A lot of legislators had it easy two years ago, coasting to re-election totally unopposed.
Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, has made it her mission to prevent that from happening again in the candidate filing period that starts today.
Gansert has been working for months to recruit an opponent for every Democrat in the Assembly. Most of these challengers won’t stand much chance in heavily Democratic districts, but she doesn’t want anyone to get a free pass.
"I think it’s important for the voters to have a choice in all the elections," she said. "Republicans and Democrats are different. Even though our registration is lower in many of the districts, there are a lot of people — Republicans, independents and even Democrats — who don’t prefer the incumbent in that district."
In 2006, 14 lawmakers ran unopposed, including seven Democratic Assembly members. Another three were Republican Assembly members, including Gansert, while four were state senators.
Seven more Democrats in the Assembly had no Republican opposition and faced only a primary opponent or minor-party candidate.
The two-week filing period for declarations of candidacy goes through May 16. All 42 seats in the Assembly and 10 of 21 in the state Senate are up for election.
Only a few seats have come open so far: Senate District 7, vacated by Dina Titus, who is running for Congress; Assembly District 5, vacated by Valerie Weber, who is running for County Commission; Assembly District 23, vacated by RoseMary Womack, who is retiring; Assembly District 29, vacated by Susan Gerhardt, also retiring; and Assembly District 41, vacated by David Parks, who is running for Titus’ state Senate seat.
Republicans are fielding an opponent, Joe Locatelli, against state Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, and hope to run candidates against Parks and Sen. Valerie Weiner, D-Las Vegas, but Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, and Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, might be able to breathe easy.
Democrats are focusing on the candidacy of Allison Copening to unseat state Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, and Titus said last week an opponent is preparing to go up against Sen. Joe Heck, R-Henderson. Other Republicans running this year are Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon; Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora; and Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, who appears to be running for re-election at age 82.
As for the Republicans in the Assembly, Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said she has not been focused on making sure they all have a race.
"As a general rule, we like to focus on getting serious candidates who want to make a difference in our state and getting them trained and prepped on the issues so that they can win," she said. "We’re not just looking for warm bodies to fill spots."
The incomplete state Republican convention had plenty of problems. But the gathering managed to pass a party platform with minimum fuss.
Unfortunately, it’s not a platform top Republican elected officials are on board with.
The 20-plank platform bears the clear stamp of presidential candidate Ron Paul, whose supporters have become perhaps the largest and most active grass-roots voice in the party. In the spirit of a "literal interpretation of the U.S. Constitution," it calls for the repeal of the Federal Reserve Act and a return to "gold and/or silver backed currency"; repeal of the Patriot Act; and withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations and NAFTA.
Some of these positions run counter to the national Republican platform, and none are supported by at least two Republican members of Nevada’s congressional delegation.
Spokesmen for Sen. John Ensign and Rep. Jon Porter confirmed Friday that both want to keep the Federal Reserve and the Patriot Act and both favor staying in NAFTA. Porter also favors staying in the U.N., while an Ensign spokesman did not know the senator’s position on that issue.
Porter believes that such institutions "have been critical to the security and stability of the United States," spokesman Matt Leffingwell said.
"The congressman has taken an independent position on several issues during his tenure in Congress," Leffingwell said. "He believes the positions he has taken have accurately represented the views of his constituents."
Ensign spokesman Tory Mazzola noted that the senator favors holding the U.N. accountable by conditionally withholding U.S. funding. He stressed that a few disagreements should not be seen as putting Ensign at odds with his own party.
"Platforms are platforms, but people we agree with 80 percent of the time are our friends," Mazzola noted.
The office of Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., did not return calls and e-mails Friday.
REID ALL ABOUT IT
With this month’s release of his book, "The Good Fight," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is planning a promotion tour that will include a guest spot tonight on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" on the Comedy Central cable network.
It will be Reid’s first guest appearance on the late-night "fake news" program. He’ll no doubt be hoping for a fresh start with Stewart, who in April 2007 referred to the Nevadan as "my drunk Uncle McFeelyhands" for a clip in which Reid put his hand on the shoulder of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Reid also is scheduled to appear during the week on CNN and give interviews to a variety of print, radio and television outlets primarily in New York City and Washington, D.C., according to spokesman Jon Summers.
On Thursday, Reid is scheduled to be interviewed at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, and he will appear the next day at the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Reid already has posted an excerpt from the book on The Huffington Post. The book describes his hardscrabble upbringing in Searchlight and his career in Congress.
… AND COUNTING
Democrats’ voter registration advantage statewide topped the 50,000 mark for the first time last week, according to statistics from the Secretary of State’s office.
As of Thursday, there were 448,195 active registered Democrats and 397,904 Republicans, a Democratic edge of 50,291.
That was up from an edge of 45,187 at the end of March.
Stephens Washington Bureau writer Tony Batt contributed to this report. Contact reporter Molly Ball at mball @reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919.