January 20, 2017 – By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
It’s barely 2017 and we’ve already got the 2018 Nevada gubernatorial race set.
The battle to replace term-limited Brian Sandoval will be between Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt vs. Democrat Steve Sisolak, the chair of the Clark County Commission.
North vs. South.
Blue vs. Red.
Neither candidate has formally declared but that seems like a mere formality with what’s happen lately.
Monday, Laxalt’s campaign advisor, Robert Uithoven called up the press in a statewide phone-call to tout Laxalt’s $1.5 million campaign cash on hand as he’s considering a run.
Then, Clark County Commish Chair Steve Sisolak upped the ante when his campaign finance report showed he’s got $3.8 million on hand. And with other contenders recently bowing out, the race seems cemented — as much as it can be, 22 months away from Election Day .
Sisolak biding time
Sisolak may see 2018 as “his time.”
He declined Sen. Harry’s Reid’s pleas to run (and get clobbered) against incumbent Gov. Brian Sandoval in 2014. He was wise to do so, biding his time.
The strong Democratic showing in Nevada for the 2016 Election must buoy hopes for Democratic domination in the 2018 election.
The 2018 election will be big for Nevada Democrats since it’s the first without the star power of the now-retired Harry Reid’s “Reid machine.” Can Sisolak run statewide and win the day?
Some see Sisolak as the undisputed Democratic logical choice for governor, needing only to beat a one-term attorney general to do it.
Some Democrats can’t understand Laxalt’s power bid in the first place. They point to Laxalt’s one-percentage-point election victory over Ross Miller for attorney general during the “Red Wave” election of 2014 as a sign of weakness.
Ironically, Sisolak may be partially responsible for Laxalt’s surge. By declining Reid’s plea to run for governor in 2014, he left the Democrats with no “top of the ticket,” which hurt Democrats down the ballot, including Miller in his race with Laxalt.
Laxalt, the GOP shooting star
Laxalt, the grandson of former Nevada Gov. and U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt, has grown strong in the Nevada GOP since his 2014 election, partially because of the brand of conservative politics and his enjoyment of battling the Obama Administration.
He is a young man in a hurry, ambitious, and his politics are more conservative than Sandoval’s. All of that would make him a very tough out in a GOP gubernatorial primary.
Laxalt has strong national GOP connections as well. His first annual “Basque Fry” summer wing-ding attracted four presidential candidates to rural Douglas County in 2015. Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton campaigned for him in his 2014 election
Already, three Republicans who would be considered Laxalt’s senior in the GOP experience and pecking order — U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei and Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison — have bowed out of of gubernatorial consideration, seemingly handing Laxalt the GOP nomination.
Amodei just announced this week he would not run for governor. He and Heller both grew up in Carson and talked about returning home to be the governor. But they won’t now, because the Nevada GOP future seemingly belongs to Laxalt.
Laxalt’s yet-unannounced gubernatorial plans can be best summed up by a quote Amodei gave to Seth Richardson of the Reno Gazette-Journal, when Amodei broke the news Wednesday he would not run for governor.
Amodei was speaking about a phone convo he had with Laxalt, when he said:
“He (Laxalt) said, ‘I talked to my wife and I have permission to explore’ – that was the word, ‘explore’ – ‘running for governor,’” Amodei said. “In hindsight, I’m kind of chuckling, going maybe his wife should’ve better defined the word ‘explore’ because it sounds like the wheels are up and the throttle is forward.”