Las Vegas attorney Adam Laxalt, the grandson of former Nevada governor and U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt, R-Nev., plans to formally announce today that he’s running for attorney general.
The Republican will face Ross Miller, the Democratic secretary of state, in the Nov. 4 general election if the two men win their respective primaries. Miller is the son of Bob Miller, a former governor who served for 10 years until 1999.
Laxalt, 34, will make his announcement at the Reno Republican Men’s Club luncheon at the Atlantis hotel-casino. Former state Treasurer Patty Cafferata, his campaign co-chairwoman, will introduce him.
“The family — his and mine — go back a long way,” said Cafferata, the daughter of the late U.S. Rep. Barbara Vucanovich, R-Nev. “And so I’m excited for him and for the state.”
Cafferata said she didn’t know why he chose Reno to announce his candidacy, although Laxalt is more well-known in Southern Nevada and needs to raise his profile up north. Laxalt wanted to file his candidacy papers, too, but the filing period doesn’t open until March 3, running through March 14 for state and local candidates other than judicial.
After two terms as secretary of state, Miller, 37, has high-name recognition and has proved to be a strong fundraiser. He has collected about $900,000 for his campaign so far, according to a campaign finance report he plans to file this week. Many are small-time donors, who follow Miller on Twitter, where he has 16,566 followers, his campaign said.
Laxalt is a household name in Nevada politics, although the state’s new residents might not be as familiar with Paul Laxalt’s political legacy since he retired from the U.S. Senate in 1987 after two terms. He was Nevada governor from 1967 to 1971 and lieutenant governor from 1963 to 1967.
Adam Laxalt, who grew up with his mother, Michelle Laxalt, in the Washington, D.C. area, moved to Las Vegas a couple of years ago.
He made headlines last year when his mother and former U.S. Sen. Pete Dominici, R-N.M., revealed the senator was Adam Laxalt’s father — a secret his mother kept from her family, including her father, Paul Laxalt. Speculation at the time was that Dominici came forward because the news was about to be revealed, but it also could have paved the way for the younger Laxalt to run for political office without having to deal with an old scandal.
Campaigning as an underdog, Adam Laxalt is expected to get robust backing from many of Nevada’s leading Republicans, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, who has endorsed a string of strong statewide candidates to bolster the entire GOP ticket. The Nevada Republican Party had circulated a petition urging Laxalt to run as well.
But some Republicans, including six members of the Laxalt family, already endorsed or contributed to Miller, a moderate who has crossover appeal because of his actions in office and his father’s bipartisan legacy.
Neena Laxalt, who is Adam Laxalt’s aunt and Paul Laxalt’s daughter, is a Republican but has endorsed Miller.
“I will continue to endorse Ross,” Neena Laxalt said Monday in an interview. “I put my name with Ross a long time ago, and I’m proud to be supporting him. I think he is more competent, more than capable and more than qualified.”
Miller’s campaign manager Jim Ferrence said the popular Democrat has gained a lot of GOP and independent support. As for the battle between two political families, Ferrence said Miller is prepared for a high-profile race.
“We’ve been counting on a vigorous campaign no matter who got into the race,” Ferrence said. “Ross is looking forward to the debate process, not only on the issues, but on their experience.”
Miller was a deputy district attorney before he ran for secretary of state the first time in 2006.
Laxalt is a litigation and government affairs attorney in private practice with Lewis and Roca LLP. Previously, Laxalt was a lieutenant judge advocate in the general corps of the U.S. Navy from August 2005 until August 2011, according to his resume.
Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, said the attorney general’s race should attract more attention from voters because the two men running come from famous political families.
“However, I think it’s still an uphill climb against Ross Miller,” Herzik said of Laxalt’s chances. “He’s well-established, has showed some crossover appeal, and he’s got plenty of money. And Laxalt really isn’t a known commodity.”
In his favor, Herzik said Laxalt doesn’t appear to have political baggage that can weigh down a candidate.
Thus he may appeal to both establishment Republicans who remember his grandfather and tea party types who want smaller government and less federal spending.
Contact reporter Laura Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2919. Follow her on Twitter @lmyerslvrj.