Nevada Republicans Wary of Angle House Bid

GOP Seat Could Be Jeopardized by Polarizing Nominee in Wide-Open Race to Succeed Dean Heller

Posted March 15, 2011 at 6:29pm

Nevada Republicans want Sharron Angle to sit this one out. 

The 2010 Senate candidate is rumored to be strongly considering a bid for Rep. Dean Heller’s 2nd district seat now that he is officially running for Senate, and party operatives worry she could put the most Republican district in the state at risk.

“Sharron needs to sit back and regroup,” Republican National Committeewoman Heidi Smith said. “Most people are looking at Mark Amodei and Brian Krolicki.”

Along with Angle, Nevada GOP Chairman Mark Amodei and Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki would be considered frontrunners if they jump into the House race, as expected. But a few more people are interested in the seat as well.

Among the other possible GOP candidates mentioned is state Sen. Greg Brower, who said he is considering the race. 

“I’ve received a number of calls from party people in the state urging me to consider running. And I plan to do just that,” Brower said Tuesday. 

Heller announced his Senate candidacy in an e-mail to supporters Tuesday — a move that had been expected for some time but was accelerated by GOP Sen. John Ensign’s retirement announcement last week — and at least a half-dozen Republicans are already considering running for the House seat. 

“The more people that get in, the easier it is for Angle to win that primary, and that scares a lot of Republicans,” GOP strategist Robert Uithoven said. “I think of the major candidates looking at that [2nd district] race, the one that can lose a general election is Sharron Angle.” 

Republican consultant Jim Denton said he could “create a path to victory [in the primary] for almost anyone in this seat. The scenario for Angle is to have a four- or five-way Republican primary. I think she would win that.”

Angle, a former state Assemblywoman, has previously shown an interest in the 2nd district, but she and a spokesman did not return messages left by Roll Call on Tuesday.

Amodei and Krolicki considered running against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) last year, but Angle went on to win the GOP nomination with 40 percent of the vote against 11 opponents.

However, she suffered a 5-point loss in November to one of the most vulnerable Senators in the country, and Republicans worry about the same result even in a district that the party should have little trouble holding. 

Reid ran a strong campaign, and that was reflected at last week’s Pollie awards, when the American Association of Political Consultants doled out several accolades to his team. But he was aided by Angle’s polarizing candidacy, which split the state GOP.

“Conservatives as well as centrist Republicans are looking at Amodei because he appeals to both groups,” Smith said. “Angle does not appeal to both groups.”

Amodei is a former state Senator from the Carson City area. Krolicki is in his second term as lieutenant governor after serving two terms as state treasurer.

If she runs, it would be Angle’s second attempt to win this seat. She lost to Heller by just 421 votes in the 2006 GOP primary. Angle won Reno’s Washoe County — by far the most populous in the district — by more than 2,000 votes. Against Reid in 2010, however, Angle lost Washoe County by more than 7,000 votes.

Democrats looking at the House race include state Treasurer Kate Marshall, who is also looking at the Senate race; Jill Derby, who lost to Heller in 2006 and 2008; and Assemblywoman Debbie Smith.

“Debbie’s name is on the tip of the tongue of all the operatives and political consultants in the area,” said Shaun Gray, executive director of the Washoe County Democratic Party.

A source close to Smith said she is not thinking about the race. “She’s focused on her job as Ways and Means chairman and closing the enormous state deficit,” the source said.

The expansive district, which is the largest in the country besides at-large districts, leans Republican. It covers much of the state, while the other two districts lay within Las Vegas’ Clark County in the lower corner of Nevada.

While the 2nd district could remain largely intact in redistricting, it could also be sliced up to make room for the new 4th district, which was added through reapportionment. The state Legislature redistricting panels began meeting last week, and they hope to have legislative and Congressional districts drawn before the legislative session ends in early June.

“Historically, that’s where it’s been,” state Assemblyman Tick Segerblom (D), chairman of the chamber’s redistricting panel, said of the district remaining largely in rural Nevada. “All things being equal, Northern Nevada and rural Nevada like to have their own seat,” 

Should it remain largely intact, Segerblom said, it would be “a very strong Republican seat.”