Gibbons offers bus rides to rally for contributions

CARSON CITY -- Gov. Jim Gibbons is offering trips on his campaign bus to a Southern Nevada Tea Party rally in exchange for campaign contributions.

In a letter issued Thursday by his re-election campaign, the first-term Republican offered a trip from Reno on March 26 to the first 10 people who donate $250 or more. It said the bus will "meet up" with the governor the next day in Laughlin for the rest of the trip to a rally dubbed by the Tea Party Express movement as a "showdown" in Searchlight, the home of Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Eric Herzik, political scientist at the University of Nevada, Reno, said Gibbons' approach makes sense, given his underdog candidacy.

"Gibbons has very little money, and large donors certainly aren't flocking to his cause," Herzik said. "So he's going after small donors. And the free media he'll get out of this is worth as much as $250 he might get out of a small donor.

"This is less about money than about aligning with the Tea Party movement," Herzik said.

Reid, seeking a fifth term in the U.S. Senate, is a main target of Republicans in the fall election and has become a lightning rod to rally conservative activists.

Former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is scheduled to attend the rally, as are other personalities, talk show hosts and candidates who espouse smaller government and less taxes.

Danny Tarkanian, one of 11 Republicans seeking the GOP nomination to run against Reid, is planning to take two busloads of supporters from Las Vegas to the rally. So is Sue Lowden, former state senator and state party chairwoman. Another Republican Senate hopeful, former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, said she also will attend. "Every Republican is going to be down there saying, 'I am the true tea partier,'" Herzik said.

In his campaign letter, Gibbons took a shot at his main Republican rival, former federal judge Brian Sandoval, saying "Nevada has been under threat for the last decade of increasing taxes and ever increasing government spending." Sandoval, who has said he's opposed to tax increases, in response said Gibbons raised taxes and fees approved by lawmakers in a special legislative session in February.