Lowden looking confident in lieutenant governor primary

Maybe it’s her obvious comfort level with the duties of the office she’s seeking. It could be that recent poll showing her ahead of a highly touted primary opponent that has her smiling.

Perhaps it’s as simple as this: After you’ve been harangued by Harry Reid’s Democrats and stalked for months by a guy in a chicken suit, something as simple as a head-to-head statewide race isn’t too intimidating.

But whatever the reason, Sue Lowden exudes a level of confidence these days that’s likely to appeal to Republican voters as she pursues the office of lieutenant governor. It’s a degree of swagger that will be hard for her opponent, attorney Mark Hutchison, to match as the pair courts conservatives in the coming weeks.

These days, Lowden laughs easily about all those chicken jokes — and reminds a skeptic that her remark about bartering for health care wasn’t such a bad idea in the wake of the nightmarish rollout of Obamacare.

The fact she stepped back into the political arena at all after the pummeling she took in the 2010 U.S. Senate primary must surprise some people, she says. Calling it quits would have been easy. As a wealthy casino executive, she didn’t need the humiliation or the job.

Lowden has obviously learned some lessons after she crashed and burned, losing to right-winger Sharron Angle in a race that gave rise to an 18-piece bucket of poultry imagery and essentially handed re-election to Senate Majority Leader Reid. Challenging the experienced Reid was a stretch, but with her public speaking skills and experience in gaming and tourism Lowden seems well suited for the lieutenant governor’s role.

“You either have a passion for public service, or you don’t,” Lowden says. “I clearly have that passion. That’s what spurs me on.

“I don’t want to look back 10 years from now and see Nevada worse off than it is now and say, ‘Why didn’t I do something about it?’ I truly believe I can be an asset when it comes to bringing more tourists here and attracting more special events that help drive our economy.”

This time around, Lowden has had to fend off an attempt to marginalize her from inside the Republican Party after Hutchison received arguably the fastest political endorsement in Nevada history from popular Gov. Brian Sandoval. Since that time, Sandoval has introduced Hutchison to political groups and worked to promote his candidacy.

So far, the result has been mixed. A recent Precision Research poll published in the Review-Journal showed Hutchison, despite the Sandoval bromance, trailing Lowden 46 percent to 32 percent (with a 4.66 percent margin of error). Lowden’s challenge is that Hutchison’s numbers figure to rise along with his name recognition before the June 10 primary election.

In a recent acknowledgment of Lowden’s presence in the race, Sandoval last week told the Review-Journal’s editorial board he could work with her and has “a lot of respect for Sue.” Which is as close to an endorsement as she’s likely to receive from the governor.

Lowden knows early leads can evaporate quickly. She also knows what it’s like to lose a primary she was expected to win.

Even if she prevails, beating Democrat Lucy Flores is far from assured in a state that finds Republicans at a substantial voter registration disadvantage.

It’s still March. This doesn’t even mean we’ve heard the last of the chicken jokes.

But whatever the coming weeks bring, Sue Lowden appears poised to take it all in stride.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. Follow him on Twitter @jlnevadasmith.