State Sen. Tick Segerblom is waiting in the wings, ready to run for governor against Republican Brian Sandoval if no other viable Democrat steps up.
“Somebody has to run,” said Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who would much rather see Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak take on the popular governor in 2014.
More than three months before Nevada candidates can file for public office, most current officer holders have either announced they are running for re-election or will seek another post.
Not all have drawn opponents, however, as potential contenders weigh whether to run.
“This is the time for speculation,” Segerblom said.
Sandoval will top the ticket, because there is no U.S. Senate race in Nevada next year and the presidential election isn’t until 2016.
More interesting, perhaps, will be the contest for lieutenant governor, the official who would become governor if Sandoval doesn’t complete his four-year term.
Sandoval could decide midterm to take on U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., in 2016, or accept a Cabinet post if a Republican wins the presidency.
Other marquee races are expected to be highly competitive, as well. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., is defending his swing district seat against a challenge from Erin Bilbray, a Democratic activist and the daughter of former Rep. Jim Bilbray, D-Nev.
Family ties also could increase attention on the contest for attorney general.Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat, is running. The son of former Gov. Bob Miller, he may face another legacy candidate: Republican Adam Laxalt, grandson of Paul Laxalt, the former Nevada governor and U.S. senator who is close to Sandoval.
Ross’ campaign manager, Jim Ferrence, said the Democrat is confident he can win, even in a year with no other high-profile Democrats on the ticket who could boost the party’s overall chances.
Ross, 37, has been using musicians, exotic animals (camels and monkeys) and celebrities (Holly Madison and UFC fighter Frank Mir) at fundraisers to excite his supporters.
“He can overcome the top of the ticket,” Ferrence said, referring to Sandoval. “If outsiders snicker at the use of celebrities, they work. He loves politics. He was born and bred for this.”
Laxalt, too, was born and bred in a political family. His mother, Michelle, worked on Paul Laxalt’s campaigns and is a political consultant in her own right. Her son is being wooed by Republicans to run his first political campaign. The 34-year-old will likely decide in January.
“It’ll be an interesting race,” Michelle Laxalt said. “The enthusiasm is increasing on the part of others. He’s got the stuff.”
Ryan Erwin, a GOP consultant who handles Heck, said Republicans are shooting for a sweep of state offices and to retake the state Senate.
“All indications are this should be a solid Republican year in Nevada, from top to bottom,” Erwin said. “If the landscape doesn’t change, I think you see a Republican sweep.”
Sandoval probably would have to win by double digits, with him and Heck attracting a robust Republican turnout, to accomplish that. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 100,000 voters statewide.
Filing for judicial candidates runs Jan. 6-17. Filing for nonjudicial candidates runs March 3-14. The primary is June 10 and the general election is Nov. 4.
Here’s a race-by-race look, so far:
Sandoval, a former federal judge and Nevada’s first Hispanic governor, is one of the country’s most popular state leaders with an approval rating around 60 percent. He trounced Democrat Rory Reid in 2010 by nearly 12 percentage points. It’s a performance he might match in 2014 unless a strong Democrat emerges.
Sandoval’s only GOP primary competition so far is Eddie Hamilton, a perennial candidate who has run three times for the U.S. Senate, as both a Republican and a Democrat.
Democrats hoped Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto or Miller would run for governor, but she refused and he has other plans.
Party leaders, including Reid, have urged Sisolak to run. He has been polling and holding focus groups, but hasn’t decided whether to campaign.
Segerblom, one of the Legislature’s most liberal members, may step up if Sisolak stands down.
Chris Hyepock, a political unknown who works in the gaming resort business, is running on the Democratic ticket with no party support.
David VanDerBeek is the Independent American Party candidate. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 2012.
Sandoval has endorsed state Sen. Mark Hutchison, anointing the man who may succeed him. Hutchison represented Nevada in its lawsuit against Obamacare, but he also voted for measures to implement the law as Sandoval set up a state health insurance exchange despite his and the governor’s opposition to it in principle.
