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Nevada GOP chairwoman Tarkanian to step down Feb. 5

Nevada Republican Party Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian said Thursday that she will resign Feb. 5, the day after the GOP presidential caucus, to avoid a conflict of interest as husband Danny Tarkanian runs for Congress.

Her departure in the middle of an important election year will prompt a scramble by the state GOP to find a new leader, the fourth in two years, to raise money and rally Republicans.

Republican leaders said they were confident of a smooth transition. Amy Tarkanian has agreed to stay on through the Nevada caucus, the fifth in the nation and the first in the West. The GOP's executive and caucus directors are handling the state party's day-to-day affairs.

"We have a strong staff, and we have good county organizations throughout the state," said former Gov. Bob List, a GOP national committeeman. "So whoever the new chairman is that we settle upon will have enormous enthusiastic support from all over the state."

With his deep political ties and experience, Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki was immediately mentioned as a top candidate for the post. He is in his second term as lieutenant governor and served previously as state treasurer from 1997 to 2007.

Former Las Vegas City Councilman Michael McDonald, who expressed interest in the chairman's job in the fall, also is a potential candidate. Another is Jodi Stephens, executive director of the Nevada Senate Republican Caucus, which recruits GOP candidates.

"I was asked if it were something that I was interested in," Stephens said. "I said that if Brian doesn't do it, I would be interested. But I would absolutely throw my support to Brian Krolicki first."

Speculation also focused on former U.S. Rep. Jon Porter, a popular Republican who played a role in leading the Western Republican Leadership Conference in Las Vegas in the fall.

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who backed Amy Tarkanian as chair, will weigh in on a new leader as will U.S. Sen. Dean Heller. The Republican is running against U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., in a close race that could help decide whether Democrats maintain control of the Senate.

Tarkanian "staying on through the caucuses is helpful," said Mike Slanker, political adviser to Sandoval. "I think a February-March transition to a new chair will work fine."

Tarkanian's announcement comes days before Danny Tarkanian plans to launch his bid for Nevada's new congressional seat in a competitive Republican primary.

He has run for public office three times before, including a failed U.S. Senate bid in 2010. Amy Tarkanian has campaigned beside him each time, sometimes pushing a stroller and with her four children.

"Control of Congress is vital for the future of our country and the goals we have set for our party," Amy Tarkanian said in her resignation statement. "I believe I can best serve the Republican Party by helping take a congressional seat that the Democrats have already included as theirs."

Tarkanian was elected chairwoman last June after GOP Chairman Mark Amodei resigned to campaign for a U.S. House seat, which he won. She won a full two-year term in October.

Amodei had replaced Chris Comfort, a dentist who resigned after a tumultuous tenure. Comfort had replaced Sue Lowden at the end of 2009 after she resigned to run for the U.S. Senate, a race she lost in the primary.

During her short tenure, Tarkanian often met resistance from rank-and-file Republicans and some members of the GOP central committee and executive board. Republicans rejected her proposal to hold same-day voter registration for the caucus, for example, something that could boost participation.

Tarkanian said she left the party better than when she started, having raised more money in the past seven months than was raised during the past couple of years before she took the job -- about $500,000, including some funding from the Republican National Committee.

Danny Tarkanian's entry into the
4th Congressional District race sets up a GOP primary with state Sen. Barbara Cegavske, businessman Dan Schwartz and Kenneth Wegner, a retired Army veteran.

State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, is running for the 4th Congressional District too.

Democrats have a voter registration advantage of 11 percent over Republicans, giving him an edge in the race to represent the district, which covers parts of Clark County and six rural counties.

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Follow @lmyerslvrj on Twitter.

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