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Sandoval to oppose Gov. Gibbons in 2010 GOP primary
By Anjeanette Damon • email@example.com • September 15, 2009
After what he described as a "gut-wrenching" months-long process, U.S. District Judge Brian Sandoval stepped away from his lifetime appointment Tuesday and into the 2010 Nevada governor's race.
In an hour-long interview Tuesday at his west Reno home, with his wife Kathleen nearby, Sandoval sought to position himself as a consensus builder who can rise above the acrimony that has marred state and national politics.
"It's time to get Nevada working again," Sandoval said, trying out his campaign slogan for the first time in an exclusive interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal just an hour after his resignation took effect.
Sandoval, 46, shocked judicial colleagues and political observers a month ago when he announced he would resign his judgeship. Sandoval, a former Nevada attorney general and assemblyman, effectively ended what had been a promising political career when he became a judge four years ago.
But after watching a contentious legislative session and Gov. Jim Gibbons' rocky first term, Sandoval said he felt duty bound to "act on his concerns."
Sandoval carefully avoided criticizing specific individuals, including Gibbons, the incumbent Republican he has decided to challenge in the June 8 primary.
He repeatedly deflected questions about how Gibbons has handled the job, saying "extremes on both sides" have failed to work together.
"I think Gov. Gibbons did what he thought was right, but my getting in this race has nothing to do with Gov. Gibbons," Sandoval said. "It's about bringing a new brand of leadership.
"This isn't about any other person. It's about me stepping forward to try and do my best."
Gibbons has described Sandoval as "a very challenging opponent."
Sandoval also deflected specific policy questions.
"I've been off the bench now for an hour and a half," he said looking at his watch. "I'm not going to pretend to have all the answers."
He said raising taxes "right now is not the answer," particularly in the down economy. But he said he wouldn't sign an anti-tax pledge that would "tie my hands."
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He said there would be no "sacred cows" in the budget but wouldn't name what he would specifically cut. He said he would focus on job creation, economic development and strengthening small businesses.
He also said he supports the recently passed domestic partnership law that gives gay and straight couples largely the same rights as married couples "because it's the right thing to do."
Sandoval said leaving the federal bench, which he described in 2005 as "a lifetime dream," was a difficult decision. He became slightly emotional describing the going-away ceremony court personnel held for him during his final days of work.
He said he vacillated for weeks.
"There were days when I woke up and said I'm going to stay where I am and there were days when I'd wake up and say it's your duty to try and make a difference," he said.
He said he was first approached early this summer by Republican political consultants Pete Ernaut and Greg Ferraro about launching an unprecedented–– in Nevada–– challenge against the sitting governor.
"I never called them and said, 'I think I want to be a candidate for governor,'" Sandoval said. "Frankly, when they came to me the first time, seriously, I didn't think it was a serious consideration."
He said he spent the past couple months talking with a "very small group of people" about the race after receiving an opinion from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals about what he could do while still on the bench.
He said he scrupulously avoided ethical conflicts that could have marred his campaign or his tenure on the bench had he decided to remain a judge.
He also said he spoke twice to U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., about running for governor.
But he strongly denied anyone recruited him for the race, saying the decision was his own. He said he reached it after many long conversations with his wife.
Kathleen Sandoval said she and their three children are prepared for what could be a difficult campaign. She said that for the past several months the family would talk about the state's problems over Sunday dinners with her mother.
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"Almost since Brian became judge, people would come up to us and say 'God, we wish you were governor now,'" she said.
Sandoval enters an already crowded race as a frontrunner, according to polls.
The most recent Las Vegas Review-Journal poll showed him leading in the Republican primary and the general election against top potential Democratic contenders.
Gibbons' rock-bottom approval rating has prompted two Republican challengers, former Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon and former state Sen. Joe Heck of Henderson.
Montandon has launched an offensive against Sandoval, seeking to tar him as fickle for leaving several offices mid-term for the next opportunity.
"Brian Sandoval quit mid-term in the Nevada Assembly," Montandon wrote in a recent fund-raising letter. "Brian Sandoval quit in the middle of his term as attorney general, virtually handing the office to a liberal Democrat in the next election. And now, Brian Sandoval says he will quit his job as a federal judge and give (President) Barack Obama the opportunity to appoint another liberal judge to the federal bench.
"Since when is quitting a qualification for governor?"
Sandoval strongly refuted that image, saying "it would have been easier to stay put."
"I have never quit anything in my life," he said. "My entire adult life as been committed to public service. My job titles may have changed, but the thing that has remained the same is my commitment to the people of Nevada."
A spokesman for Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid, the only Democrat in the race after Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley bowed out last week, implied the campaign isn't too worried about the Republican field.
"The Republican lineup seems to be a choice between a failed governor and the chairman of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign," said Mike Trask, referring to Sandoval's role in former President George W. Bush's 2004 campaign in Nevada.
As attorney general, Sandoval twice sued the Nevada Legislature, once in 2003 for former Gov. Kenny Guinn in a bid to force lawmakers to pass a spending plan and education budget in the midst of an all-out tax battle.
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Later, Sandoval tried to convince the Nevada Supreme Court to bar government employees from serving as lawmakers.
He also filed several actions for open meeting law violations and brought the ethics charge against former Controller Kathy Augustine that ultimately resulted in her impeachment.
Sandoval said he would attack the governor's race with the same tenacity.
"I'm in this to win," he said. "I can promise you no one will work harder than I will."
Montandon and Heck alluded to "powerful people" who are trying to "clear the field" for Sandoval. And both vowed not to be bullied out of the race.
"When I was told by a couple of the folks trying to anoint Sandoval that I'm welcome to back out at any time, they made an assumption that just wasn't correct," Montandon said.
Heck made a similar declaration, responding to talk he'd be the most likely candidate to drop out.
"That's rumor and innuendo propagated by people trying to clear the field," Heck said. "We're planning to be in this race through the primary and November."
In 1998, Guinn's campaign successfully used the "anointing" strategy–– a term coined by Las Vegas political columnist Jon Ralston–– to suck up key resources and make it virtually impossible for another mainstream candidate to mount a challenge.
Ernaut played a key role in that race and will be one of Sandoval's chief advisers.
Now I'd like to know what his stance on firearm issues is.....
Sandoval sought to position himself as a consensus builder who can rise above the acrimony that has marred state and national politics.
I'm not looking for a consensus builder at this point, given the political polarization present in this country. Gibbons may not be the best governor, but he issued some tough vetos on the budget and other items that needed to happen, and many were pretty pissed off when they were overidden. Sandoval needs to look close at what consensus means to the other side of the aisle: To a liberal, there is consensus if they get their way!
He will not get my vote. Gibbons has held the line. Without his hard nose approach, we would already be on the way to an income tax and full time leg.
I heard an interview with him on KXNT this morning and he did a pretty fair job of dodging questions.
I'll stick with Gibbons over this guy in a heart beat. This isn't a Harry Reid situation where anyone else is better.
Originally Posted By 1337-G:
I head an interview with him on KXNT this morning and he did a pretty fair job of dodging questions.
He jumped mid term to be a judge from the state senate, now wants to abandon a lifetime appointment to run for gov... fine, he will be out of our hair.
There is no way Gibbons will be reelected. The hatred (and I don't use that term lightly) of Gibbons probably exceeds that of Reid in this state. While I think Gibbons should be applauded for his hard-nose defiance of the Legislature, the moderates in this state don't approve of such backbone, so Sandoval may be the only viable choice unless we want to be stuck a California Democrat in charge.