Nevada Republican Chairwoman Sue Lowden said Wednesday that she will step down from her party post to concentrate on her potential challenge to Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., in the 2010 election.
Lowden told the party’s executive committee of her plans to step down effective Sept. 30, but her interest in a possible challenge to Reid has been public for months.
She has raised money for polling, traveled the state seeking support and publicly criticized Reid in recent weeks.
But she stops short of saying she’ll challenge the Senate majority leader, who is seeking his fifth consecutive term in office, repeatedly insisting she is still testing the waters.
"I’m devoting more time to it, doing your due diligence to find out if you are a viable candidate requires an enormous amount of time," she said. "I can’t think of a more important time in our nation’s history for folks to step up and become candidates for what we believe in."
If she jumps in she would face Las Vegas resident Danny Tarkanian and potentially several other candidates in a Republican primary.
Recent polling by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research showed likely voters preferred Tarkanian to Reid 49 to 38 percent in a general election. The same poll showed Lowden ahead of Reid 45 to 40 percent.
The same poll also tested Republican candidates against each other in a potential primary. Of the likely Republican primary voters surveyed, 33 percent chose Tarkanian, 14 percent Lowden, 5 percent former assemblywoman Sharron Angle and 1 percent Reno attorney Chuck Kozak.
In the primary, Lowden would have to answer for the Republican party’s poor showing in recent elections, particularly in 2008 when Republican incumbents lost two state senate seats and a seat in congress.
Conservative activist Chuck Muth said he doesn’t think Lowden was at fault for the poor electoral showings.
"It is hard to lay all the blame at Sue’s foot," Muth said. "Every Republican chairman in the country had a bad November."
Lowden has more legislative experience than Tarkanian, having served as a state senator from 1992 to 1996.
Tarkanian has lost both of his previous runs for elected office, once to state Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, in 2004 and in 2006 to Democrat Ross Miller for secretary of state.
There are others who are also making noise about a potential challenge to Reid.
Nevada native and investment banker John Chachas has been seeking support nationally for a potential run against Reid. Chachas has a home in New York, but says he would return to his childhood hometown of Ely. Chachas’ family has been in Ely since the 1920s and he said he has a home and business interests in White Pine County.
"I am evaluating this in the most detailed way I can to determine if the capital and support I need to win a race are there," Chachas said.
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