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Politics: Pol positioning


Pol Position
Illustration by Chris Morris

The 2016 election is so over — which means it’s time to see who’s setting their sights on bigger things in the pivotal 2018 election


With 2016 in the rearview mirror, it’s time for most people to happily drive off the campaign road. But pundits are not normal. We keep our eyes on the signpost that says 2018, eager to see who might be setting their sights on the next campaign stop.

Here’s a partial list of the nakedly ambitious — the fully clothed ones will emerge later:

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak

What he would run for: Governor

Why he would run: He didn’t raise more than $2 million for a reelection non-race. (He only got 57 percent,  
but he spent nothing.) Sisolak loves being Clark County Commission chairman, loves playing the game, loves the power. And with a depleted Democratic bench, he’s the frontrunner.

What might stop him: Sisolak breaks some china, and some might not be so bullish on him running. Also, the County Commission is a boneyard for statewide runs. The last chairman was a guy named Reid who ran for governor, too. You make enemies in local government, and Sisolak probably has a few.

Odds of success: 4-1

Support comes from


Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison

What he would run for: Governor, U.S. Senate

Why he would run: That’s what he does. He is peripatetic and enthusiastic, attending Rotary meetings from Carson City to Elko. He wants to be governor, as most lieutenants do, and he hasn’t hidden it. But if that is closed off to him, he might run for U.S. Senate if Dean Heller doesn’t (see below).

What might stop him: Hutch might be the hail-fellow-well-met Webster’s had in mind, but that doesn’t mean he ain’t tough. He destroyed Sue Lowden in a primary to get his current job. But I don’t think he would relish a primary fight against Attorney General Adam Laxalt or Sen. Dean Heller. He would be an underdog against either.

Odds of success: For governor, if contested primary, 10-1; for governor, if uncontested primary, 3-1; same for Senate.


Attorney General Adam Laxalt

What he would run for: Governor, U.S. Senate, reelection.

Why he would run: Laxalt has done a brilliant job of positioning himself as Conservative Numero Uno in Nevada. Gondolier Numero Uno Sheldon Adelson loves him. He has made few wrong moves.

What might stop him: He’s young. He might wait. If Dean Heller runs for governor, Laxalt probably wouldn’t challenge him. But if Heller runs for governor, Laxalt would be the favorite to take the Senate job his grandfather once had. If he wants it.

Odds of success: For governor, 4-1; for Senate, 4-1; for reelection, 1-2.


Treasurer Dan Schwartz

What he would run for: Governor

Why he would run: He is ambitious. He says he wants to. He probably thinks he can be the outsider, and he could self-fund.

What might stop him: Reality might bite, and he would realize he would be an underdog against any of the other constitutional officers except Controller Ron Knecht.

Odds of success: 12-1


Controller Ron Knecht

What he would run for: Governor

Why he would run: He’s Ron Knecht.

What might stop him: He’s Ron Knecht.

Odds of success: 25-1


U.S. Sen. Dean Heller

What he would run for: Reelection, governor

Why he would run: He is the pivotal figure for 2018. He has always wanted to be governor. But he would be a strong favorite, all other things being equal, for re-election. The question is whether he wants to continue to be a cipher in D.C. with a president he didn’t embrace.

What might stop him: Nothing. He’s young, so he will run for one of the top two offices. His decision will trigger others.

Odds of success: Reelection, 1-2; Governor, 2-1.


Economic Development Chief Steve Hill

What he would run for: Governor

Why he would run: It’s a natural step for the guy who has been the chief executive of economic development. He has the skill set, is well liked and respected and has some personal money.

What might stop him: He’s hardly at the front of the line since he’s not an elected official. And unless he wants to pull a 10th Duke of Chalfont (figuratively not literally), he might not get a chance. And if the Tesla or Faraday or stadium deals go south, his platform crumbles beneath him.

Odds of success: 8-1


State Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford

What he would run for: Governor, attorney general

Why he would run: He wants to be governor. He’s ambitious. He would be at midterm, so nothing to lose.

What might stop him: Sisolak’s money and the GOP field. He might consider attorney general, especially if Laxalt vacates the post.

Odds of success: Governor, 7-1; attorney general, if Laxalt runs, 10-1; if Laxalt does not, 5-1.


State Sen. Kelvin Atkinson

What he would run for: Some constitutional office, maybe secretary of state

Why he would run: He’s ambitious. He would be at midterm.

What might stop him: Getting a job in the Las Vegas Raiders’ front office.

Odds of success: 9-1


Those are the obvious ones. Many wild cards are out there, including Rep. Dina Titus, who might make another run for governor if the stars align; soon-to-be-ex-Rep. Joe Heck, who might seek his old seat (and be formidable) or something higher; state Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, a possible candidate for House or Senate; Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, who might see attorney general as his next steppingstone; and Danny Tarkanian, who, I believe state law decrees, must be on the ballot every cycle.

The great thing about being a pundit in Nevada is that even though things pretty much stay the same, there are always surprises. And there will be some names not on this list who will surface and could become frontrunners.

Now about the 2020 election ... 

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