Las Vegas Sun

November 29, 2023

2006 governor’s race takes shape

Although most eyes are focused on Tuesday's elections, three prominent Democrats are already well on their way to squaring off in the 2006 governor's race.

Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson, Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins and Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus -- at this point at least -- will meet in the Democratic primary for governor in September 2006.

Gibson confirmed his plans, which leaked out in an e-mail today from his son Brin. Brin Gibson, who works on grass-roots efforts for a number of Republican campaigns, essentially announced his dad's candidacy to friends in the e-mail.

"That's my plan, I'm going to run, although I have to admit it's a little odd that this news got out now when we have the current governor's race in a few days," said Gibson, who before this morning had not officially talked about the race.

He said it shouldn't be news today.

But the news, which spread like wildfire through the state's political circles after Sun columnist Jon Ralston sent out an electronic briefing this morning, sparked Titus to jump into the fray as well.

"If there's a primary between Richard Perkins and Jim Gibson, I'll be in that race," Titus said. "Those two are so similar that they'll split the same pool.

"I'll get women, environmentalists and liberals," Titus predicted. "And it'll make it much harder for anyone to be anointed. People who donate money will have to spread it around."

Perkins hasn't kept his plans to run for the governor's mansion in four years too quiet. His Palm Pilot keeps track of how many days are left before Election Day 2006 as he works contacts in the political world to build up support. But after hearing Gibson's news, he was more circumspect.

"Four days out from election 2002, I'm focused on this election," Perkins said. "I'm not focused beyond tackling the challenges facing our state in 2003.

"I think it's silly to look beyond that," he said, chuckling.

Nevada Democratic Party Chairman Terry Care said he's focusing now on Tuesday's elections, but said he thinks any of the three Democrats talking about the governor's race would be good candidates.

"Anybody who follows politics in this state knows that the three of them have often discussed running for higher office," Care said. "It's probably a little premature for me to say anything except all three are great public servants and would make great candidates."

Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, said "it's way too early" for anyone to be talking the way the three Democrats are.

"This is like the Democrats' worst nightmare," Herzik said. "They go from not having any candidates to having too many in the same race."

Current Gov. Kenny Guinn, a Republican who is practically a lock for re-election Tuesday, will not be permitted to run for a third term in 2006 due to term limits. State Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, is running against Guinn but does not have the support of the Democratic Party.

Gibson said he has worked well with and respects Perkins, but he sees no problem running against him.

"It's a long way off and running against him will be something I need to do," Gibson said before Titus threw her hat into the ring.

Neither Perkins nor Gibson is a traditional Democrat, with Gibson often the subject of rumors about switching to the Republican Party, and Perkins noted in Carson City as a fiscal conservative.

But most people know that Perkins is a Democrat as he attends all state Democratic Party functions and serves as the state's leading Democratic spokesman, often as a foil to Guinn and Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, when the Legislature is in session.

Because he's fiscally conservative and absent from state Democrat Party functions, Gibson is often confused as a Republican, political observers say. Noting Gibson's son's work within the GOP ranks leads, some suggest Gibson may eventually switch and run on the Republican ticket, which today is wide open.

Gibson had considered running for Nevada's 3rd Congressional District, but was drawn out of the district during the Legislature's reapportionment in 2001.

He had also considered running for Clark County Commission District G, the seat Democrat Dario Herrera vacated to run for Congress.

But former Nevada Democratic Party Chairman Rory Reid, the son of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, announced very early his bid for the District G commission seat. Gibson was drawn out of District G and was drawn into Republican Bruce Woodbury's commission district.

Other Republicans who might be eyeing the governor's mansion in 2006 are Secretary of State Dean Heller and U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev. Heller, who will also be term limited assuming he wins re-election as expected Tuesday, will likely wait to see what Gibbons does.

Gibbons has been talking about either running for the governor's mansion, or possibly, running for the U.S. Senate.

Two Republicans currently seeking office, attorney general candidate Brian Sandoval and Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt, who is seeking re-election, are also touted for other offices.

Hunt has already said she would consider running for governor if re-elected to her current post. Sandoval has consistently told people he would likely run for re-election as attorney general if he wins Tuesday.

On the Democratic side, Clark County Commissioner Erin Kenny, who is running for lieutenant governor, has often talked about being Nevada's first female governor.

If she prevails Tuesday, she could have a springboard into the governor's race from her executive position. If Kenny jumped in to the Democratic primary in 2006, she might pull votes from Titus.

"This is why the Democratic Party has been adrift for the past two elections," said Herzik, a registered Republican who is a social liberal.