By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau
CARSON CITY–The Independent American Party this week released its list of candidates for 38 different offices, including the seat now held by U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and all three congressional seats. There are candidates for state and local offices as well.
Nevada State GOP Chairman Chris Comfort said he does not believe his party’s opportunities to win races in the November general election will be affected by the presence of conservative minor party candidates.
“I don’t envision that being an issue at all,” he said. “When you look at the (Independent American Party) numbers versus our numbers, they only have 44,487 (active) registered voters.”
But IAP Party Chairman John Wagner said Republicans still blame the minor party for losing the Assembly District 40 seat in the 2008 general election. A victory there would have given Republicans 15 seats, the margin needed to block a two-thirds vote to raise taxes. The 2009 Legislature did vote to raise taxes.
The IAP may also have also played a role in the Clark County Senate 5 race where incumbent GOP Sen. Joe Heck lost to Democrat Shirley Breeden. IAP candidate Tony Blanque took 2,843 votes, while Breeden beat Heck by only 765 votes.
Secretary of State Ross Miller yesterday released the voter registration numbers as of the end of February. It shows the GOP closing on Democrats, with 392,920 active Republican voters versus 456,532 Democrat voters. There are also 163,153 active nonpartisan voters.
Democrats had just over a 100,000 vote advantage leading into the November general election in 2008, so the gap has narrowed considerably.
Comfort said he believes the party will be in a statistical dead heat with Democrats by October.
“We are speaking to our independent friends,” he said. “We are resonating well. Our party has a fire in the belly that we haven’t seen in a long time.”
Republican victories nationally, including the U.S. Senate win in Massachusetts in January, are evidence the momentum has shifted, Comfort said.
But while the gap between Republican and Democrat active voters has narrowed, it isn’t because of new registration activity by either party. Both parties have fewer active voters than in November 2008 due to the move of some registered voters to inactive status. Republicans narrowed the gap because more Democrats than GOP voters were moved to inactive status.
In Clark County the move to inactive status is done every two years. About 70,000 Clark County voters were moved to inactive status, said Pam duPré, public information officer for the secretary of state’s office. Voters on inactive status can still vote.
Wagner, who was the “spoiler” candidate in the Assembly District 40 race in Carson City in 2008, said he believes his party has a real shot at winning some races this year.
“People are fed up with the Democrats and the Republicans,” he said. “So I think people are looking for change. All we’ve been so far is shortchanged. I think we will do fairly well this year.”
Wagner, who spent many years as a Republican, is again a candidate for Assembly 40. He disagrees that his votes in that race in 2008 cost Republicans, because not all of the 1,067 votes he received would have gone to GOP challenger Cheryl Lau. Lau lost to Democrat incumbent Bonnie Parnell by 563 votes.
Wagner said if he decides to remain a candidate for the seat, he will run to win, viewing the major party candidates as too liberal. Parnell is not seeking re-election.
Jon Kamerath, who is the IAP nominee for the Clark County Assembly District 2 seat now held by Republican John Hambrick, said he too believes the party could win some seats come November. Kamerath has not yet filed for the seat but intends to do so unless the party decides he could better serve as a candidate in another elective office.
Kamerath ran for the Assembly 2 seat in 2008, getting only 601 votes compared to 11,781 for Hambrick.
While Hambrick is one of the better members of the Assembly based on his voting record, Kamerath said he is loyal to the IAP and believes the Legislature should reduce spending and lower taxes.
“I would like to cut government even more,” he said. “I want to cut property taxes and sales taxes. I will take the race very seriously.”
Kamerath said he believes the IAP has a chance in 2010 because of voter disaffection with the major parties. Nevada has seen its largest tax increases in history in recent years while Republicans served in the executive branch and with complicity from some Republicans in the legislative branch, he said.