NEVADA: NRSC Chief Headlines Gibbons’ Fundraiser
Adding fuel to the speculative political fires, Rep. Jim Gibbons (R) began his 2004 cycle fundraising efforts Wednesday with a special guest of honor at a Capitol Hill luncheon: National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman George Allen (Va.).
Dismissing it as an otherwise “ordinary, run of the mill fundraiser,” Gibbons said he just wanted his donors to be able to get an update on what was happening in the Senate from one of the chamber’s leading voices.
But Gibbons admitted the event would lead many Silver State political observers to wonder if this is the latest sign that Gibbons is gearing up for a run at Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (D) next year.
“I’m flattered by the speculation,” he said.
With the March 31 fundraising reports just around the corner, Gibbons said he expected to post “roughly” $500,000 in cash on hand, although it could be larger.
“We’re trying to change that Wednesday,” he said.
At the end of 2002, Gibbons had $445,000 on hand.
Reid had $1.3 million on hand at the end of the year, and aides said this week that his take by the end of the month should be $2 million.
Despite the pressures of fundraising for statewide races, Gibbons said no decision on the Senate race will come for months.
“Any decision on this will be made in late summer,” he said, noting that global events are forcing many Members to focus on matters other than their own futures. “It’s not time to be out there talking about political careers.”
And Gibbons believes he is under no pressure to make a quick decision, given his popular standing in a district that represents a third of Nevada’s population and geographically covers far more than 90 percent of the state.
“I don’t have to make a decision on this right away,” he said. “I have a luxury of sitting back and making those decisions.”
Still, Allen would like to at least get a heads-up about Gibbons’ intentions.
“We feel that he is the best candidate,” the NRSC chairman said, pointing to a recent GOP poll that places Gibbons within striking distance of Reid, 46 percent to 40 percent, before the race even begins.
— Paul Kane
Former Candidate Cops To Finance Violations
Former Congressional candidate Walt Roberts (D) pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance regulations in his 1998 congressional race against then-Rep. Wes Watkins (R).
Roberts, a rancher and former state legislator, accepted more than $175,000 in illegal campaign contributions in the race.
Contributors were reimbursed for their donations and Roberts falsely reported the sources of his personal campaign contributions.
He will be sentenced July 15 and could face up to one year in prison.
Roberts was touted as a strong challenger to Watkins in the politically marginal 3rd district but ran a lackluster race and lost badly, 62 percent to 38 percent.
After facing little opposition in 2000, Watkins announced his retirement in 2002 and his district was subsequently eliminated in the redistricting process.
— Chris Cillizza
It’s Not That Easy Being Green in State House Bill
Irked by the influence the Green Party has held in past state and federal elections, the Democratic-controlled state House passed legislation this week making it more difficult for the Greens to qualify as a major party in future elections.
The bill, which was sponsored by state House Speaker Ben Lujan (D), would require the Greens to have membership equivalent to 10 percent of registered voters statewide.
In the event the bill becomes law, the Green Party would have to increase its voter registration by more than 80,000.
Beginning in a 1997 special election in the 3rd district, the Green Party has exerted a large influence on Congressional races in the state.
In that race, Green Party candidate Carol Miller took 17 percent of the vote, allowing Bill Redmond (R) to win the race with 43 percent of the vote despite the Democratic tilt of the seat. Rep. Tom Udall (D) won the seat from Redmond in 1998.
In a 1998 special election in the 1st district, Rep. Heather Wilson (R) won 45 percent to 40 percent for her Democratic challenger. Bob Anderson, the Green Party nominee, took 15 percent. In the 1998 November election, Anderson took 10 percent as Wilson won a full term with 48 percent.
In 1994, the Green Party candidate for governor took 10 percent of the vote in a year when the Republican candidate defeated incumbent Gov. Bruce King (D) by 10 points.
Dorgan Stays Popular, According to New Poll
Despite the Republican lean of the state, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) remains an extremely popular figure, according to a new Democratic poll.
Dorgan, who has held elected office in the state since 1969, had a very strong 72 percent favorable rating to 21 percent unfavorable in the Penn, Schoen & Berland survey.
Dorgan’s job approval numbers were similarly stellar, with 78 percent of those tested approving of the job he has done since being elected in 1992 and only 18 percent disapproving.
The poll was in the field Feb. 18 and tested 400 likely voters. It had a 5 percent margin of error.
The numbers may put a damper on the recruitment of former Gov. Ed Schafer (R), who is seen as the one Republican that could give Dorgan a real run.
Schafer has repeatedly denied that he is interested in the race, but Republican sources believe there is still a chance that he will opt in. Schafer served as governor from 1992 to 2000.
Burr District Won’t Be Gray Area Next Year
Former state Rep. Lyons Gray (R) took himself out of contention for the open 5th district seat, saying he could do more good by remaining in the community.
It would have been Gray’s second run in the 5th district. In 1988, he challenged then-Rep. Stephen Neal (D), losing 53 percent to 47 percent despite nearly equaling Neal’s fundraising.
Gray’s connection to C. Boyden Gray, his first cousin who was then a top aide to George H.W. Bush, helped his fundraising in that race and would have been key in a 2004 contest.
The field to replace Rep. Richard Burr (R), who is vacating the seat to run for the Senate, remains wide open.
Among the Republican candidates mentioned are Winston-Salem City Councilman Vernon Robinson, Forsyth County Commissioner Pete Brunstetter and former state Rep. Ed Powell.
No Democrats have announced in this strongly Republican district.