Nevada Newsmakers

Commentary - April 30, 2021 - by Ray Hagar

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Nevada's 2nd U.S. House District Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, is approaching what could be the final crossroads on his political career -- one that began with his election as student body president at Carson High in 1975 and continued to his first election to the Nevada Assembly in 1996.

In 2022, which would be his 11th year in Congress, Amodei, now 62, must choose between running for re-election or running for governor.

He stayed non-committal about his future during his Nevada Newsmakers interview but presented his personal dilemma to host Sam Shad.

If he were to be elected governor -- which is no sure thing -- he could escape the culture of Washington D.C. which he despises and return to his hometown of Carson City. He'd also have the job he has always dreamed about and has publicly considered since 2015.

If he stayed in Congress, however, and the majority of the U.S. House swings to Republicans, Amodei could find himself as power broker on the Appropriations Committee and/or the chair of his own committee.

The former reserve for the 1975 Carson High state championship basketball team would be off the congressional bench and in a position to really help Nevada.

Nevada's 1st U.S. House District Rep. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, faced a similar decision in 2018: Run for re-election or step into the race for the U.S. Senate.

Titus stayed in the House. And it was good for Nevada.

Her ally, Nancy Pelosi remained the House leader. Joe Biden, who Titus endorsed for the presidency early in the race, became president.

She's now a senior member on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Chair of the Subcommittee on Economic Development and has friends in the White House.

Recently, she helped secure $450 million in grant money for communities where the pandemic impacted tourism in the American Recovery Act and another $1.7 million for McCarran International Airport.

Amodei sees a similar scenario for himself, if the GOP takes the House majority in 2022.

"You know, I don't know what the 2022 election is going to be like," Amodei said. "However, there is a chance you could be in the majority and on Appropriations, which would put you -- I don't know if the retirements (for members of Appropriations Committee) are there yet or not -- but could put you up first for a committee chairmanship. Which you know, is a good place to be in terms of making sure we get policies right and also taking care of Nevada."

If Amodei ran for governor in 2022, he would have to beat an incumbent Democratic governor running for re-election in 2022, although Gov. Sisolak's handling of pandemic issues could make him vulnerable.

The GOP smells blood in the water when considering chances of beating Sisolak in 2022. GOP gubernatorial hopefuls could include North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo. Former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller has also been mentioned as a candidate.

Lee recently switched from the Democratic to Republican Party, with some seeing it as part of his plan to become governor

Amodei touted his experience in Nevada politics and government in a 25-year career as an elected lawmaker.

"Obviously, with my history and doing this (elected office) in one form or another for more than 20 years, you bring a lot of experience to what the issues are and solving problems -- and that knowledge goes to both ends of the state."

He bragged about his ability to win Washoe County -- one of three strategic areas of Nevada's political map -- along with Clark County and rural Nevada.

Amodei has won Washoe County is all six of his congressional elections, starting with the special election in 2011.

"Hey, Washoe County is a pretty important place in a statewide sense," he said. "And as one of the few Republicans who has won Washoe County in a larger context six times in a row -- not that means anything because you are only as good as your next election -- still, it is something."

A close look at Amodei's strength in Washoe is concerning. In the last seven years, his victory margins have dwindled in Washoe -- all against Democratic challengers who received no financial help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Amodei's victory margin in Washoe has gone from 28 percentage points in 2014, to more than eight points in 2016, to about 2.5 in 2018 and down to two in 2020.

The 2020 election was also Amodei's first where he did not get at least 50 percent of the Washoe vote, coming home with 49.77 that year.

Donald Trump lost his presidential re-election bid in Nevada in 2020 by about 2.5 points statewide. He built a large lead in rural Nevada but lost Washoe by 5 points and Clark by about 9. Amodei learned from that.

If he can win big in the rurals, win in Washoe and then have a respectable finish in Clark County -- Nevada most populous county -- he just could become our next governor.

"When you say Donald Trump took the rurals with a 75 point advantage, he also lost Washoe by 10 (about 11,000 votes) and then Clark by 100 (about 90,000 votes), Amodei said. "So when you start to put those numbers together, I think we've got something special that should be in the discussion for the governor's stuff."

Amodei likes his gubernatorial chances when you break it down by Nevada's three political regions. The two other Northern Nevada Republican governors in the 21st century, Gibbons and Sandoval, used the same formula.



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