Welcome to the political mosh pit.
Republican John Chachas filed Thursday to run for Democrat Harry Reid's Senate seat, and Assemblyman Chad Christensen, R-Las Vegas, announced his late-hour entry in the race, making for a record primary field of at least 10 Republican candidates.
The packed GOP ballot adds an "anything can happen" air to the June 8 primary contest, in which the winner might need only about 40,000 votes, campaign strategists said.
"I ran into Chad today, and I was telling him, 'My goodness, with so many of us in the race, we're going to be running into each other all over the place,'" Chachas said after he filed with the secretary of state's office. "I've been joking that I think we ought to buy the old set of 'Family Feud.' We can line up half of us on one side and the other half on the other side when we debate."
In all, a score of contenders are competing in the race, including 10 Republicans, five Democrats, three nonpartisans and one each for the Independent American Party and the Tea Party of Nevada.
The Democratic and Republican primaries will choose a nominee for the Nov. 2 general election.
The previous Senate primary candidate record was set in 1992 when six Republicans competed to face Reid, who won the Democratic contest against three opponents, including one who ran as "God Almighty," according to voting information in the "Political History of Nevada 2006."
This year, the 70-year-old Reid is facing an uphill battle to win a fifth Senate term, and the crowded slate of candidates is another sign that he is seen as vulnerable.
Chachas, a New York investment banker and Ely native, is considered a serious dark-horse candidate -- although he has been out of state for two decades and doesn't have high name recognition -- because he has fundraising contacts and he is willing to spend more than $1 million of his own money.
The primary could cost candidates up to $2.5 million each, and the general election will require millions of dollars more as Reid plans to raise and spend up to $25 million.
Chachas is running as an outsider in a year in which there's a lot of anti-establishment and anti-incumbent feeling among voters tired of the partisan bickering and gridlock in Washington.
"I'm a businessman with national experience who worked with some of the largest companies and some of the smallest companies," Chachas said. "I think I have a distinct set of skills that are valuable in Washington. I think I just have to convince the people of Nevada of that."
Ryan Erwin, who is running Chachas' campaign, said another calculation is electoral math in an off-year in which voter turnout is often low and is expected to be around 130,000 for Republicans in 2010.
Those numbers could rise, however, if candidates and parties make a big get-out-the-vote effort.
"It's really amazing that the winner could get less than 30 percent of the vote" with so many candidates, Erwin said. "Someone could become the Republican nominee with less than 40,000 votes."
Assemblyman Christensen, who plans to file today, said the electoral math also is a key reason he decided to enter the race, although he's starting late and doesn't have a lot of money yet.
In his previous election in 2008, Christensen won with more than 40,000 votes, he said, because his district is so large, accounting for about 14 percent of the registered voters in Nevada.
"To win the primary, I just need to get those people to vote for me again and maybe add another couple thousand votes," Christensen said.
He added that a friend once told him the secret of political success is this: "Don't ever forget who you are and don't ever forget people who voted for you."
Christensen, who said Republican Party leaders in Nevada tried to discourage him from getting into the race, touts himself as the only conservative Senate candidate who's now in office, demonstrating a consistent voting record that shows he is against taxes and for smaller government.
"Me and my wife have traveled the state and have talked to voters who are discouraged by the other candidates in the race," Christensen said. "It's very clear that they're looking for someone like me who has a conservative voting record and who they can trust."
Sue Lowden, a casino executive and former state senator, is the current GOP front-runner in the race, followed by Danny Tarkanian, a businessman and former UNLV basketball star, and then former Reno Assemblywoman Sharron Angle. All have been beating Reid in early opinion polls.
Contact Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387-2919.