The local Republican Party could have a tough time keeping one of its two seats on the Clark County Commission after the state Supreme Court's decision last month bumped a 27-year incumbent from the ballot.
The high court's ruling that 12-year term limits prevent Commissioner Bruce Woodbury, a Republican, from running for office again has put the party in limbo going into today's primary election.
Party leaders want Woodbury to draw the most votes within District A, even though he's disqualified. That would allow the party's central committee to meet Wednesday night and choose who it thinks would be the best candidate to run in November's general election.
This candidate might be one of the two on the ballot -- Brian Scroggins or Duane Christy -- or it might be someone not in the race.
Either way, the candidate will have the formidable task of raising enough money to take on a man heavily favored to win the Democratic primary: University Regent Steve Sisolak, who has amassed a $600,000 war chest, most of it from his own pocket.
Woodbury noted that an unforeseen consequence of state officials challenging his eligibility in June was that he had already sunk $317,000 into his campaign, none of which he'll recoup.
"I wish we could have directed it toward a candidate we all support instead of having it be needless expenditures," Woodbury said. "I still have some ongoing campaign commitments. I don't know what the bottom line is going to be, but it's not over yet."
Sisolak, who filed a challenge to Woodbury's right to seek re-election, said spending $500,000 of his own money is worth it if he can win a seat that will enable him to tackle pressing problems.
He also wants to show that he is serious.
"It's very difficult to ask donors to invest in my campaign if I'm not willing to invest in my own campaign," Sisolak said. "We're confident we'll have the funds to run a very competitive race."
In contrast, Scroggins, who owns a sign company, has about $60,000 in campaign money, and Christy, who owns a collection agency, has spent about $40,000 promoting himself. If either were to garner the most votes in today's primary, that individual would automatically advance to the general election.
Scroggins said he drummed up the $60,000 in four days and believes he could raise a sizable sum in the coming weeks. He knows what he'd be up against with Sisolak.
"We absolutely realize we have to raise a lot more money," Scroggins said.
Christy contends that, as a businessman, he knows how to get maximum campaign results while being frugal. He estimates that he could buy enough fliers and air time with $20,000.
"I won't need a half a million dollars," Christy said. "I hope people will see that I will run government as tight as I run my campaign."
The secretary of state's late challenge to Woodbury's eligibility put the Republicans at a disadvantage because other viable candidates had little chance to jump in and raise campaign money to take on the likes of Sisolak, said David Damore, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Now party leaders are trying to salvage the race by encouraging residents to vote for Woodbury so they can handpick a contender, Damore said. "That's a tough message to get out to voters now."
At stake is one of only two Republican-held seats on what is arguably the most powerful political body in the state. Chip Maxfield is vacating the other seat at year's end.
"That's why it's important for us to have the strongest possible candidate for that district," said Bernie Zadrowski, chairman of the local Republican party.
Zadrowski said if Woodbury wins, the central committee, which has several hundred members, must meet to choose a replacement, even if they like the runner-up on the ballot.
Several worthy prospects have expressed interest, but have asked to remain anonymous, Zadrowski said.
One possible candidate would be Henderson City Councilman Steve Kirk, who said someone in the party encouraged him to step in.
Kirk said the commission seat intrigues him, in part because living in the district his whole life and serving on the city council since 1999 have given him a deep knowledge of the area and its needs.
He agreed that Sisolak would be a tough match for whoever runs in the general election.
"If you've got somebody who's willing to buy the seat at any price, it makes it very difficult to overcome," Kirk said.
Contact reporter Scott Wyland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-455-4519.