And then there were two.
Retired U.S. Navy Comdr. Kirk S. Lippold on Thursday became the second Republican to enter the 2012 race to replace Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., in what is shaping up to be a competitive GOP primary for the open seat.
The Carson City native said he decided to make his first run at public office so he could continue to serve his country and because other potential candidates are career politicians or perennial contenders.
“I’m not a serial campaigner,” said Lippold, 51. “After retiring after 26 years in the Navy, I thought it was time to get back into the service of our nation again. Over time, I think people will get to know who I am and what I stand for.”
Lippold is widely recognized in military circles as the former top officer of the USS Cole when it was bombed by al-Qaida operatives in Yemen a decade ago. Seventeen sailors were killed.
A Navy investigation concluded Lippold and his crew probably could not have prevented the attack, but the commander remained under a cloud. A Navy board recommended him for promotion to captain in 2002, but the Senate would not confirm it.
Jockeying began for Heller’s 2nd Congressional District after he announced March 15 that he would run to replace retiring U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. A bevy of Republicans and Democratic contenders swiftly began eying the seat.
The next day, Sharron Angle became the first Republican to jump into the House race. The Tea Party favorite is trying for a comeback after losing her last three elections, including a 2010 bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Harry Reid. A former state assemblywoman from Reno, Angle in 2006 lost the GOP primary to Heller and then lost a state Senate race in 2008
Lippold said he, too, supports Tea Party ideals, including small government, less spending and less taxes. He plans to speak at a Tea Party rally today in Carson City while Angle will be addressing a similar Las Vegas gathering.
“I embrace the Tea Party and the principles that it stands for,” Lippold said, even as he held out hope that the GOP establishment in Nevada would embrace him. “I hope they see I’m the best candidate to win this race.”
Lippold has strong international credentials. He disagrees with President Barack Obama’s policy on Libya, where NATO and other countries have taken the lead while President Moammar Gadhafi remains in power.
“I think the president has abdicated a leadership role in that entire affair,” Lippold said.
The 2nd Congressional District covers all of Northern and rural Nevada and a bit of Clark County in the south. It’s been a safe GOP seat for three decades, although it could be redrawn to be less Republican-friendly this year.
State and national Republican leaders hope Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki seeks Heller’s seat. Krolicki is close to Heller and to Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. Krolicki had been thinking about a Senate run before Heller announced.
Krolicki, who presides over the state Senate, on Thursday postponed any decision about the House race until after the Legislature wraps up, likely in June.
“Now is not the proper time for a final decision to enter this race and to begin an all-consuming campaign,” Krolicki said in a statement, noting he was re-elected last year. “In fact, I think it would be irresponsible to do so.”
Mark Amodei, a former state senator and chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, also is leaning toward getting into the race.
State Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, who was appointed to finish Bill Raggio’s term, is another potential contender.
“I think they’ll all be in,” said Robert Uithoven, a GOP operative. “It looks like the CD2 race is in full gear.”
On the Democratic side, the party sees an opening because a competitive primary could leave a wounded Republican for the general election and redistricting may cut the GOP advantage.
Democrats are wooing State Treasurer Kate Marshall to run. Jill Derby, a former party official and higher education official, also may jump in. She nearly beat Heller in 2006 and also ran in 2008.
Secretary of State Ross Miller and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, both Democrats, made it clear on Thursday they aren’t interested.
Contact Laura Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2919.