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Nevada Senate: Goodman vs. Ensign?

Could Nevada's junior senator, John Ensign (R), be vulnerable this fall?

The answer is maybe -- assuming a few dominoes fall Democrats' way in the next few weeks.

Jack Carter, the son of former President Jimmy Carter, formally announced his candidacy in Carson City yesterday accompanied by his parents. Jack is the oldest son of the presidential couple and is a relative newcomer to Nevada -- having moved to the state just three years ago to start an investment consulting business with his wife.

Carter's candidacy struggled to get off the ground in the fall after it came to light that he had left the Navy with an administrative discharge following an admission of drug use.  Carter raised roughly $270,000 in the last three months of 2005 and ended the year with $224,000 in the bank -- a decent but not overwhelming sum. By contrast, Ensign brought in $433,000 in the period, closing the year with $2.4 million on hand.

Enter Oscar Goodman (D) -- the flamboyant mayor of Las Vegas. Before being in 1999, Goodman was a high-profile -- and controversial -- figure, gaining notoriety as the lead attorney for a number of organized crime figures, including Meyer Lansky and Tony "The Ant" Spilotro. Goodman has embraced the "what happens here stays here" motto of his city as its mayor -- he is regularly accompanied by showgirls and has a weak spot for Elvis impersonators.

Goodman has said that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), along with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), have approached him about the contest.  He has not indicated a timetable for a final decision and did not return a call seeking comment on his interest (or lack thereof) in the race.

A Goodman candidacy would certainly be intriguing -- although it's not entirely clear where the money would come from to fund what would certainly be a very expensive bid against Ensign.  Reid and Ensign have adopted something of a non-aggression pact since their bruising contest in 1998, which Reid won by 428 votes. The two give all the impression of having become close friends; last week, Reid made a heartfelt speech on the Senate floor about Ensign, who suffered minor injuries in a Jan. 30 auto accident.

Ensign did little to organize a serious challenge to Reid last cycle, and the Democrat cruised to a 61 percent to 35 percent victory despite President Bush carrying the state by a 50 percent to 48 percent margin.

Reid has been decidedly tight-lipped when it comes to Goodman and how much or little he has been encouraging the mayor to make the race. Reid told the Associated Press he was "happy to give [Goodman] any advice or counsel that he needs or wants." Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Several Democratic strategists say that the Senate race falls below both Nevada's 3rd District House race and the gubernatorial contest in terms of Reid's 2006 priorities.  In the 3rd, a swing district created in 2001, former Reid staffer Tessa Hafen (D) is challenging Rep. Jon Porter (R).  In the gubernatorial race, Reid -- as well as former Govs. Bob Miller and Dick Bryan -- have issued a dual endorsement of state Sen. Dina Titus (D) and Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson (D), a move cast by some in Gibson's political world as a victory for their candidate. The governor's mansion is open as Gov. Kenny Guinn (R) is term-limited.

Should Goodman get in the race and secure the strong public and private backing of Reid (and both are less-than-even-money bets at the moment), Ensign could face a serious fight -- although he would still be a favorite in the fall. Carter does not appear to have much of a chance against Ensign.

Regardless of the eventual Democratic opponent, the Ensign camp will be ready. "We are not taking anyone for granted in this race," said Ensign campaign manager Chris Carr. "We are looking forward to an energetic campaign no matter who the opponent is."

By Chris Cillizza  |  February 7, 2006; 10:15 AM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

The notion Harry Reid doesn't support Jack Carter's bid for the Senate is a falsehood perpetrated by the media. It simply isn't true.

Don't look for Oscar Goodman to even get in the race. Carter has the outside connections needed to mount a serious challenge to a mediocre senator such as Ensign. Goodman does not, and he would be destroyed by Ensign and his money machine.

Posted by: Susan Nunes | March 25, 2006 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: RPR | February 11, 2006 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: PW | February 8, 2006 9:18 PM | Report abuse

Hey guys lets try and stay on topic if you wanna blab about TX do so on your own blog.

As for Carter I think people are righting him off to quickly. He seems to be doing well fundraising wise and he's going to have name ID. If Goodman can't make up his mind if he's going to run or not people should give Carter a chance.

Posted by: Brent Parrish | February 7, 2006 5:57 PM | Report abuse

I think it depends on what you define as "in play."

