Rep.-elect Mark Amodei emulates the same conservatism as most Republicans in the House: small government, less federal regulation and vows to not increase taxes.
But unlike some of his freshman colleagues who are political neophytes, the newest Congressman from Nevada is a former state party chairman and spent more than a decade in the Nevada Legislature, with stints in both chambers.
Amodei won Tuesday’s special election in the 2nd district with 58 percent — a blowout victory against Democratic state Treasurer Kate Marshall, who garnered just 36 percent.
The election centered on entitlement programs such as Medicare, federal budgeting and how to boost the Silver State’s economy.
“The voters of Nevada have sent a message. The message is it is time to start a change,” Amodei told 200 supporters Tuesday night at the Eldorado Hotel in Reno, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
He attributed his sweeping victory to the country’s sour mood. “People vote their pocketbooks,” Amodei said, according to the newspaper.
Amodei’s win, though, came as little surprise: Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by almost 32,000 in the district, which has not elected a Democrat since it was drawn after the 1980 census.
Moreover, national Democrats, who recruited Marshall into the race and initially touted her candidacy, abandoned the race weeks ago and ultimately chose not to devote any significant resources to it. The National Republican Congressional Committee spent about $600,000 on the race early in an effort to define Marshall. The NRCC’s ads tied Marshall to President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), while Marshall did her best to avoid promoting her party affiliation.
Amodei succeeds Sen. Dean Heller (R), who was appointed to fill the vacancy created by Republican John Ensign’s resignation. The massive 2nd district takes in vast rural areas outside Las Vegas and its suburbs, stretching to include Reno and Carson City. The district is not expected to change dramatically when new lines go into effect for the 2012 election. It is likely to remain a Republican-leaning seat.
Heller congratulated Amodei on Tuesday night.
“Mark will be a strong voice in the halls of Congress to help place our nation back on track and get Nevadans working again,” he said in a statement.
Amodei received a political science degree from the University of Nevada in 1980 and a law degree in 1983 from Pacific McGeorge Law School, which is part of the University of the Pacific. He served in the Army for four years as a JAG officer.
His legal experience — he also served as a special U.S. attorney and a partner in a firm in Nevada — would make the Judiciary Committee a logical fit for Amodei, and the panel currently has a vacancy.
The Natural Resources Committee would also be suitable for the incoming Congressman. He briefly served as president of the Nevada Mining Association, a post that stirred criticism as a potential conflict of interest because of his seat in the state Senate.
Amodei was first elected to the Nevada Assembly in 1996, was elected to the state Senate in 1998 and left the state Legislature in 2010 because of term limits.
He briefly entered the 2010 GOP primary to challenge Reid, but he soon dropped out. Most recently, Amodei was the chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, resigning in May to run for the Congressional seat.
The Nevada race was one of two House special elections held Tuesday and caught national attention early for the potential of a “battle royal” format that would have allowed an all-party, free-for-all in the election.
But a Carson City district judge in May overturned an earlier ruling and allowed political parties to choose their nominees.
Nearly 90 percent of the 2nd district’s land is federally owned. Amodei wants to look at a new federal water policy, requiring a “fair allocation” of water from the Colorado River.
On fiscal and tax issues, Amodei should be a reliable GOP vote. He supports a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, wants to abolish the estate tax, and would like to make permanent the tax cuts enacted under the George W. Bush administration.