Monday, May 9, 2011 | 12:13 p.m.
Nevada Republican Party Chairman Mark Amodei launched himself into the special election contest for the 2nd Congressional District today, defiantly taking on critics who claim his past support for both a massive tax increase and giving state workers collective bargaining rights would sink him in a competitive bid for office.
Rather, Amodei said his proven record as a “workhorse not a showhorse” in the Nevada Legislature positions him well on what is expected to be a crowded ballot for the Sept. 13 election.
In an indication he’s prepared for a fight, Amodei aggressively defended his 2003 proposal with a Democratic senator to raise $1 billion in taxes, saying that proposal helped kill an incredibly unpopular gross receipts tax.
“You had two legislators who, oh my gosh, one from the North and one from the South, a Republican and a Democrat (put forward a plan),” he said. “I will not apologize for answering the question, what is your plan?”
He just as aggressively defended his 2009 vote to give state workers collective bargaining rights, describing it as an issue of fairness.
“When Mark Amodei represents you, Mark Amodei fights for you,” he said in his trademark rhetorical device of referring to himself in the third person. “I was tired of seeing all of the resources of the general fund budget sucked over to the leadership of the teachers union and ignoring the folks who make the state run on a day to day basis.”
Asked if he still supports collective bargaining rights for state workers—which has become a conservative litmus test—Amodei answered simply: “Absolutely.”
Amodei’s defiance on two issues that might have lead voters in a Republican primary to reject him outright is an indication of his strategy to carve out a position for himself in the crowded special election field as the crossover candidate—one who can appeal to both Republicans and Democrats by rejecting a dogmatic philosophy.
Indeed, the special election open ballot rules, which will likely pit multiple Republicans against multiple Democrats, could benefit Amodei in that regard.
“You’ve got labels all over the place,” Amodei said. “You’ve got people who want to paint people with one color exclusively. You’ve got people trying to call themselves conservative or progressive.”
Ironically, Amodei so far is the only candidate in the race, Republican or Democrat, to side with a Republican lawsuit seeking to force Secretary of State Ross Miller to allow the state parties to nominate the candidates to go on the special election ballot.
As chairman of the party that filed the lawsuit, Amodei’s critics contend he would benefit should the party central committee be allowed to choose the nominee. Amodei rejected that premise, as well, calling the central committee members “independent.”
On federal issues, Amodei said he would like to see foreign aid to Pakistan being spent to “win the hearts and minds” of the Pakistani people through spending on “health care, schools and agriculture.”
He also said releasing photos of Osama bin Laden’s body would squelch unfounded speculation that the terrorist leader has been killed.
Amodei called U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget cutting plan a good way to launch the discussion, but stopped short of backing Ryan’s proposed changes to Medicare and Medicaid.
Amodei is the fourth Republican to enter the race. He joins former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, state Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, and former U.S.S. Cole Commander Kirk Lippold.
Three Democrats have said they will run: state Treasurer Kate Marshall and former regents Jill Derby and Nancy Price.
Amodei briefly ran in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate last year, dropping out after failing to gain traction in the race. He had a quick quip ready for the question of whether he’d stay in the congressional race.
“There’s not enough time to get out,” he said.