Former state Sen. Sue Lowden, who lost the 2010 GOP Senate primary, is opposing Hutchison. The casino owner and executive, a former TV news personality, has high name recognition but also carries a lot of baggage from her debt-ridden failed Senate campaign.
On the Democratic side, Assemblywoman Lucy Flores is considering the race. She would be the state’s first Hispanic lieutenant governor and might block Sandoval from leaving office early.
Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins has said he might run, too. It’s unclear how serious the “cowboy commissioner” is about the race, however.
Miller, the son of Nevada’s longest-serving governor, has been running for attorney general like he is being chased by lions and bears. He has held several action-packed fundraisers, including an Oct. 30 “Rossapalooza” in Las Vegas that featured musical acts, celebrities, dancing, and roving animals.
Among state officials, Miller is the most active on social media, and he has 16,580 Twitter followers. His campaign said re-tweets by his celebrity friends often bring in buckets of cash from small donors.
He also enjoys support from the state’s big-money contributors.
What Miller has been building is a sense of inevitability as the strongest Democrat on the ticket.
But Miller will face a tough opponent well-financed by Republicans who would like to cut short his attempt to one day follow in his father’s footsteps.
Republicans are excited about Laxalt’s prospects, but the Las Vegas attorney didn’t seem to relish the spotlight earlier this year when news of his paternity made headlines. His mother, Michelle Laxalt, who raised him as a single parent, and former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-New Mexico, revealed that Domenici is his father.
Still, Laxalt appears to be warming to the idea of a political career.
“The attorney general of Nevada is the last line of defense against federal overreach, such as Obamacare, that kills Nevada jobs and stifles our economy,” Laxalt said in a statement. “I’m honored to have been mentioned as a possible candidate for such an important job. My family and I will take time over the holidays to think through this important decision.”
Another top GOP prospect is Greg Brower, a former U.S. attorney for Nevada and now a state senator. Midway through a four-year term, Brower would not have to give up his office to run.
Sandoval is expected to quickly endorse Laxalt or Brower when one gets into the race, anointing a candidate to reduce chances of a high-profile primary match-up.
Travis Barrick, a Las Vegas lawyer who lost to Cortez Masto in 2010, may also run.
SECRETARY OF STATE
This race is an example of political musical chairs.
State Treasurer Kate Marshall, unable to seek re-election because of term limits, is running for secretary of state. The Democrat has the advantage of being a familiar name, having been on the ballot statewide before. But she lost a special election for Congress in 2011 to Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.
On the Republican side, state Sen. Barbara Cegavske of Las Vegas is running after being termed-out in the Senate. Cegavske is endorsed by Sandoval and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who share political consultants aiming to run the election table in 2014.
Jordan Bradley, a small-business owner and political newcomer, also is running in the GOP primary.
Not many folks know the difference between state treasurer and controller. The treasurer sets investment policies and administers the Unclaimed Property Division and the Millennium Scholarship Program. The controller pays state debts and employee salaries and keeps accounting records, producing an annual statement of Nevada’s financial status.
It’s not unusual for a politician to have held both jobs. Thus, State Controller Kim Wallin, a certified public accountant and financial manager who is also a term-limited Democrat, decided to seek the treasurer’s post.
Dan Schwartz, a Republican businessman and Nevada Republican Party finance chairman, is running after failing to win a congressional seat in 2012. He has a broad financial background, having worked in both the United States and in Asia.
Assemblywoman Melissa Woodbury, R-Henderson, has been approached to run by party regulars.
Former Assemblyman Ron Knecht, R-Carson City, is running “as a plain-speaking nerd.” A widely known figure, he is now in his second term on the University of Nevada Board of Regents. In 2003, Knecht was a leader of the “Mean 15” Republicans who stopped a gross receipts tax.
Republican Barry Herr, who took 43 percent of the vote in losing to Wallen in 2010, may try again. The president of the Nevada Society of Certified Public Accountants also lost a Clark County Commission race in 2012.
On the Democratic side, Assemblyman Andrew Martin of Las Vegas is running. A certified public accountant, Martin is openly gay and recently married his partner in Washington, D.C. His short legislative career was blemished after a judge ruled he didn’t live in his district, but his legislative colleagues allowed him to take office, anyway.
