As Reince Priebus sketches his agenda for another term as chairman of the Republican National Committee, rehabilitating a set of dysfunctional state parties has emerged as a top priority, particularly in key battlegrounds such as Nevada.
In an interview, Priebus confirmed that he has held multiple conversations with the Nevada Republican Party chairman and other Silver State GOP officials, with meetings planned in January to discuss how the RNC might help the Nevada GOP transform itself. The party was so organizationally debilitated throughout 2012 that it was incapable of performing even basic party-building activities, causing the RNC and top state Republicans to form a shadow party to run essential operations such as voter turnout.
“Clearly being successful at the RNC requires having state parties that are extremely successful as well,” Priebus told CQ Roll Call late last week. “That means raising funds and building armies and doing all the work on the ground and on the financial sides to be successful, and we recognize that in some areas we need to make improvements.”
The Nevada Republican Party has a checkered history, at times enjoying competent leadership and providing effective political infrastructure for GOP candidates, while at other times not.
This past election cycle, although some of the county Republican parties were serviceable, the state GOP and the GOP of Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, were mired in internal warfare that sprang in part from disagreements between longtime party activists and newly elected officials loyal to Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who was a durable force throughout the 2012 GOP presidential primary.
Whether Priebus can help rejuvenate the Nevada GOP could depend on whether top state party elected officials participate in the effort and have enough faith to channel their 2014 activities through the party — or once again turn to an outside organization such as Team Nevada, the moniker used by the shadow party. It remains unclear at this early stage whether they will do so.
Gov. Brian Sandoval is up for re-election, as are two Republican congressmen, including Rep. Joe Heck, whose 3rd District was competitive in 2012. Sen. Dean Heller won a close election just last month but is interested in strengthening the position of Nevada Republicans going forward.
“I think the party’s future is bright,” said Republican consultant Mike Slanker, who is based in Las Vegas and serves as the chief political adviser to both Sandoval and Heller. “Anytime you have a GOP governor and GOP senator who are friends, great fundraisers, popular and willing to help build the party, you can do great things.”
“I think Gov. Sandoval and Sen. Heller along with other GOP elected officials and party faithful will build a formidable GOP operation moving forward,” Slanker added. “It’s a must-do.”