Talk has begun in earnest that Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.) once again wants his wife to succeed him in a legislative body, as he seems certain to vacate his House seat for a run at the governor’s mansion.
No sooner had Gibbons announced last week that he was forming a steering committee to look into a 2006 gubernatorial bid when his wife, Dawn Gibbons, told the Reno Gazette-Journal that she was interested in pursuing his Congressional seat.
She too is launching an exploratory effort — she said she will travel the state to find out if 2nd district voters want her to run.
“My plan is to travel all over the state, and my goal is to meet every voter in Congressional district 2,” the paper quoted her as saying. “So I will know by the end of the year if people think it’s a good idea for me to do this with my husband running for governor.”
If Dawn Gibbons does go forward, it will be reminiscent of 1990, when Jim Gibbons was called up for active duty in the Gulf War and Dawn Gibbons took his seat in the state Assembly.
They were elected on the same ballot in 1998, 2000 and 2002 — she to the Assembly and he to Congress.
“I do think she’s going to run and she’s a formidable candidate,” said Jon Ralston, a Las Vegas Sun columnist and Nevada political expert.
Ralston, and others, assume Dawn Gibbons is getting her name out early to raise money fast and scare off potential primary challengers in the heavily Republican district.
The sparsely populated 2nd district covers more than 90 percent of the state geographically, except for most of populous Clark County, which includes Las Vegas.
While Dawn Gibbons likely can tap many of the same donors who will contribute to her husband’s campaign — some are likely to contribute to her because they assume her husband will be governor — she may not be able to avoid a Republican primary, Ralston said.
State Treasurer Brian Krolicki and Secretary of State Dean Heller, who are bumping up against term limits, are both said to be interested.
Dawn Gibbons is known as an excellent campaigner, but “she’s going to have some problems in the Republican primary because she voted for the largest tax increase in state history,” Ralston said.
The pundit predicted the only real chance Democrats have of capturing the seat would be if there is a “vicious” three-way Republican primary and Democrats put up a “strong candidate who can appeal to both sides.”
One such potential candidate is Frankie Sue Del Papa, who has had tours of duty as attorney general and secretary of state, Ralston said.
Del Papa briefly ran for governor in the 1998 cycle and the Senate in the 2000 cycle.
“It’s a statewide district and she has roots in all parts of the state,” Ralston said. “She’s been a very strong statewide candidate in the past. The question is would she want to get back into [elective] politics?”
If not, Democrats “don’t have much chance there,” he said.
Nevada Democratic Party spokesman John Summers disputed that, saying that if the party attracts a moderate from the northern part of the Silver State, as it hopes to, Democrats will have a real shot at winning the seat.
Recent history, however, suggests otherwise.
Jim Gibbons clobbered a former state Senator in his first bid for the seat in 1996 and has not had a serious threat since.
Democrats have twice failed to win the new 3rd district, even though voter registration is almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.