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Nevada pols wonder if Sandoval will challenge Reid (but not Harry)

Brian Sandoval is perpetually driving someone named Reid up a wall.

The former Nevada attorney general, who's also served as a state assemblyman and chairman of Nevada's powerful Gaming Commission, had long been viewed as a credible challenger to Sen. Harry Reid.

After winning a squeaker of a race in 1998 – he defeated John Ensign by less than 500 votes – the Senate's Democratic majority leader offered to back Sandoval for a federal judgeship in 2004.

To most people, that’s a lifetime appointment. Which means Sandoval would forever be out of Reid's way.

Sandoval, though, was apparently more entranced by politics than the law. This month he submitted his resignation from the bench. It won’t take effect until Sept. 15. So the state’s newest Great Republican Hope has been mum on his future political plans, if any.

But that hasn’t stopped the GOP – saddled with Ensign and Gov. Jim Gibbons, who has vowed to run for reelection – from crowing about Sandoval’s gubernatorial prospects. Why crowing about a Republican-Republican fight? Gibbons is hugely unpopular, with a 10% favorable rating.

Though he would have to beat back Gibbons and at least two other candidates, Sandoval is widely viewed as a strong contender.

Should he win the nomination, though, it’s quite possible he’d face off with another Reid: Harry’s son Rory, a county commissioner who has banked millions for his bid for governor. Already, Rory might face a strong primary challenger in Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, and if he survives, a possible independent bid by Democratic vote-grabber Oscar Goodman, the Las Vegas mayor.

Imaginary phone call: Dad, it’s Rory. Thanks a lot.

-- Ashley Powers

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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