A look at Nevada’s potential 2016 U.S. Senate candidates
After Nevada Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval announced Tuesday that he wouldn’t seek the Senate seat soon to be vacated by Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, the race is starting to come into sharper focus.
Here’s a look at some of the names that were discussed as potential contenders for the seat, and where they stand leading up to the 2016 election:
CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO
Former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, announced shortly after Reid’s retirement that she would run for his seat, and she has his vocal support.
“We have a winner in Catherine Cortez Masto,” the Senate Democratic leader told reporters in Washington on Tuesday. “She’s a wonderful longtime Nevadan, and in fact lifetime Nevadan, and it doesn’t matter who runs against her. She’s going to be just fine.”
Cortez Masto served two terms as attorney general before a brief stint as the executive vice chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education.
With the widely popular Sandoval not an option, three-term GOP Rep. Joe Heck is Republicans’ top choice. The one-star general and military doctor said he was already thinking hard about entering the race before Sandoval made his announcement.
“I appreciate the outpouring of support and encouragement,” Heck said in a statement on Tuesday. “We’ll make an announcement very soon.”
In prior interviews, the Henderson Republican said he was weighing factors including having to spend more time away from his family and give up his position on important House subcommittees.
The fiscally conservative Las Vegas city councilman announced months ago that he would run for Senate. He’s raised about $40,000 this calendar year, according to Federal Election Commission records, and he has produced an online video ad. His campaign is considered a long shot.
State Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, a Republican, has also been discussed as a potential Senate candidate. The success of much of Sandoval’s legislative agenda can be credited to Roberson’s assertive leadership style, tight control of the Senate Republican Caucus and hard bargaining. But the second-term state senator’s district is within the congressional district that Heck would vacate if he runs for Senate, and Roberson could pursue a House bid instead.
He did not return calls for comment Tuesday.
Republican Former Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki has thrown around the idea of a Senate bid. He served eight years in the lieutenant governor’s post, eight years as state treasurer and eight years as chief deputy treasurer.
“I believe public service is indeed a noble calling,” Krolicki told the Reno Gazette-Journal in January. “It is something I will look at in the future if the opportunity is appropriate. Whether that is a run for the U.S. Senate someday (or) for governor someday … well, I will just review those opportunities when they come or don’t come.”
Krolicki didn’t return a message seeking comment Tuesday.
As the grandson of a former governor and Nevada senator, but a first-time campaigner, Republican Adam Laxalt scored a surprise victory in the attorney general’s race in November. He’s made his mark with a conservative stance on immigration, signing the state onto a challenge of President Barack Obama’s executive action seeking to give millions of immigrants legal status.
Laxalt’s name has been circulated as a potential Senate hopeful, but he deferred questions about the race Tuesday.
Nevada Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison is ruling himself out of the race for the U.S. Senate.
“I am focused on my responsibilities as a father and husband, lieutenant governor, and senior partner at Hutchison & Steffen,” the Las Vegas lawyer said Tuesday.
Hutchison’s early departure from the state Senate to seek the lieutenant governor’s post was widely seen as an attempt to place a strong Sandoval ally in the position in case Sandoval ran for higher office midway through his term.
Heidi Gansert served as a Republican assemblywoman and chief of staff to Gov. Brian Sandoval before taking her current post in the administration at the University of Nevada, Reno.
She told The Associated Press on Tuesday that she won’t be running for Senate.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Dina Titus announced late last month that she won’t run for Senate and instead will seek a third term representing her safely Democratic Las Vegas-area district.
“We’ve been making progress since being hit so hard by the Great Recession, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, but there’s still a lot of work to do,” Titus said in a YouTube video announcing her decision.
Titus, who served more than 20 years as a state senator before launching her congressional career, was expected to be a fierce primary opponent for Cortez Masto if she entered the Senate race.