Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki considers entering Senate race | NevadaAppeal.com
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Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki considers entering Senate race

SANDRA CHEREB
Associated Press Writer

Nevada’s lieutenant governor, out from the cloud of a criminal indictment he characterized as a political hatchet job, is considering an election run at U.S. Sen. Harry Reid that would further jumble the crowded field of Republican challengers.

While Brian Krolicki boasts solid credentials, name recognition and would be the only Republican candidate to have won a statewide race, his 11th-hour ponderings have been poorly received by some within the state GOP. They resent perceived meddling in the race by national party leaders.

Others think Krolicki’s entry into a field that may include up to 12 Republicans would actually boost Reid’s re-election chances.

“I think it would be a mistake for Brian to do this,” said former Nevada Gov. Bob List, a committeeman for the Republican National Committee. “I think he should run for re-election. For him to do this would be very contentious and disruptive.”

Krolicki said he’s been encouraged to run by people in Nevada and elsewhere “who want to make sure Harry Reid gets more time to spend with his grandchildren come January.”

Reid, the Democratic Senate majority leader, is seeking a fifth term in November, but is a prime target for Republicans emboldened by election gains in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia. Polls show him facing an uphill battle.

Krolicki has been courted by Republican leaders in Washington, D.C., including Sens. John McCain of Arizona and John Cornyn of Texas.

“There is much to be considered, and that is what I am currently engaged in,” Krolicki said. He just returned from Washington, D.C., where he met with leaders of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. He said he’ll make a decision in the next few weeks.

List told The Hill newspaper that he plans to call Cornyn, the NRSC chairman, to voice his displeasure. “I’m going to encourage him to back off.” NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh told Las Vegas political columnist Jon Ralston that the committee is “staying neutral” in the primary. “Our focus here is on Harry Reid,” he said.

There’s no indication Krolicki’s entry would drive the dozen other Republican hopefuls off.

“He’s certainly as strong as any of the candidates in the race, but he’s not so strong that he’s going to chase anybody out,” said Eric Herzik, a political scientist at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Sue Lowden, a former state senator and Miss America contestant, resigned as state GOP chairwoman last fall to begin her campaign. Danny Tarkanian, a lawyer and son of former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, has been campaigning for months, and John Chachas, a Wall Street banker, and Sharron Angle, a conservative former assemblywoman are among other who have said they’re running.

Robert Uithoven, a Lowden adviser, said whatever Krolicki decides to do “really doesn’t change what we’re trying to accomplish and the pace of our campaign,” and Tarkanian campaign spokesman Brian Seitchik said Krolicki wouldn’t change their strategy.

But he could reopen sores within the state GOP that is still trying to heal from the drubbing it took in the 2008 election and its mishandling of the state convention, which was abruptly recessed when supporters of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul were poised to win delegates.

“We need to pull together,” List said. “The last thing we need is an even more complicated fight within the party.”

David Damore, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the more Republicans “get in a circle and shoot each other” in the June primary, the better it is for the man they all want to unseat. “It’s good news for Harry Reid,” Damore said.

Reid campaign manager Brandon Hall wouldn’t comment on what impact Krolicki might have. Reid has vowed to raise $25 million to win his way back to Washington, and the White House has shown every indication it will help in the campaign.

Krolicki, 49, was elected lieutenant governor in 2006 after serving two four-year terms as state treasurer. He announced he was considering challenging Reid in November 2008 but weeks later was sidetracked when he and an aide were indicted by a Clark County grand jury on charges of mishandling money in a college savings program he established while state treasurer by using some funds for a commercial to advertise the program. The ads, featuring Krolicki, aired while he was running for lieutenant governor.

Krolicki at the time said he was targeted for political reasons by Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, and that Reid was involved. Reid denied any involvement, and Masto said politics played no role. No money was ever missing from the $3 billion program and the indictment was dismissed by a judge in December.

After being cleared, Krolicki said he would seek re-election, and so far has no primary opponent. But after Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race and with Reid in the political cross-hairs, Krolicki said he was urged to consider jumping into the fray.

A poll earlier this month for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, before Krolicki began eyeing the Senate contest, showed 52 percent of Nevadans had an unfavorable opinion of Reid.

Herzik wondered whether Krolicki could muster the cash to combat Reid if he were to survive a tough primary. A campaign finance report shows he raised $140,000 last year for his lieutenant governor re-election bid, more than $100,000 after the indictment was dismissed. He would need millions for a head-to-head slugfest against Reid.

“He’s being wooed by outside interests. Be careful of that,” Herzik said. “They’re making promises they may not keep in terms of support and money.”