Lowden Clear

The state GOP chair is confident Republicans will beat the odds and prevail in November

Photo: Sam Morris

Come November 4, we’ll know whether Nevada Republican Party chair Sue Lowden is Nero, sitting idly by as the empire burns, or the political version of Joe Namath. The former casino owner (she and husband Paul ran the Sahara) and television newscaster (Channel 8) was tapped in April 2007 to suture a party fractured by internal squabbles.

While there have been fewer negative headlines, it hasn’t all been kinship and kumbayas. Republicans openly griped about moving their presidential caucus to January 19, in reaction to the Democrats. Party leaders canceled April’s state GOP convention in Reno. They say they lacked a quorum; Ron Paul supporters contend he would’ve won the nomination. The embarrassment continued in July when a make-up convention was scrapped due to tepid interest.

Of late Lowden’s been hearing about the Democrats’ large voter advantages locally and statewide and has seen state Republicans blasted with the same kind of factually specious but hard-hitting ads made (in)famous by Karl Rove. As expected, Lowden expresses confidence in the GOP’s election-day prospects. “The John McCain-Sarah Palin ticket will prevail, and so will state Republicans.” Lowden chatted with the Weekly about Paul supporters, the state of the GOP and the Palin effect.

Prior to the GOP convention in Minneapolis, the Republican National Committee said it was “deeply troubled by the ineptness of the state party” and that the party used a “flawed, inadequate and unacceptable” process to select its national convention delegates. That had to be a blow to morale.

Much worse has been said about me and the executive committee of the state Republican party. Anyone who’s involved in party politics has very thick skin. But the bottom line is that, at the convention, all of our delegates were seated. We had great seats, right down in front. We couldn’t have been happier.

Didn’t you want to wring the necks of Ron Paul supporters who, essentially, fractured the state party, caused a re-do of the Nevada GOP convention and prompted this RNC sniping?

Absolutely not. Time is a wonderful thing; it heals a lot. We believed that if some of the Ron Paul supporters came to the convention, they would get to know John McCain better, and they could support him. They did. All of our 34 delegates voted for John McCain. Ron Paul supporters have a lot of passion.

By several measures—the number of field offices, fundraising, ground-level campaigning—it seems that Obama’s campaign is outworking McCain’s in Nevada.

I don’t know where you’re getting your information from. We have 13 offices. We have more than 50 employees working on the campaign. We’re spending a whole lot of money; several million is being spent in Nevada. If you look at TV commercials, we are surpassing the Obama campaign in terms of what we’re doing. [The Obama campaign claims 13 offices, with six more slated to open, and 75 paid staff.]

Voter registration numbers don’t look good for state Republicans—Democrats are projected to have a 100,000-plus voter edge in Clark County and a 70,000-plus edge statewide. If Obama destroys McCain in Clark County, keeps it close or wins Washoe County and snags some rural counties, Nevada’s going to go blue.

They’ve been aggressively registering since before the Democratic presidential caucus because that race [between Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton] was competitive. But in the end, I truly believe that Nevadans are independent and will vote for the person, not the party. I know that Sen. McCain represents western values: low taxes, pro-gun, pro-defense. These are the issues Nevadans care about.

State Democrats are engaging in Swift Boat-style campaigning against the likes of Sens. Bob Beers and Joe Heck. Are you surprised that they’re going negative?

I’m not surprised. They see the [voter registration] numbers, and they believe they have a true chance. It makes sense for them to fight.

Gov. Jim Gibbons seems like political kryptonite to his own party. Is he actively campaigning for the McCain-Palin ticket and helping state Republicans?

Do you know something I don’t know?

It’s hard to tell what he’s doing for the party. McCain will need rural counties to win Nevada, and Gibbons, if he has any political capital left, it’s probably in the rurals.

Gov. Gibbons has an RV and visits the rurals all the time. He’s very popular in the rurals and vacations in the rurals—he knows where all the barbecues are. So I’m not aware of the fact that he is not out there campaigning.

Has Palin’s addition had any tangible effects on the state party?

It has energized the base. Our phones have not stopped ringing. We have more volunteers than we ever had. They’re making phone calls, grabbing yard signs and putting on bumper stickers.

Right-wing radio hosts who’ve blasted the parents of teen stars who’ve gotten pregnant are defending Palin, whose 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. How is the pregnancy playing among Nevada evangelicals?

I can’t speak for Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh, and I don’t speak for any evangelicals. This is a personal issue for the Palin family. I think people whose children aren’t perfect can identify with someone who has these types of family matters to deal with.


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