Only 390 days left

Northern Nevada was buzzing last week about two pieces of not-so-surprising election news: Frankie Sue Del Papa’s decision not to run for re-election as state attorney general and City Councilman David Rigdon’s preliminary plans to throw his hat in the Reno mayoral ring—in all likelihood running against, among others, Jeff Griffin, who’s looking more and more like he’ll seek a third term.

Both of these announcements are important. On a state level, Del Papa’s much-expected announcement means that the only Democrat to hold a constitutional state office is stepping down, leaving the state Democratic Party—whose ineptitude and lack of cohesive leadership as of late have been downright embarrassing—the task of finding a worthy candidate to run in her place.

Remember what happened when the Democrats were looking for a candidate during the 2000 Senate race after popular Dem Richard Bryan retired, and the best they could come up with (granted, after Del Papa bailed on her candidacy) was Ed Bernstein? And remember during the 1998 governor’s race, when the Dems almost had to settle for state Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas (granted, after Del Papa bailed on her candidacy), until then-Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones got in at the last minute to be the sacrificial lamb to the Kenny Guinn juggernaut?

In other words, don’t be surprised if the GOP makes a clean sweep of statewide offices in 2002. As a matter of fact, be surprised if the Republicans don’t make a clean sweep. The Democratic Party seems to be too busy squabbling over who will run for Nevada’s new Southern Nevada congressional seat to worry about anything else right now.

On the local level, Rigdon’s announcement, which was far from a surprise, indicates that we could have a very interesting mayoral contest on our hands. Until recently, the buzz—whatever the heck that means—was that Jeff Griffin was going to exit stage north after this term to retire to Oregon. Well, now the buzz has changed, and it appears Griffin is going to run again.

But unlike in 1998, when Griffin easily steamrollered Judy Herman on his way to re-election, 2002 is not a sure thing for the mayor. He has more political baggage now, and his egotistical, “I know what’s best” attitude is turning off more and more people these days.

Whoever decides to run, Griffin has to be considered the favorite. But if a strong candidate emerges from what is probably going to be a very crowded primary next year, Griffin could face one helluva fight.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I should point out one extremely important fact: The primary election on Sept. 3, 2002, is still 390 days away. All this talk about who is and who is not running is just that—talk.

It’s ridiculously early to speculate seriously on what’s going to happen in the next election (even though it may be interesting to us political nerds). Taking the above examples, who knows whether Rigdon will actually run? What if the feelers he’s sending out right now don’t send back such good feelings? He may instead decide to go the safer route and run for re-election.

And who knows whether Griffin will end up running again? He may goof something else up in the next 250 days and bail out (although the man seems to show a nearly Clintonesque Teflon quality, as nothing—secret small-group meetings, not releasing campaign contribution reports as legally required, etc.—seems to stick to him).

Finally, if Frankie Sue changed her mind about running for governor and U.S. Senate the last two elections, who’s to say she won’t change her mind about not running this time? (OK, I doubt that will happen, but you get the point.)

It’s important to remember that we’ve got 13 months before the first ballot is filled out. And a lot can happen between now and then.