The biggest political story to come out of Nevada last week was that 2010 Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle signaled she would seek her party’s nomination for the U.S. House in the soon-to-be-open 2nd District in 2012.
In fact, given the national attention on Angle’s close-but-losing race against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev. ) last year, her decision to run for the seat of Republican Rep. Dean Heller (who is running to succeed outgoing GOP Sen. John Ensign) was the major item on political blogs and websites across the country last week.
On the surface, former state legislator and conservative stalwart Angle looks like a major contender for the House. She won a crowded Senate primary with ease, built up a list of donors from all 50 states, and no doubt has residual name recognition approaching 100% in the Reno-based 2nd District. Many who watched her televised debate with Reid still vividly recall her famous retort: “Man up, Harry Reid.”
In addition, the feisty lady from Nevada—who unabashedly opposes abortion under all circumstances and has called for abolishing the Department of Education—still has a warm spot in the hearts of conservatives nationwide. Last month, she was introduced from the audience at a Washington dinner honoring the late conservative leader Paul Weyrich and drew a prolonged ovation.
But is Angle a cinch to go to Congress in 2012? Hardly.
“What the bloggers and political junkies are forgetting is that Nevada, like all the other states, is going through redistricting and that will mean some big changes,” said a Las Vegas political consultant who requested anonymity. “Republicans will control the redistricting process and they want to protect [freshman Rep.] Joe Heck in the 3rd District. That will mean giving some of the rural turf from the 2nd—the same area that has given Sharron her strongest backing in primaries over the years.” (In ’06, Angle lost a primary for Congress to Heller by fewer than 500 votes and in ’08 lost a primary challenge to state senate GOP leader William Raggio).
The same source added that Republican lawmakers wielding the redistricting knife “are more likely to help Joe [Heck] than they are to help Sharron.”
Angle will almost surely face several primary opponents. Her chief challenger is likely to be former state Sen. Mark Amodei of Carson City, who is state party chairman. Amodei is described as being as conservative as Angle, but different stylistically.
Other possible Republican candidates include Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, and former U.S. Attorney Greg Brower, who was just appointed to the state senate seat that old Angle nemesis Raggio resigned.
An intriguing prospect is retired naval officer Kirk Lippold, onetime commander of the U.S.S. Cole that was bombed by Arab terrorists. Lippold, who considered a challenge to Reid last year, is a popular speaker at service clubs and other organizations in northern Nevada and reportedly anxious to run for office.
Democrats are very likely to field a strong candidate in the 2nd District, and their most-mentioned contender is State Treasurer Kate Marshall.
Will Sharron Angle be a heavyweight contender in the sure-to-be-watched race for Congress in the 2nd District next year? Absolutely. Is she a sure thing? As they say in this gambling state, don’t bet the ranch on it.