Monday, July 18, 2011 | 3:45 p.m.
As everyone but the Las Vegas Review-Journal knew on Friday was about to happen, Speaker John Oceguera announced his candidacy for Congress today, well before any lines have been drawn but ready to raise money.
His opener: "As Washington politicians try to take away seniors' hard-earned right to Medicare - some even calling Social Security a "Pyramid Scheme" - and instead give special tax breaks to oil companies and insurance companies, I'll fight for what's right. I'll fight to protect Medicare, create jobs, and get our economy back on track."
Pyramid scheme? That's an oblique swipe at Rep. Joe Heck. The rest may as well have been emailed from Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Central. Lame.
I still think Oceguera will end up facing Heck and that ex-Rep. Dina Titus and state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford will be the other Democratic nominees (state Sen. Ruben Kihuen will talk a lot, but unless there is a majority Hispanic district – and perhaps even then – he won’t go).
I grant you that if special masters draw lines or a judge does, anything can happen. But two strong Democratic seats, one solid Republican (Sen. Dean Heller’s old seat) and one swing district is what the registration and demographic numbers suggest.
Oceguera is a prodigious fundraiser and will raise a lot of money in state, although those federal limits will constrain him. He will have to deal with being a public employee and taking money while in session – as others have done – and with being a firefighter as the hero’s sheen of 9/11 has been rubbed away by pay scandals in Southern Nevada.
If you can judge how strong someone is by the ferocity of the response to his or her candidacy, then Oceguera is a juggernaut. No fewer than three GOP news releases were issued today attacking Oceguera.
The NRCC's Tyler Q. Houlton was first:
“John Oceguera has been directly responsible for the massive increases in unemployment and housing foreclosures while serving as Speaker of the Nevada Assembly. In these tough economic times, Nevada doesn’t need a candidate like John Oceguera who will take his tax-increasing and job-destroying agenda to Congress.”
Directly responsible? Really? Come on. Then the boiler-plate blather.
Nevada GOP Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian was next:
“Today’s announcement by Speaker Oceguera is the sad cry of a career politician looking for a new gig. Oceguera’s bid for Congress, made before even understanding or caring about the constituency he claims to want to represent, is an action of a termed-out assemblyman who is panicking at the thought of losing one of his government paychecks. Speaker Oceguera’s signature achievement in the state legislature is failing to bully through a $1.5Billion tax increase; Ocegeura’s colleagues rejected his proposal then and Nevadans will reject him in 2012.”
Phew. At least he’s not a term-limited GOP legislator who couldn’t decide whether to be a legislator or a mining lobbyist (he was at the same time) and who proposed a tax increase valued at $1.6 billion in 2003. That would be even worse; or make him Mark Amodei, the GOP nominee in CD2.
And the UNLV college Republicans also put out a release. Wait. Who cares what the UNLV college Republicans think?
Beyond the partisan palaver, it’s still too early to tell what plays better, assuming it’s Oceguera-Heck: Oceguera’s state-based baggage or Heck’s DC-based baggage.
If it happens, and if CD3 looks anything like it does now, I make Heck a slight favorite.