Thursday, May 28, 2009 | 2 a.m.
State Sen. Mark Amodei has during the final weeks of the legislative session made floor speeches against loosening ethics rules, railed against unequal treatment of state functions in the Legislature’s budget and, unlike a majority of his fellow Republican senators, voted against the $781 million tax increase.
Amodei’s actions have drawn attention and prompted a persistent question: What is he running for?
A possible answer: The Carson City Republican, who is prevented by term limits from seeking reelection, is considering a run in 2010 against U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Amodei said in a recent interview that Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., is the logical choice to run against the state’s senior Democratic senator. “If Dean doesn’t, I’ll consider it,” Amodei said.
National Republicans have made no secret that taking out Reid is a top priority. But the GOP has struggled to find a candidate to challenge Reid, who recent polls show could be vulnerable.
Reid has prepared for the challenge by building up statewide Democratic voter registration and, as he told The New York Times, committing to raise $25 million to win reelection. President Barack Obama visited Las Vegas on Tuesday to help Reid raise some of that money.
Reid spokesman Jon Summers said for now the senator is focused on Nevada’s economy.
“But he will be ready to run an organized and aggressive campaign, no matter who tries to run against him,” Summers said.
The first choice to challenge Reid among Nevada Republican Party insiders is Heller, who last year won a second term in Congress and now sits on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Before winning the seat previously held by Jim Gibbons, Heller served eight years as Nevada’s secretary of state.
Heller did not return calls for comment.
Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki announced his interest last year, but an indictment on charges he illegally spent millions of dollars to market a state college savings program has cast a shadow over a potential run.
Ryan Erwin, a political consultant to Krolicki, said, “Today, Dean Heller stands head and shoulders above the rest of the candidates. A cleared Krolicki evens things up.”
Amodei “would be a quality candidate. But he’d start well behind Krolicki and Heller,” Erwin said.
Amodei said his priority after the legislative session ends Monday is to “begin a job search in the private sector, not the elected sector.” Before the session he resigned as president of the Nevada Mining Association, which some legislative observers saw as a conflict of interest with his role as a lawmaker.
Asked about running for the U.S. Senate, he said, “A spirited discussion of the issues and above-the-belt political debate is something I never shy away from.”