Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) told his staff this week that he will seek election to a sixth term next year, trying to end speculation that he would retire after more than three decades in Congress.
“I’m running,” the 75-year-old told the assembled staff, according to an adviser who attended the meeting Tuesday and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private huddle.
Reid’s declaration came as he was set to undergo a second surgery on his right eye Wednesday at George Washington University Hospital, part of his ongoing rehabilitation after he shattered his right eye socket and broke several ribs in a fall in his home outside Las Vegas while exercising on New Year’s Day. According to an office statement, the follow-up eye surgery is necessary to recover “full vision in his right eye.”
Because of his age, his long congressional career and the accident, speculation had been mounting that Reid might forego the eight-year commitment: two years of campaigning to win a six-year term. He would be 83 if he served a full term.
His staff meeting, held at the Capitol, was meant to settle some of the questions about his political future and address any questions his aides had for him.
His decision is not definitive, as Nevada’s official election filing deadline is 13 months away. He could still back out if his recovery takes a turn for the worse. When Politico asked him if anything could prompt him not to run, he called it a “question that has no answer.”
But the senator’s Nevada team has stepped up its activity, according to Democratic strategists who are not directly connected to it. The team is searching more actively for a campaign manager for what is likely to be one of the highest profile Senate races in the nation. And K Street Democrats, some of whom have wondered whether Reid would run again, report that they are being told to send their contribution checks.
Republicans, who will be defending more than twice as many seats as Democrats next year, have the minority leader at the top of what is a small target list.
However, recruiting the right candidate to run against Reid has always been difficult. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, is popular and won reelection in a landslide last year, but he has shown no interest in a federal race and just proposed the largest tax increase in the state’s history to help settle Nevada’s fiscal books and shore up education funding.
“Do you really think, if this is my last session as governor, I would propose the things that I proposed last night, thinking I might be on a ballot?” Sandoval asked Nevada political analyst Jon Ralston the morning after the tax proposal was announced.
With Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation also passing on the race, GOP strategists will have to work to avoid a repeat of the 2010 campaign. Then, arch conservative Sharron Angle emerged from a split primary and proved to be a bad candidate. Reid won by a comfortable 5 percentage points.
At his weekly media session Tuesday, Reid tried to play down his health issues as his right eye continues to be covered and his face remains bruised from the accident and bone reconstruction surgery in late January.
“Well, my recovery is going fine. They’ve done some good work reconstructing my face so I have the sides both match,” he said. “Tomorrow, they’re going to go and do some other stuff, and I hope it all works out well.”