Incumbents appear to have the edge in 2014, although Heck and Horsford expect robust challenges.
■ 1st Congressional District: Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., has yet to draw an opponent in her safe district in Southern Nevada. But Dr. Annette Teijeiro, a Republican who lost a state Senate race in 2012, has formed an exploratory committee and said she may run.
■ 2ND Congressional District: Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., has yet to draw an opponent in his vast rural, Northern Nevada district.
■ 3RD Congressional District: Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., is a prime national GOP target and is already under attack by outside groups as he defends Nevada’s most competitive House seat.
Registered Democratic voters have the edge in his district, where about half the population belongs to a minority group.
Heck is seeking a third two-year term.
Erin Bilbray, Nevada’s Democratic National Committeewoman, has come out swinging, attacking Heck as anti-woman and anti-American. Those broadsides fell flat against Heck, a doctor and Army reservist who served in Iraq.
Bilbray runs Emerge Nevada, which trains female candidates for public office. She also enjoys strong support from national and local Democrats, including Reid, and is expected to raise plenty of money.
■ 4TH Congressional District: Freshman Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., has focused a lot on the rural part of his vast district, which covers northern Clark County and all or part of seven rural counties.
Most of the population is in North Las Vegas and the district leans strongly Democratic, but the first African-American elected to Congress from Nevada must shore up support in the cow counties to withstand a GOP challenge.
Niger Innis, a tea party activist and conservative African-American, hopes to take on Horsford. Innis has a higher profile nationally than in Nevada, where he has lived for several years and runs an organization that educates immigrants. He is a national spokesman for C.O.R.E., a civil rights organization run by his father, and often appears on nationally televised conservative talk shows.
Assemblyman Cresent Hardy, R-Mesquite, is considering running to represent the district as well. Campaign consultant Erwin said Hardy is a better fit for the district than either Horsford or Innis, especially in the rurals. Hardy has the support of Sandoval and Heller, who lent their names to a Nov. 21 fundraiser.
In the Assembly, Democrats hold a 27-15 advantage over Republicans, who thanks to redistricting have no hope of taking control any time soon.
The state Senate is in play, however, with three competitive seats to watch. All three have a Democratic voter registration advantage ranging from about 500 voters to 5,000. Democrats now hold 11 of the 21 Senate seats, so Republicans need to gain just one to be in charge.
Senate Minority Leader Mike Roberson, R-Las Vegas, whose seat is in jeopardy, and his Republican Senate Caucus decided to endorse female candidates for two of the competitive seats. The goal is to gain more votes from women and independents as the GOP battles a reputation for being anti-woman.
In Senate District 8, Barbara Cegavske, the Senate’s only Republican woman, is running for lieutenant governor, so her seat will be open.
Businesswoman Patricia Farley, who owns a construction business and indoor play area for children, has been endorsed by the Senate GOP Caucus, while Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero Loop, D-Las Vegas, said she’s considering a run.
District 8 registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 789 voters at the end of October.
In Senate District No. 9, Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, is running for re-election. A freshman during the 2013 session, Jones chaired the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and made his mark by promoting more funding for mental health and pressing gun control legislation.
His GOP opponent may be attorney Becky Harris, who was endorsed by the Senate Republican caucus. A foreclosure mediation specialist, Harris lost an Assembly race in 2012.
Republican Vick Gill, a doctor who cut short a run in 2012, may try again.
Democrats enjoy a 5,327 voter registration advantage in the district.
In Senate District 20, Roberson faces a double threat to his seat and his ambition to become Senate majority leader.
In the GOP primary he will face Carl Bunce, who managed Ron Paul’s presidential campaign in Nevada. Bunce is considered a long shot, but he is a highly skilled grass-roots organizer who could give Roberson trouble.
Democrats have recruited Teresa Lowry, a Clark County assistant district attorney who oversees the Family Support Division.
This district’s Democratic voter registration advantage is a slim 514 voters.
Contact reporter Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387-2919. Follow her on Twitter @lmyerslvrj.