I have been a proponent, since Kerry (mis)picked Edwards as his running mate, that Richardson would definately galvanize the latino vote. You may not win Texas, but you won't have the 70-30% blowout and maybe cause the GOP to spend significant resources to hold onto their SW stronghold.

And it could certainly alter the balance in Florida, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada. That is a wad of electoral votes.

Posted by: RMill | February 7, 2006 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Why shouldn't Nevada should elect a former substance abuser to an important office? We've already got one in the White House.

Posted by: Judge Carter, I mean Crater | February 7, 2006 11:37 AM | Report abuse

To comment on the above Texas issue: who is a Democrat in the state of Texas who can win the governor's race. Can someone please name one because I can not think of one.

Texas has not voted for a Democrat for president since 1976 with Jimmy Carter. Not even Clinton could win the state when he was popular. Clinton in his re-election bid lost Harris Co. (Houston), Dallas Co., and Tarrant Co. (Fort Worth). Not exactly good for an incumbent President.

Ann Richards with a 60% approval rating was voted out in favor of George W. Bush in 1994.

Any logical person I think would agree Texas will not be in play in 2008 regardless of who the nominees are. As far as the Governor's office goes, get a decent candidate. Pretty sad when most say the election boils down to Perry, a horrible GOP gov and Strayhorn a GOPer running as an independent.

Posted by: TLH/FL DEM | February 7, 2006 11:30 AM | Report abuse

To comment on the above Texas issue: who is a Democrat in the state of Texas who can win the governor's race. Can someone please name one because I can not think of one.

Texas has not voted for a Democrat for president since 1976 with Jimmy Carter. Not even Clinton could win the state when he was popular. Clinton in his re-election bid lost Harris Co. (Houston), Dallas Co., and Tarrant Co. (Fort Worth). Not exactly good for an incumbent President.

Ann Richards with a 60% approval rating was voted out in favor of George W. Bush in 1994.

Any logical person I think would agree Texas will not be in play in 2008 regardless of who the nominees are. As far as the Governor's office goes, get a decent candidate. Pretty sad when most say the election boils down to Perry, a horrible GOP gov and Strayhorn a GOPer running as an independent.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 7, 2006 11:29 AM | Report abuse

DEMOCRATS LACK NATIONAL GAME PLAN

For years the Texas Republicans joked that planting former Republican Molly Beth Malcolm as the Chair of the Texas Democratic Party was the best thing they ever did. I would submit that the duping of the National Democratic Party to elect Howard Dean as the Chair of the National Democratic Party is the best thing the Republicans have done for themselves in the last 50 years. Beyond his failed message of hating Bush he has put forward no National campaign to win back control of the White House, Senate, House, Governors House, or various state Houses.

Putting Texas into play for the 2008 presidential race is a must if the Democrats are to win at a national level. Texas is facing the unique situation of having not only a Republican and Democratic on the ballot in November, but in all likelihood two independents. There is major dissatisfaction in Texas. If the National Democratic Party fails to play a leadership role in the up and coming Texas Governor's race, the morning after the race could have the Democrats reading the obituary of the Texas Democratic Party. The Texas Democratic Party is in total disarray and devoid of even the pretense of leadership.

A Democratic win in the Texas Governor's house will aid in the redistricting of the Texas congressional districts, assuming the United States Supreme Court holds the current system unconstitutional. This along with the House seats the Democrats are already expected to pick-up in the United States House of Representatives come November could put the Democrats over the top and in control of the House once again. Howard Dean appears to be oblivious to this simple fact.

A win of the Governor's house for the Democrats could also put Texas into play in the 2008 presidential race. A Democrat in the Governor's house certainly sends a message that Texas is ready to become Democrat once again. A caveat is needed here - Democratic who is the right candidate.

The Democratic Party at the national level is split on far too many issues to make it a united Party. Competent political strategists understand that Kerry, Clinton, and Biden are incapable of winning the White House. Each of them represent the arrogance of Washington - something the people of the United States have rejected in every election since the election of Reagan - yes Bush I is an exception but then he was vice-president - also he was never a US Senator - a sure death nail to anyone seeking the White House.

There are two national Democrats who stand out as potential presidential candidates who can put Texas into play in 2008. Some will say the fact one is Latino and one is Black is the reason Texas would be put into play. They would be partly wrong. In the case of Bill Richardson, it is true he is loved and admired by the Latino community of West Texas.

