. Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero Loop, a Democrat, has announced for that post as has Republican Patricia Farley.
Carson City’s Assembly District 40 is up for grabs with the announced retirement of two-term Republican Pete Livermore. Board of Education member Dave Cook has announced as a Democrat. No Republican has yet announced.
With Yerington’s Tom Grady termed out, two candidates have announced plans to run in District 38. They are former Churchill County commissioner Norm Frey and Dr. Robin Titus of Smith Valley.
State Sen. James Settelmeyer, whose District 17 includes Douglas and part of Lyon County, is also running for re-election, thus far with no announced opposition.
Republican Jim Wheeler of Douglas County is being challenged by former chief of staff to Jim Gibbons, Robin Reedy. Kelly Kite, also a Republican and the man Wheeler beat two years ago, may also file in that race.
Wheeler may be vulnerable because of a major gaff when he told Storey County Republicans he believes representatives should vote for whatever their constituents want — even if that vote was to restore slavery.
Republicans Randy Kirner and Minority Leader Pat Hickey, both in south Reno districts, face challengers from the right because of their support for the bill authorizing the Washoe Commission to raise property taxes to fund school repairs. Kirner’s opponent is Lisa Krasner in the primary.
Hickey, who also committed a verbal gaff, will face Richard Fineberg, a self-described “constitutional conservative.” Hickey’s problem started when he told a Reno radio host Republicans have a good chance for gains this election cycle because, with no presidential or U.S. Senate race on the ballot, traditionally liberal groups including Hispanics and the young won’t turn out in large numbers.
While that may be historically correct, it set off a chorus of charges. Hickey’s big error, however, came when he tried to defend the comments countering that he isn’t prejudiced, that he has “a yellow wife” — she is Asian — and “brown children.” That comment drew charges he is racist.
The filing period for those and other non-judicial offices runs 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for two weeks beginning Monday. Judicial candidates filed in January.