The beauty of our system is that anyone who can afford the filing fee can run for political office. Now that the filing period is over, let’s look at a few oddities:
• The already strange Republican Senate slate grew stranger. Late entries included Chad Christensen, after several Assembly terms in which he faced attacks over his handling of campaign finances, and Garn Mabey, an ob-gyn (right-wing ob-gyns raise all kinds of questions) who wants to join Sen. John Ensign, a veterinarian in need of neutering.
But the best moment for Republicans so far may have been Danny Tarkanian claiming Harry Reid’s “staff, campaign, whatever” is behind the filing of Tea Party hopeful Jon Ashjian because “they know the Armenians are very close” and “will vote for each other.” That may explain why Andre Agassi has been a Reid contributor and Kirk Kerkorian’s MGM Mirage is all out for Reid.
Maybe all you need to know about Republican thought in Nevada is that the Las Vegas Review-Journal reportedly closed off reader comments on Landra Reid’s auto accident because of the number of people wishing she had been hurt more severely.
• The Republican State Senate caucus figures to get more conservative, which could reduce longtime leader Bill Raggio’s happiness and, more importantly, ability to make deals by delivering votes from his caucus with big tax and reapportionment issues looming. With moderate Mark Amodei out because of term limits, Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, from a longtime rural Nevada ranching family, has a strong chance. Assemblyman Don Gustavson is running to succeed the term-limited Maurice Washington and, granting Washington’s endless list of failings, may be less willing to play follow the leader.
Making matters worse for Raggio, another moderate, Randolph Townsend, will leave. Democrats managed not to put up a candidate, and the two GOP frontrunners figure to be Ty Cobb, an assemblyman so far to the right he tips over, and Ben Kieckhefer, who may be more moderate but served as Gov. Jim Gibbons’ press secretary, which suggests his campaign manager is Faust.
• According to the old joke, if you want to learn about your family tree, run for office—your opponents will find out all of the dirt for you. Several candidates who have been through the wringer before are back for more. Barbara Lee Woollen again wants to be lieutenant governor; last time she tried, she wound up accused of leasing film equipment to companies making porn films. Nathan Taylor wants Christensen’s old Assembly seat after being accused of embezzling $25,000 from the Young Republican National Convention in 2005. Former state board of education member Gregory Nance Dagani filed as a Republican for state controller after engaging in some bizarre behavior, including sleeping through meetings and being a bit public about his loving feelings toward his wife, Sharona—who filed as a Democrat for state senate. Politics does make strange bedfellows.
• If you run, you get to put your name on the ballot as you want it. The two best nicknames on this year’s ballot are “Mr. Clean” and “Fatjack.” Mr. Clean is running against Reid, which is a reminder that Reid once defeated the greatest name ever seen on a ballot: Almighty God. Really. Meanwhile, Fatjack is running for constable in … Searchlight, Reid’s hometown.
• Understandably, Reid and son Rory have received the most attention about families in Nevada politics. In Senate District 10, where Bob Coffin is term-limited (depriving the Legislature of someone who actually understands how screwed up our tax system is), Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen is trying to move up against Dallas Augustine—daughter of Kathy Augustine, the former state controller who was murdered by her husband. Former Regent Nancy Price, whose husband, Bob, was a longtime assemblyman, is running for Dean Heller’s House seat. Victor Koivisto is seeking his term-limited wife Ellen’s old Assembly seat—oddly, against Maggie Carlton, a term-limited state senator. Sallie Bache is seeking the Assembly seat once held by her husband, Doug.
It speaks well for them that, with all of their exposure to politics, they are interested in running. Or it raises questions about their sanity. In politics, either is possible.
Michael Green is a professor of history at the College of Southern Nevada and author of several books and articles on Nevada history and politics.