The thing about Bill Richardson is, he understands that if the Democrats are to take the White House they must define themselves in a way other than "we hate Bush." He is also a moderate Democrat - this plays well within the Latino, Black, and Southern Democratic Communities. I must say, Bill being Latino will also help turn out the Latino vote in Texas.

There is also Barack Obama, Senator - Barack is also a very practical politician. He has proven he can united Democrats, Independents, and even liberal Republicans behind his campaign. Barack like Bill has made clear that the Democrats must stand for something more than "we hate Bush." Barack has sought to give definition to what it means to be a Democrat. He is also politically to the left of Bill Richardson.

The presidential ticket that I am proposing is Bill Richardson for president and Barack Obama for vice-president. This ticket could mean the Democrats taking back the White House for 16 years. Bill as the lead on the ticket sends a message of moderation to the more moderate members of the Democratic Party, and Independents. Bill does not carry the curse of being a US Senator. Barack sends a message that the more left leaning members in the Democratic Party will have a practical and strong voice in the White House.

In Texas if you give moderates, liberals, Latinos and Blacks a reason to turn out in 2008 they will turn out in force. This puts Texas into play in 2008 - this sends the Republicans into a tail spin. Key to this is the election of a Democrat as Governor of Texas in 2006.

Two things must happen to put a Democrat into the Governor's house. First - money - the National Democratic Party is wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars funding a US Senate Race which cannot be won. If the Democrats hope to retake the House of Representatives and the White House they need to redirect all of the money going to Barbara Radnofsky for US Senate to whomever wins the March Democratic Party Primary for governor. There is only so much money -

Radnofsky does not have 1/10th the money of Senator Hutchison and the continued funding of her campaign is a waste of money and detrimental to the future of the Democratic Party. Further, Radnofsky started her campaign by cutting a backdoor deal with Texas Democratic Party Chair Charles Soechting to obtain his endorsement in violation of Democratic Party rules. Barbara Radnofsky in response to complaints from the Latino Community responded with the same old Plantation owner response - "if you do not vote for me then you are voting Republican." This is no different than the master telling the slave owner if you do not vote for me I will sell you to a new master who will beat you. The Latino community finds such reasoning to be an insult to their intelligence.

The second thing which must happen is, the National Democratic Party must take the lead on this issue. Texas Democratic Party Chair Charles Soechting has no vision on this issue and fails to understand that there is only so much money. Texas cannot afford to not win the Governor's house in November. Given the potential for another special session on redistricting, and the impact a Democratic Governor can have on such a session, thereby adding more Democratic Districts in the United States House of Representatives, the National Democratic Party cannot afford to ignore the Texas Governor's race.

It is important to understand the Texas Governor's race will be decided in a run-off between either Governor Rick Perry and the Democratic Party Nominee or Independent Carole Strayhorn. The Democratic Nominee must be in the run-off or the Democratic Party of Texas will be reading its own obituary in the morning paper. If Strayhorn wins she will certainly hold it for 8 years. The Latino community could be permanently severed from the Democratic Party during these 8 years -hence the demise of the Texas Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party Candidate cannot beat Strayhorn without money. This is why the National Democratic Party must now put an end to all of the national money going to the Radnofsky campaign for US Senate. The longshot of a Radnofsky win means one more Democratic Senator. The very possible win for a Democrat in the Texas Governor's race means, 3-5 more Democrats in the House of Representatives, assuming the US Supreme Court forces redistricting. It also means the foundation for Texas voting for a Democratic in the 2008 race for the White House. The latter is far more valuable to the National Democratic Party than the former.

Finally, the National Democratic Party must take the lead in Texas. Texas Democratic Party Chair Charles Soechting refuses to put the Democratic party over his own personal sense of glory. The Texas Democratic Party has no leadership - The National Democratic party must lead for Texas or relinquish the White House and House of Representatives to the Republicans for another 16 or more years. Without leadership in the Texas Democratic Party we can be assured that come that November morning after the elections, the lead editorial will be the obituary of the Texas Democratic Party.

Bobby Wightman-Cervantes
www.balancingtheissues.com
January 7, 2008

Posted by: Bobby Wightman-Cervantes | February 7, 2006 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Carter appears to have nothing going for him beyond name recognition. The other Democrats are interesting and Goodman in particular has a compelling record of accomplishment re prosecution of organized crime.

http://www.intrepidliberaljournal.blogspot.com

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal | February 7, 2006 10:45 AM | Report abuse

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