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April 18, 2014

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A history-making gubernatorial race

Imagine a marathon with only one runner visible on the course, quietly making her way, trying to make history.

Imagine that the most recent winner of the race has stumbled badly off the track, tripped over his own feet and fallen down, presumably taking himself out of contention.

And now imagine another runner, not even considered a possible entrant in the field, suddenly declaring an interest and sprinting into contention in another potentially history-making bid.

Welcome to the 2010 gubernatorial race, well under way as Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, seeking to become the first female Nevada governor, publicly has been downplaying her interest while privately putting out the word that she is running. Speculation about her candidacy only grew after her spirited rebuttal to Gov. Jim Gibbons on Special Session Eve, lambasting an incumbent who is widely seen as a lame duck only 18 months into his term because of his abominable approval ratings and bizarre personal conduct.

Buckley seemed to be the only Democrat with serious designs on the Governor’s Mansion and thus has been considered the early favorite. Until now.

Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid, who few thought might be interested in the race, has signaled his possible candidacy by hiring a national pollster to survey his chances. And judging by the results obtained a couple of weeks ago by The Mellman Group, a Democratic firm that has done work for Rep. Shelley Berkley and Sen. Harry Reid, Reid the Younger’s enthusiasm can have only grown:

In a survey of 601 statewide voters (margin of error about 4 percent), Reid defeated Gibbons by a landslide — 49 percent to 32 percent. Although some might argue that anyone with a pulse — and some without one — could show well against Gibbons, this is the first public confirmation for Republicans that, barring a miraculous reanimation, the party better start looking for alternatives.

If the general election numbers pleased Reid, imagine his delight when he saw the primary match-up with the speaker: Reid, 51 percent; Buckley, 20 percent. Granted, the sample size was halved, so the margin of error nearly doubled. But that is a stunning lead.

Even though it is “very early,” as Reid put it, he clearly was encouraged by the poll numbers. “I try to have as much information as possible before I make decisions,” he said. “I am seriously considering it.”

As for this being early, Reid would be starting about six months earlier than Gibbons did, but four months later than Kenny “The Anointed One” Guinn did when he ran. Reid undoubtedly wanted to put a damper on the early Buckley boomlet and declare not only that he is interested, but also that he could defeat her. I am sure Madame Speaker will be thrilled.

The wild card for Reid the Younger’s candidacy is whether Reid the Elder’s being concurrently on the ballot would cause a problem for either of them. Reid asked Mellman to try to measure The Two Reids Effect and the pollster found that more than two-thirds of the electorate said it would make no difference in either race. That had to be heartening for the commissioner, but I wonder if The Two Reids Effect will be more of a factor as the election draws nearer.

A state with a governor and a senator from the same family at the same time? Now that’s history. But is it the kind of history that Nevadans would embrace or reject?

Neither Reid would want to assume the other’s baggage but the elder certainly has accumulated more and will be a national target should he seek reelection two years hence. Reid the Younger would not want to diminish his father’s chances. But he has rejected his dad’s counsel before — Reid the Elder advised his son not to run for the County Commission, telling him it was like quicksand for political ambitions.

Reid the Younger ignored him then and may discover whether his father was right in 2010. The commissioner has $400,000 in the bank from his nonrace last cycle, and he can continue to raise money, but Buckley will be barred by law from doing so during next year’s four-month session.

Yes, we are at the equivalent of the five-mile marker in this marathon. Other runners may appear on the course as the race continues, others may drop out and Gibbons could get a rejuvenating jolt from the 2009 session. But what Reid’s revelation tells us is that all the GOP fears about their incumbent are justified and that Buckley may have some competition in the race to become 2010’s Anointed One.

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