At this point, the race for Governor of Nevada couldn’t be more competitive. Candidates are jockeying for position, making moves and lining up support. There’s only one problem: the race these people are gearing up for won’t happen for four years. With the 2002 election for Nevada Governor all but over (barring a major development, Kenny Guinn will easily win re-election), Nevada’s elected officials are already looking beyond, to the next time the state’s top spot will be on the ballot. Because of Constitutionally-mandated term limits, Guinn will leave office in 2006, creating an open position. While it may seem early for people to be lining up for that election, no one wants to be left out when the powers that be start anointing candidates.
There’s no shortage of good, qualified individuals who have expressed an interest in being governor at some point in the future. But the names most often mentioned are on the Democratic side. State Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, realizes that the only office in the state that would give him more power to effect change than the one he currently holds is the governor’s seat. He doesn’t desire a federal position and local politics just don’t excite him. The only thing that might keep Perkins out of the race in 2006 is the urging of friends who would like to see him convert his myriad of government and business contacts into a successful lobbying career. Currently a deputy police chief, Perkins could no doubt double his earning potential by joining the private sector. But the chance to be governor of his state may be too enticing to pass up, even for a treasure chest.
Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson has also expressed an interest in some day being governor. After flirting with running for attorney general this election cycle, Gibson decided to stay put and keep his options open for the future. Many think he would make a very good Clark County Commissioner and a possible successor to Bruce Woodbury, whose current term expires in 2004. Unlike Perkins, a federal spot interests him. But Gibson couldn’t challenge his friend Jon Porter for Congress, and the Nevada Senate seats are locked up for the foreseeable future.
Another Clark County candidate looking at 2006 is County Commissioner Erin Kenny. She has to survive her current re-election bid, but is likely to out-raise and out-work her opponents and is expected to win. With her various union connections and friends in the development community, Kenny would be a formidable opponent in a Democratic primary.
On the Republican side, two names are being tossed about as possible contenders in 2006. Secretary of State Dean Heller, who faces a certain re-election to his seat this cycle, is an attractive candidate with energy and experience. His statewide name recognition isn’t great, but Heller’s record on campaign reform and protecting investors from securities fraud is strong. Brian Sandoval hasn’t even won his first statewide contest — he’s running unopposed for attorney general this year — but several pundits are saying he might be gubernatorial material. Sandoval has said his desire is only to be attorney general, but that could change if the Republicans need him in 2006.
All of the candidates mentioned have strong ties to the establishment, so one thing is for sure: when it comes time to pick a favorite for Governor in 2006, many loyalties will be tested and more than a few friendships will be strained.
There are some rather significant developments in the struggle for control of the next Nevada Legislature. Sources report county lobbyist and ex-firefighter Terry Lamuraglia is getting ready to jump in to the race for retiring state Sen. Bill O’Donnell’s seat on the Democratic side. Republicans already have two candidates running for the position — Billy Brady and Assemblyman Dennis Nolan — but Lamuraglia would be a strong contender. The Democrats have also found a good candidate to challenge Republican Sen. Maurice Washington in Washoe County. They’re not releasing a name yet, but the challenger is a veteran with strong ties to the community.
If Minority Leader Dina Titus is able to win both these races and hold the other seats she currently has (none of the incumbent Democrats up for re-election are expected to have tough races), then she would wrest the majority from Sen. Bill Raggio. It’s an uphill struggle, no doubt. But this might be the closest Titus has come in quite some time.