NV-Senate: Lowden Announces Against Reid
Former Nevada state Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Lowden will announce her bid to challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today, immediately becoming the highest-profile candidate in an increasingly crowded field hoping to unseat the Nevada Democrat.
"I feel strongly that it is time for Senator Reid to be accountable to the voters of Nevada," said Lowden in an interview with the Fix. "He has forgotten about the people who elected him to be there."
Lowden also said she was "pleasantly surprised" by polling that showed her leading Reid since she hadn't been on a ballot of any kind in the state since 1996 when she lost her re-election race for the state Senate. (That showing has more to do with voters' displeasure with Reid than it does their love of Lowden, however.)
Lowden joins state Sen. Mark Amodei and businessman Danny Tarkanian -- among others -- in a Republican race that has seen several favorites of the national party (including former Rep. Jon Porter and Rep. Dean Heller) pass on bids.
Without those bigger names, Lowden has emerged as the preferred candidate of the political smart set in Washington. She is being guided in the campaign by -- among others -- Robert Uithoven who managed Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) successful 2006 campaign, D.C.-based campaign finance attorney Charlie Spies and Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams.
Wadhams, who managed the successful campaign of Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) in 2004 and the unsuccessful bid of then Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) in 2006, is a close personal friend of Lowden and his fingerprints are all over the team she has hired.
Lowden's finance director -- Janel Domenico -- held the same position for Thune and Allen. Her pollster is Todd Vitale who is based in Denver and worked with Wadhams on Sen. Wayne Allard's (R-Co.) campaigns.
While that team would suggest Lowden is the Republican to beat, there is little hard evidence of what kind of candidate she will be on the stump. Lowden held a Democratic-leaning state Senate seat from 1992 to 1996 but was defeated for re-election that year.
For the next decade she stayed out of politics -- working on the gaming (read: casino) business that she and her husband owned. She returned to politics in 2007 when she was elected state party chairwoman.
Lowden said her time as chair -- and the work she did in managing the state's early presidential caucus in 2008 -- helped her get to know the state as she traveled "up and down" it to ensure things were running smoothly.
Still, four years as a state senator and two as chair of a party that oversaw Nevada go from a red to a blue state at the presidential level and lose one of its two House members, is a somewhat thin resume on which to try to topple the most powerful member of the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Lowden's ace in the hole in that regard may be her personal wealth. She is the former co-owner of the Sahara casino, and she and her husband sold the property in 1995 for $193 million.
It's not clear how much of her own money Lowden would be able to put into a race although she said that she is well aware that "Senator Reid is going to have all the money he wants." At the end of June, Reid showed more than $7 million in his campaign account.
While Lowden's personal wealth may allow her to stay somewhat competitive with Reid financially, it remains to be seen whether she will be able to stand toe-to-toe with one of the great political brawlers in the Senate.
Reid -- like his colleague across the aisle Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) -- makes no apologies for his hardball tactics in campaigns and has a reputation in his home state as a kingmaker (and breaker).
Asked about Reid's reputation for tough campaigns, Lowden sounds downright naive -- "I am hoping that as a member of the Senate for three decades that he runs on his record," she said -- which should be somewhat worrisome for Republican strategists.
There's little question, however, that Reid's re-election prospects are in dire straits. Lowden's entry into the race gives Republicans a credible alternative to the Majority Leader and ensures this contest will stay high on the Friday Line for months to come.
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