Monday, April 19, 2010 | 2 a.m.
With Gov. Jim Gibbons rising in some polls and former federal judge Brian Sandoval fending off withering attacks from the left and right, a new label might be affixed to former North Las Vegas Mike Montandon in the governor’s race: spoiler.
The recent narrative that’s developed around the Republican primary for governor is that Sandoval can be painted as too moderate for the typical GOP primary voter. That leaves an opening for Gibbons, who has been exploiting the anti-health care reform furor among Republicans for a significant boost in his approval rating.
But unfortunately for Gibbons, Montandon is also siphoning off conservative votes.
That dynamic was at play last weekend at the Nevada Republican Assembly endorsing convention in Reno.
The conservative organization spent the weekend in heavy debate between Gibbons and Montandon. Sandoval wasn’t a consideration “because he is not conservative enough for us,” said Rosemary DiGrazia, who participated in the endorsements.
But after hours of debate, the convention couldn’t decide between Gibbons and Montandon and wound up not making an endorsement in the governor’s race.
So, despite Democrats sinking significant resources — the kind of resources Gibbons doesn’t have — into defeating Sandoval in the GOP primary, the effort may be for naught. If conservatives are split between Gibbons and Montandon, it could propel Sandoval into the general election.
More Republican-on-Republican angst
Nurse practitioner Ellie Lopez-Bowlan is in a crowded Republican primary to replace Assemblyman Ty Cobb, R-Reno. And she’s chosen an unlikely foil: former Gov. Kenny Guinn.
In a fundraising e-mail sent late last month, Lopez-Bowlan picked on her neighbor in Reno’s upscale Montreaux neighborhood.
“In the last few years I have witnessed elected officials play with our money,” she wrote. “One such person raised taxes to the tune of almost $1 billion and then after realizing he took too much, gave some of it back in the form of DMV rebates.”
The attack on a Republican governor who remained popular despite pushing the $800 million tax increase is a bit of a surprise.
But Lopez-Bowlan said she was simply trying to make the point that Republicans should have cut spending in 2003, not raised taxes. And after raising taxes, they shouldn’t have given a rebate.
“Once we had that money, let’s not give it back,” she said.
Cobb didn’t do himself any favors in his bid for higher office when he got caught kicking in a Democrat’s campaign sign on the corner of a busy intersection.
The story caught the attention of Reno’s conservative radio talk shows and got at least one national mention.
When Cobb further tried to explain himself to KRNV Channel 4 reporter Karen Todd, he dug an even deeper hole.
“Do you think that’s really representative of how a state senator should act?” Todd asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “You know, if I’m a real person, that’s how, you know, things happen.”
Anjeanette Damon is the Reno Gazette-Journal’s political reporter and writes the “Inside Nevada Politics” blog, which appears at rgj.com/inp.