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Nevada Republicans Line Up to Depose Reid in 2016

There’s a long list of Nevada politicians clogging the state’s pipeline to Congress, but any massive movement hinges largely on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s fate in 2016.

Reid reigns as the undisputed power broker for state Democrats — and he’s also the Republicans’ top target in 2016.

Otherwise, a relatively new congressional delegation means there probably won’t be much be much turnover in the Silver State’s House ranks any time soon. Only one of Nevada’s four House districts is competitive.

So Democrats are focused on defeating GOP Rep. Joe Heck in the 3rd District. They’ve recruited Democratic National Committeewoman Erin Bilbray, whose father served Nevada in Congress.

Meanwhile, Republicans argue they can topple freshman Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford in the less competitive 4th District. They say a non-presidential cycle without a Senate race is their best opportunity.

In the general election, Horsford will likely face state Assemblyman Cresent Hardy or Niger Innis, the national spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality.

If Horsford wins, three of the state’s four House members — including Democrat Dina Titus and Republican Mark Amodei — would be well-positioned to hold their seats for the foreseeable future.

At least until 2016.

Local insiders believe Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval will win his re-election bid next year and challenge Reid in 2016.

The Senate’s top Democrat won by nearly 6 points in 2010, thanks in large part to former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle’s weak GOP candidacy. Republicans see Sandoval as a much stronger challenger.

But Sandoval’s 2016 campaign could hinge on this cycle’s race for lieutenant governor. If a Democrat wins, Sandoval might be dissuaded from running for Senate — otherwise that Democrat could ascend to his top job if he move on to Congress.

Sandoval’s current No. 2, Republican Brian Krolicki, is term-limited in 2014 and could run for Senate. Krolicki ran in 2010, but dropped out while dealing with an indictment charge that was later dismissed. Heck could also consider a run, a Republican strategist said.

In 2018, Democrats will look to unseat Sen. Dean Heller. The Republican narrowly won re-election in 2012 after Sandoval appointed him to the seat.

Horsford might emerge as a challenger for Heller, one insider said.

Both Republicans and Democrats have a deep bench of pols waiting to move up the ladder. But not many seem interested in coming to Congress — or they’ve already moved on from previous losses.

Republican state Sens. Greg Brower and Ben Kieckhefer could run for Amodei’s 2nd District seat. Republicans mentioned Bob Beers, a Las Vegas councilman, and Wesley Duncan, a first-term state assemblyman serving part of Las Vegas, as two other party members with potential to run for Congress.

For the Democrats, insiders repeatedly named state Sen. Ruben Kihuen and Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, who’s currently running for attorney general, as potential candidates for Congress — eventually.

Kihuen briefly intended to run in the 1st District in 2011 before bowing out. Sources said if Miller has a choice someday, he would prefer to run for governor over Congress.

State Treasurer Kate Marshall, a Democrat, and state Sen. Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, are running for Nevada secretary of state. Both recently lost bids for Congress — Marshall in the 2nd District and Cegavske in 4th.

State Assemblywoman Lucy Flores currently serves in Las Vegas, and sources noted her ambition. But her path to Congress isn’t clear, given that Titus just picked up that district seat in 2012.

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, could run for Senate eventually, a couple of party insiders said.

Nevada Republicans’ greatest impediment to toppling Reid is not their deep bench. It’s the state party’s infrastructure.

The Nevada GOP is one of the most dysfunctional state parties in the country. Supporters of former Texas Rep. Ron Paul have infiltrated much of the party’s infrastructure. Operations got so bad last year that the national GOP was forced to set up a shadow operation to compete in the state.

Democratic insiders said their state party looks to Reid as a bellwether who gives direction and rigidity to the party. But Nevada Republicans don’t have a similarly centralizing figure in the official party structure.

“Harry Reid has built a machine, … a foundation for technical performance,” a Democratic operative said. “There isn’t an elected [Republican] official who pays much attention to party politics.”

The GOP will need discipline and organization to succeed as Nevada’s demographics continue to change.

After the 2010 census, the state gained another congressional district, thanks in part to a burgeoning Latino population. On the whole, Democrats have done better courting the Hispanic vote in the state.

Nevada “sure isn’t as red as it used to be,” an operative said, noting the increase in Latino voters.

Farm Team is a weekly, state-by-state look at the up-and-coming politicos who may eventually run for Congress.

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