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November 28, 2014

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Fire from their own party isn’t friendly

Two in Assembly face rivals in GOP primary — in one case, three

Name recognition, party support and a fundraising edge typically make the return trip to Carson City a smooth one for incumbent lawmakers. But the road to reelection could be bumpy for two Assembly Republicans, Francis Allen and Bob Beers.

Potential potholes awaiting the incumbents include opposition from conservatives and, in Allen’s case, allegations she stabbed her husband in the arm with a steak knife in May.

Both have drawn challengers in the Republican primary, on Aug. 12. If they survive, Allen and Beers will face in November Democratic candidates — Craig Ballew and Ellen Spiegel, respectively — who are running unopposed for their party’s nomination.

“Incumbency is very, very powerful,” says Beers, an author and graphic artist whose District 21 takes in a chunk of Henderson. “Historically, it’s proven very difficult to beat the incumbent. It gives you a bully pulpit.”

That logic will be tested on primary day.

Neither Allen nor Beers is a favorite of party leaders. But the state caucus is backing them as it would any incumbent.

Allen, whose District 4 includes parts of Summerlin, will face three Republican upstarts in the primary: Andrew Brownson, Flo Jones and Richard McArthur.

She will also face accusations she’s not a “real conservative.” One of her opponents is already trying to make that case.

“I think people are looking for a good Republican candidate — quite literally someone who behaves like a Republican, rather than being a centrist,” says the Brownson, 35, a waiter at the MGM Grand. “I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t think I had a shot in what is largely considered an open race at this point.”

Brownson isn’t alone in his criticism. One former party leader believes Allen is too cozy with the Democratic majority in the Assembly.

“I’d go right up to the edge of endorsing a Democrat against Francis Allen,” says conservative blogger Chuck Muth, a former executive director of the state party.

Allen could not be reached for comment.

But Allen, despite facing a charge of battery domestic violence with use of a deadly weapon, might have an easier path to the nomination than Beers. Any anti-Allen sentiment will be splintered among three Republican challengers, while Beers’ lone primary opponent is Jon Ozark.

Jones, a 69-year-old retired teacher, acknowledges that by dividing the primary vote, she might be helping Allen.

“The more candidates, the better (for the incumbent) in a tough primary,” says Ryan Erwin, a Republican consultant representing the state caucus.

Beers, 57, claims he isn’t worried about the challenge from Ozark. State party leaders, however, acknowledge he is vulnerable.

“Beers is kind of a maverick,” says Erwin, citing the assemblyman’s involvement in the tip-sharing dispute between management and dealers at Wynn Las Vegas. “He’s his own man and hasn’t always ingratiated himself to traditional Republican support.”

Ozark, like Brownson, hopes to appeal to the party’s core conservatives. And Muth thinks there’s plenty of political territory for Ozark to claim.

For Assembly Democrats, Muth says, Beers has been a “useful idiot.”

“He’s very naïve politically. He would put his name on Democratic bills, which could allow Democrats a chance to say (the bills) are bipartisan,” Muth says.

Beers says he is a conservative, but not beholden to the party line.

“People like Chuck Muth don’t like people who are not puppets,” Beers says.

Defending his stances that have run counter to party positions, Beers says he represents his entire district, not just its Republicans. “Should I tell the independents and the Democrats that they don’t matter, that their needs mean nothing? Should I do that?”

That kind of rhetoric might resonate more during the general election campaign, provided Beers makes it that far.

Meanwhile, Spiegel — the presumptive Democratic nominee — sharpens her platform and knocks on door after door preparing for whoever survives the Republican primary.

“Obviously, it benefits her to have (the Republicans) beat each other up,” says Elizabeth Trosper, a political consultant whose firm is representing Spiegel. “Of course it helps.”

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