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April 18, 2014

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JON RALSTON:

Hello, Campaign 2010: Handicapping the field in the races for governor, U.S. senator

The best thing about election seasons is that one always seamlessly slides right into another.

Today is the beginning of Campaign 2010, which, despite all the superlatives reserved for the one just concluded, is the most critical election in Nevada for at least 10 years.

That’s because the two highest offices in Nevada are up — U.S. senator and governor — as are all the constitutional offices, and the 2010 balloting could determine, through reshaping the legislative matrix, who controls redistricting and thus state politics for a decade.

The lesser statewide races and the legislative contests can wait. But there’s no time like the present to set the odds on Day One of Campaign 2010 for the reelection prospects of Gov. Jim Gibbons and U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (note that this is being written well before Tuesday’s results are in, so some caveats are necessary):

• Governor

Jim Gibbons’ “I didn’t get indicted and people are out to get me” news conference Monday won’t change the water’s color — it’s still red and both sides can smell the blood.

North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon has indicated his intention to run, whether Gibbons does or not. Montandon is not considered the strongest primary challenger but his move could embolden others.

The odds:

Gibbons: To quote the great philosopher Steve Miller, Gibbons “lives in a world of illusion, where everything’s peaches and cream.” Gibbons must believe he is just enduring a rough patch and will rebound after holding off those tax-and-spend Democrats in the 2009 Legislature, ready to run for a second term.

Stranger things have happened in Nevada politics. I make him slightly less than even money to get reelected.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley: She wants it, and she has the brains and knowledge. But can a liberal woman from the South be elected? 3-1.

Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid: He wants it, and he has the brains and some of the knowledge. But can two Reids thrive on the same ballot (see below)? 2.5-1.

Reno Mayor Bob Cashell: He has told a lot of people he wants it and has little to lose. But will southerners elect a northerner again? 6-1.

Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki: Ambition has never been his problem. And a recall and a Gibbons resignation would make his path easier. But he is far from first in line in 2010. 8-1.

Rep. Dean Heller: If he wins Tuesday. He has always wanted to be governor. And he would be a strong contender. But he would have to give up his seat. 7-1.

Montandon: First in doesn’t mean first place. If others get in, hard to see him sticking it out. 15-1.

State Sen. Joe Heck: If he wins, he may consider it. Could be formidable if he does. 5-1.

State Sen. Bob Beers: If he wins or loses, he may consider it. He loves hurly-burly, but has made a lot of enemies. 9-1.

U.S. Sen. John Ensign: Looks like he wants to move up in Club of 100. But if he got homesick, he might be the favorite. Even money if he runs, but 5-1 he doesn’t run.

Secretary of State Ross Miller: Too early despite fine job this cycle as SOS. 10-1.

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto: Don’t think she would step over Buckley. 15-1.

Bruce James: Might be a sage idea if his budget-cutting goes well. But doubt northerner will win race. 20-1.

• Senator

The long knives are out for Reid here and in D.C. He knew they would be and his commitment to party-building here this cycle also has been about him in 2010 — just a little. He will have a registration advantage and the most ruthless team and attitude in state politics. I still don’t discount the possibility he retires, but I consider it remote. I make him a 2-1 favorite to get reelected.

Porter: If he wins, maybe; if he loses, he would have a chance. And being a senator is slightly better than being a congressman. 4-1.

Heck: I think he’d rather be governor. But he may be angry at Reid for funding party operation that set out to kill him. 3-1.

Heller: Doubt it, but he would have a real chance. 3-1.

State Sen. Randolph Townsend: His mentor, Bill Raggio, has always said U.S. senator is the only job really worth having. 8-1.

State GOP Chairwoman Sue Lowden: Many think she would be a perfect foe for Reid. And she has attacked him a lot this cycle. 7-1.

Candidate X: Someone with personal wealth, mid-50s or so, no political record to attack. We’ve seen it before, here and elsewhere. 9-1.

I am sure other names will surface or have slipped my election-addled brain. Feel free to add to the list.

The new season has begun.

Jon Ralston hosts the news discussion program “Face to Face With Jon Ralston” on Las Vegas ONE and publishes the daily e-mail newsletter “RalstonFlash.com.” His column for the Las Vegas Sun appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.

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