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Amodei not worried about primary challengers, invites anyone with ‘a better mousetrap’ to get in

Megan Messerly
Megan Messerly
Michelle Rindels
Michelle Rindels
CongressElection 2020
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Mark Amodei, R-Nev., talks during an editorial board meeting with The Nevada Independent

Rep. Mark Amodei reiterated his plans to run for re-election in 2020 on Tuesday, though he said the Republican primary for Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District would make the Democratic presidential primary “barely look like it’s just a little ice cream social.”

But the lone Republican member of Nevada’s congressional delegation said he’s not worried about a challenge from former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who ran for governor last year, or businessman Danny Tarkanian, who he suggested was moving to Gardnerville to throw his hat into the race, though the family’s stated reason for moving is better schools for their children.

“It's like, anybody who's feeling like they've got a better mousetrap ought to get in and tell me about it,” Amodei said, adding that his perspective on primaries has evolved. “I think if you'd have talked to me 10 years ago, my hair would probably be on fire.”

He also has no plans to become a federal judge at any point in the future, despite being approached by then-Sen. Dean Heller last year about putting his name in the hat for any vacancies. He ruled that possibility out, he said, when he decided to run for re-election in 2018.

“I had to make a decision, so it's like, ‘So am I not going to run in 2018?’ Because I don't think you can go before people and say, ‘Hey, I want to represent you in Congress, but if this comes through, buh-bye,’” Amodei said. “So I made that decision, obviously, by what I did in 2018.”

Amodei said that he would be “phenomenally shocked” if he — the self-described Marcus Luttrell, the “lone survivor” Navy SEAL, of Nevada’s congressional delegation — declined to endorse President Donald Trump for re-election.

“So I mean at some point in time if they ask I would anticipate that it's like, ‘Yeah, I'll support the incumbent president,’” Amodei said.

Amodei’s remarks came during a half-hour interview with reporters following a less than nine-minute address to the Nevada Legislature on Tuesday. His was the fourth visit by a member of Nevada’s congressional delegation this legislative session.

Amodei’s speech to legislators focused on the opportunity the state has now that the Navy wants to quadruple the size of the Fallon Range Training Complex, proposing to expand it by about 600,000 acres. The governor could come up with a list of conditions for Nevada’s support of the project and extract valuable concessions, Amodei said, such as the release of federal land for housing development, changes related to sage grouse habitat and swaps of buildings.

“It also provides them the opportunity instead of the feds going, ‘Yeah, we appreciate you giving us your input,’ but they don't really work for any of them,” Amodei said. “You say, where's my best lever time? I think it's a really good lever time.”

As it stands, Nevada lawmakers are advancing a proposal that opposes the massive expansion of the test range. AJR7, which expresses the Legislature’s disapproval of the project on the grounds that it would absorb the Fallon National Wildlife Refuge and close the land off to recreational and grazing uses. It passed on a 39-1 vote in the Assembly on Tuesday.

Amodei also expressed skepticism about President Donald Trump’s recent suggestion that undocumented immigrants who cannot be detained be dropped off in sanctuary cities:

“There are some aspects of that where we kind of giggle and go, hmm, that'd be interesting … I get that in terms of saying you pay for the schools, you paid the social services, you'd pay for the public safety. So I get that point. But it's like, I don't think you'd really do that,” he said. “I mean, there are aspects of going, hey, we're going to close the borders. It's like, you know, that's interesting. Let's think about that. The problem is, when you think about some of these things, well, okay, you may accomplish this but you're going to disrupt all of this.”

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