Skip to comments.Early Line in Nevada
Posted on 12/16/2002 5:38:51 AM PST by nypokerface
Last time around, he won by 428 votes. In 2004, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hopes to have a little more breathing room. Though it's still two years away, Reid's race for a fourth term is sure to be one of the most closely watched contests of the cycle. As the Democrat prepares to make the transition from Majority Whip back to Minority Whip, Republicans in the Silver State are trying to determine who from among their ranks will put up the best fight.
The early money is on 2nd district Rep. Jim Gibbons (R), who is being encouraged by Republicans in Nevada and Washington to challenge Reid. Democrats believe he is a strong bet to run.
"Gibbons is the most likely candidate from our perspective to run," said a Reid aide. "He would be the known contender." For his part, Gibbons has remained mum about his plans.
"The Congressman is focused on doing the job he has just been re-elected to do, which is serving the people of Nevada's 2nd district," said Gibbons spokeswoman Amy Spanbauer. "He will pursue an active legislative agenda."
Nevada sources said the Bush administration has actively courted Gibbons to run against Reid and that the lawmaker met with White House strategist Karl Rove last week to discuss the subject. (Both Gibbons and Rove attended Sparks High School in Nevada, though not at the same time.)
Spanbauer said she could not confirm whether the two men met last week. Rove's office did not return a call seeking comment by press time.
Though he beat then-Rep. John Ensign (R) by the narrowest of margins in 1998, Reid is cautiously optimistic that he has performed well enough in office in the intervening years to put himself in a good position for 2004.
"Hopefully, we're getting better at getting out who Senator Reid is," said the Reid aide, pointing out that 4,000 people a month move to the Las Vegas area and that there are thousands of new voters with whom Reid needs to get acquainted.
If Gibbons decides not to run, Secretary of State Dean Heller (R) could decide to make the race, though he has given no indication that he is considering doing so. Also on the Republican list is newly elected state Attorney General Brian Sandoval, who is considered a rising star but is probably a few more years away from becoming a serious candidate for higher office.
Gov. Kenny Guinn would be a dream GOP candidate, but he appears unlikely to run.
Democrats acknowledge that Gibbons would make an attractive candidate. Born and raised in Sparks, Gibbons, who turns 58 today, was a decorated Air Force pilot during the Vietnam War. He then served as a commercial airline pilot until his election to the Nevada Assembly in 1988.
Gibbons resigned that post in 1990 to serve in the Gulf War, after which he returned to the Legislature. He was the GOP nominee for governor in 1994, losing to incumbent Bob Miller (D) 53 percent to 41 percent. Gibbons won the seat in 1996 and has been comfortably re-elected three times, taking 74 percent of the vote against Travis Souza (D) this year.
Gibbons has tried and failed in the past to win a spot on the Ways and Means Committee, as has fellow Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkley (D). He may now try to garner a seat on the Appropriations Committee, arguing that Western states other than California are underrepresented on the spending panel.
Gibbons has compiled a mostly conservative voting record but has broken with the GOP leadership on a handful of issues, most of them related to the proposed Yucca Mountain waste storage facility and other matters related to nuclear power and radiation.
As it has been in the last couple of years, Yucca could be a potent issue in 2004. Nevada Democrats argue that President Bush's decision to push ahead with planning for the site will make him less than welcome in the state as he campaigns for his second term.
While Gibbons and Nevada's other Republicans have joined with Democrats to oppose Yucca, Democrats believe that Gibbons could be hurt in a Senate race because he won't be able to reap the benefits of Bush's barnstorming the way candidates in some other states will.
On the fundraising front, Gibbons has proven to be adept at raising cash, though he will have to step up his efforts to match those of Reid, who has long enjoyed heavy support from the politically powerful gaming industry.
Despite having only token opposition, Gibbons spent $730,000 in this past cycle. As of Nov. 25 he had $457,000 in the bank. Reid, meanwhile, reported $1.2 million on hand as of June 30.
The IRS reports of the nonfederal arm of Reid's Searchlight Leadership Fund provide a glimpse of the Nevadan's fundraising prowess. Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 16, for example, the fund raked in $345,000. That total included $20,000 from Sahara, $50,000 from MGM Mirage and $15,000 from Boyd Gaming Corp.
If I'm not mistaken, it was Michael Cloud.
James Gibbons (R) + + 100%
Has he changed? Possibly and probably. With Bush wanting to give SS benefits to Mexicans , the whole republican Party has gone to Hell.