Amodei enters race, wants Reid’s Senate seat

The crowd of people who want Sen. Harry Reid’s job just added another member, state Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City.

On Wednesday Amodei announced he’ll run for the seat occupied by Reid, the Senate majority leader.

During a low-key and jovial announcement at the World Market Center in downtown Las Vegas, Amodei presented himself as a candidate with a winning record willing to stand behind his votes, even if people in his own party disagree.

“The person who can beat Harry Reid is the person who can put Republican votes together with independent votes together with what I call Nevada Democrats, and those are folks who are prepared to vote for a candidate who they think will do a good job and represent their core values,” Amodei said. “I look forward to that discussion.”

Specifically, Amodei said he stands behind his decision in 2003 to join Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, on a proposal that would have used new taxes to raise an estimated $900 million in revenue over two years.

The plan included taxes on some services, increased sin taxes, increased room taxes and an increase on some gambling taxes.

It was an alternative to a proposal backed by then-Gov. Kenny Guinn, a Republican, that would have relied on a gross receipts tax.

Amodei says he’s got no problem defending his position to Republican primary voters who don’t cotton to new taxes.

He said he’d start by contrasting himself with colleagues who hew to hard-line, anti-tax rhetoric but vote in favor of big spending budgets.

“I think it is an act of cowardice to say I do not want government to have the money to run government but I want them to spend the money to run government,” Amodei said during an interview after the announcement. “We’ll find out if that has traction in this age of spin, dogma and lines in the sand.”

The Republican primary field so far is a crowded one.

It includes former University of Nevada Las Vegas basketball star Danny Tarkanian, who is the leader in early polls. Following Tarkanian in the polls is Nevada Republican party chairwoman Sue Lowden, who has yet to formally announce her campaign.

Behind those two are former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, Reno attorney Chuck Kozak and banker John Chachas, who has yet to formally enter the race.

Republican strategist Pete Ernaut, who isn’t working with any of the primary candidates, says the crowded field could present problems for whoever emerges to take on Reid, who despite having an approval rating below 40 percent in recent polls expects to raise as much as $25 million to secure his fifth consecutive term in the Senate.

“Taking on Harry Reid is a tough enough chore on its own,” Ernaut said. Depleting your resources on a contested primary between three or four pretty decent candidates isn’t a good beginning.”

Amodei says he’s aware Tarkanian and Lowden are at the top of the polls and have attracted attention from out-of-state interests looking to support the candidate they think has the best chance to defeat Reid.

But he says anyone who suggests official support from national Republicans is already lining up behind a specific primary candidate is speaking out of school, and is probably carrying water for the candidate.

“That’s part of the horse race,” Amodei said.

Brian Walsh, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Amodei is correct to say national party officials aren’t rallying behind a primary candidate publicly or behind-the-scenes.

“From our perspective there are several credible, well qualified candidates,” Walsh said. “At this point in time we are letting that process play itself out.”

University of Nevada, Reno political science professor Eric Herzik said the result of the Republican primary will provide insight to the future viability of the state Republican party.

“This is the issue the Republican party has to come to grips with. If an experienced legislator like Amodei who has voted against taxes but also voted for them is unacceptable, then the party is creating this extreme position of no taxes and really no government that just hasn’t proven to work with the electorate,” said Herzik, who has had Amodei speak to his students.

Herzik says he’s not sure if Republican primary voters will embrace or reject Amodei’s strategy of refusing to stick to a party line.

“He is very candid, pragmatic and he’ll tell you what he thinks and if you don’t like it, fine,” he said.

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861.

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