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Big Trouble in Little GOP-land for Raggio

In the last election, Republicans in the state Senate lost two seats – Sens. Bob Beers and Joe Heck – which also cost the GOP its majority. Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio was reduced to the rank of Minority Leader while Democrat Sen. Steven Horsford moved into the big office with a 12-9 governing majority.

Look for things to get even worse next year.

Sen. Warren Hardy has resigned and his seat is anything but secure. GOP caucus leaders are trying to bequeath that seat to liberal Assemblyman Joe Hardy – who voted for the largest tax hike in the state’s history in 2003 and followed that up by voting for the third largest tax hike in 2009. So make book on a divisive moderate-vs.-conservative primary fight next June.

Ditto the re-elect race for Sen. Dennis “The Menace” Nolan. This Republican In Name Only (RINO) could be facing a moderate-vs.-conservative challenge from Assemblyman Chad Christensen – unless Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert quits to run for governor (Run Heidi, run!). If that happens, Chad might well decide to stay in the Assembly and run for Gansert’s vacant Minority Leader position. But even if that scenario plays out, Nolan – a major league tax-hiking nanny-stater if there ever was one – will still likely get a tough primary challenger.

State Sens. Randolph Townsend, Mark Amodei and Maurice Washington are all termed out, and expensive and divisive (and much-needed) moderate-vs.-conservative primaries are already shaping up in all three races. Because of the potential for primary blood to be spilled, none of those seats are slam dunks for GOP retention.

Meanwhile, the only potentially vulnerable Democrat in the state Senate right now is perhaps the seat of Sen. Joyce Woodhouse. (No, Joey Gilbert is not a serious threat to take Democrat Sen. Bernice Mathews’ seat.) But with just seven months to go before filing, no powerhouse Republican has stepped forward to express even passing interest in challenging the vulnerable freshman Democrat.

Which brings us to next year’s barn-burner.

You’ll pardon Republican state Sen. Barbara Cegavske if she’s constantly looking over her shoulder these days, as she has a bright red bulls-eye painted on it by Nevada Democrats who are still salivating over their political kills named Beers and Heck in ‘08. And you can bet they’re ready to load up with at least another million buckaroos and a laundry list of lies to take out Cegavske next year. And that doesn’t even include the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands TV mogul Jim Rogers is threatening to pump into rubbing out the conservative Republican.

Making matters even worse for Cegavske is that unlike in the Beers and Heck races last year, the D’s appear to have recruited a candidate who’s not an airhead. Jon Ralston linked to Tammy Peterson’s website HERE yesterday afternoon.

Now, if you’re a Republican candidate you should especially visit the Tamster’s website. At this point, it’s only one page – but it simply and clearly lays out the reasons why she’s running. And it’s textbook.

Sure, it’s liberal pap – “I am running for the State Senate to make sure every Nevada child can have health insurance” and “using Nevada’s abundant natural resources to put people back to work in new green jobs” – but it’s personal, relevant and powerful.

And she doesn’t hesitate to take some shots against the purported leader of the opposition – “But that’s just what the Governor did. And I am not going to stand for it.”

However, a Peterson challenge to Cegavske might not be the worst thing for Republicans. You see, there’s still the possibility that Cegavske – currently the only remaining movement conservative in the Senate – could opt to run for a constitutional office next year instead. Which would mean Republicans would have to defend this seat without the advantages of incumbency. In other words, probably kiss it good-bye.

Which means Democrats could conceivably hold all of their incumbent seats and pick up at least three R seats to give them a veto-proof 15-6 majority. In fact, they could still get a 14-seat veto-proof majority even if they do lose the Woodhouse seat.

But there is light at the end of this tunnel for Republicans.

Just kidding. No, there’s not.