(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – If Nevada Republican candidates want embattled U.S. Sen. John Ensign to lend a hand to their election efforts in 2010, there aren’t many who are saying so at this point.
A survey of several of the GOP candidates and office holders seeking reelection turned up only one for certain: Gov. Jim Gibbons, who is facing a tough primary fight with Brian Sandoval.
When asked if he is seeking Ensign’s support, Dan Burns, a spokesman for Gibbons, said: “We welcome the support of any voter or elected official.”
The Sandoval camp had no comment on the query, which was made following an interview Ensign, R-Nev., gave on a Las Vegas radio station on Monday.
In the interview, Ensign was asked if he was a hindrance to GOP election efforts because of his acknowledgment earlier this year that he had engaged in an extramarital affair with a staff member and possible related ethics violations.
Ensign said he does not believe he is a distraction for the Nevada GOP because a number of candidates have asked him to be involved in their political campaigns in the 2010 election cycle. He did not identify any by name.
Former North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon, a third Republican in the governor’s race, said he has not sought out Ensign’s endorsement at this point in the race.
“Six months from now we’ll see what happens after a primary,” he said.
The campaigns of two other Republicans running for statewide office acknowledged meeting with Ensign, but added that an endorsement or campaign support request is premature.
Grant Hewitt, campaign manager for former state Sen. Joe Heck, who is running for the Congressional District 3 seat now held by Democrat Dina Titus, said Heck has talked to Ensign about his race.
“Both as a former representative of much of this Congressional district and as a U.S. Senator, (Ensign) has valuable knowledge about the people and dynamics of the district and has shared insight into how he was first elected in 1994,” Hewitt said.
James Fisfis, campaign director for Danny Tarkanian, who is in the crowded GOP field to take on U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tarkanian met with Ensign during his trip to Washington, DC, in September.
“He has not to my knowledge asked directly for (Ensign’s) support yet considering the GOP primary,” Fisfis said. “We will consider the question of asking for his support once we reach the general election. We don’t have any further comment.”
In a story in the Las Vegas Sun during that September visit however, Tarkanian is quoted as saying he would welcome Ensign’s support.
Former Nevada Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Lowden, another U.S. Senate candidate, did not respond. She has voiced support for Ensign in interviews with various media.
Jerry Stacy, a spokesman for U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle, said Angle has no interest in getting Ensign’s support for her campaign against Reid.
Stewart Bybee, a spokesman for Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who is running for reelection for his Congressional District 2 seat, said: “Congressman Heller will run for reelection on his record alone, just as he did last cycle.”
Assemblywoman Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, said she is not aware of any members of her caucus who are actively seeking Ensign’s support at this point. Gansert, the Assembly minority leader, said it is a bit early in the campaign for endorsements.
Chris Comfort, new chairman of the Nevada State Republican Party, said he is not aware of how many candidates may be seeking Ensign’s support but that any endorsements are not expected until after the June primary.
At that point, the state party would expect Ensign’s full support for all GOP candidates, he said.
Ensign has a voting record that is fairly consistent with conservative common sense principles, and it would make sense for candidates to seek him out, he said.
Comfort said he recently met with Ensign and that it was “very good, very productive,” although candidate endorsements were not part of the discussion.
“From a state party leadership position, we expect all of our elected officials to allow unfettered access to their resources so we can rebuild the state party,” he said.