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Tea Partyer new county GOP leader

The Tea Party takeover of the Clark County Republican Party is complete.

Frank Ricotta, a leader of the Tea Party movement in Nevada, this week was elected chairman of the Clark County Republican Party after a year of turmoil and turnover as like-minded conservatives began replacing more moderate establishment GOP types.

With early voting starting in three weeks on Oct. 16, Ricotta said Friday the party is focused on making sure it turns out as many voters as possible to counter the Democratic Party machine.

“We’ve already been out there working hard for a while,” he said. “We think we’ll do well.”

Ricotta had been director of the Nevada Patriots, one of the Tea Party-aligned groups that have grown during the past year, from 75 to 500 members in the case of his organization.

Tuesday night, the Clark County Republican Central Committee elected Ricotta chairman after undergoing a Tea Party-infused transformation. The vote came nearly a year and a half after Ricotta joined the Clark County GOP and began organizing coalition groups as a member of its executive board.

In a statement after his election, Ricotta offered an open invitation for voters of various stripes to join the GOP in the state’s largest county that’s key to winning any statewide race.

“There’s no reason for any registered Republican in Clark County not to be a member,” he said. “The doors are open to any Tea Party member, any conservative, and any independent who wants to join us.”

Ricotta’s rise could provide a boost to the U.S. Senate campaign of Sharron Angle, the Tea Party-backed conservative challenging the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Harry Reid. The close race could come down to who gets out more votes in Clark County where two-thirds of Nevadans live.

Reid and the Nevada Democratic Party are highly organized and closely coordinating efforts to get out the vote, while the Republican Party in Nevada has been riven by divisions and poor leadership.

Ron Futrell, former spokesman for the Clark County Republican Party, was among a group of officials who resigned around the same time in late 2009 . Some of them left for personal reasons but others because they were upset with the Tea Party takeover and felt disenfranchised. Futrell left so he could concentrate on running a couple GOP campaigns. He considers himself part of the Tea Party movement.

“The Tea Party takeover in Clark County mirrors what we’re seeing across the country,” Futrell said. “And I think it mirrors the mood of the country, so I think it’s a natural development.”

Mark Amodei, the chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, is a moderate and doesn’t consider himself a Tea Party member. But like many party leaders he has embraced the movement. He said the anti-big government conservatives have fired up voters opposed to Democratic policies.

“Frankly, we don’t have the resources the other guys do and so this helps us get out the vote,” Amodei said. “No, I’m not part of the Tea Party movement, but I am a Nevada Republican and it’s our job to elect our candidates. Whether you’re this flavor or that flavor, unless you get elected you can’t do anything with your platform. And we have a pretty good platform.”

Amodei said he believes swing nonpartisan voters will get behind the GOP platform focused on cutting federal spending and taxes, stances that are polling well this election cycle.

Still, some prominent establishment Republicans are backing Reid, arguing the state can’t afford to lose the powerful Senate majority leader and that Angle, as a freshman, can’t do much for Nevada.

The Nov. 2 election will decide whether the Tea Party or tenure win out.

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919.

 

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