Sandoval bridges GOP worlds


The historic Caughlin Ranch House in Reno, where Brian Sandoval celebrated his win over Gov. Jim Gibbons in the Republican gubernatorial primary, was a far cry from the hard, dusty patch of land in Searchlight where two months ago both candidates sought votes among hard-line Tea Party conservatives.

The Reno house, with its white columns and windows adorned with bunting, complemented the mainstream tastes of the attendees, many of whom praised Sandoval for his reputation as a political moderate willing to sacrifice ideology for accomplishment.

“He is a dynamic young man,” said state Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, the elder statesman of the Nevada Legislature. “He has credibility across party lines.”

The setting was nothing like the March 27 Showdown in Searchlight hosted by the Tea Party Express in the backyard of Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. The raucous, freewheeling event in the desert featured conservative hard-line headliner Sarah Palin and others whose rhetoric spared nothing in the name of civility.

If Sandoval is to win his general election contest in November against Democrat Rory Reid, he will need to connect with traditional Republicans of Raggio’s ilk and the insurgent faction of Tea Party Republicans, who on Tuesday helped conservative Sharron Angle win the party’s nomination to challenge U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the father of Sandoval’s gubernatorial opponent.

For Republican moderates such as Raggio, who recently was the target of an unsuccessful recall effort by Tea Party organizers, and former Gov. Kenny Guinn, Sandoval’s candidacy is a chance for their wing of the party to regain influence they have recently lost as the Tea Party faction has grown in stature.

Sandoval, 46, has successfully moved between both worlds. His decision to step down from a lifetime appointment as a federal judge was followed by an influx of financial support from sources cozy with the Republican establishment who were eager to abandon Gibbons for a candidate they thought would have broader appeal.

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