Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., has taken his first step toward running for governor by forming a steering committee to test the waters for a possible statewide race, spokeswoman Amy Spanbauer says.
Gibbons still plans to wait to make an official announcement on whether he will run until late spring or early summer, Spanbauer said Tuesday, adding, "He hasn't made any decisions at this time."
Gibbons already has high-powered allies on board: former U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt, now a political consultant in Washington, and longtime GOP political king-maker Sig Rogich. The two will help lead the committee and other committee members from throughout Nevada will be announced later this year, Spanbauer said.
Gibbons' Nevada-based chief of staff, Robert Uithoven, will direct day-to-day operations of the committee, likely beginning in February. Spanbauer will be the new chief of staff.
Gibbons has long been considered a top Republican choice to replace Gov. Kenny Guinn. Speculation has focused on Gibbons since he declined to challenge Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., in the 2004 election.
Instead of running against Reid, Gibbons won an easy re-election bid and pushed the campaign supporting the "Education First" initiative, which would force the Legislature to pass school budgets before any other finance bill.
Rogich, who has served as Gibbons' state finance director, said the steering committee moves Gibbons "in that direction" toward running for governor, though he helps Gibbons with his finances no matter which office he chooses to pursue.
"Whatever he decides to do in the future, my role will transcend to that spot," Rogich said, adding, "I think he enjoys the support necessary to become governor if he decides that's what he intends to do."
One advantage Gibbons has over others considering a gubernatorial race is his campaign war chest.
He'd be aided by legislation passed by Congress a few months ago that allows federal lawmakers to use money raised for a congressional seat to be used instead for a statewide race.
As of Nov. 22, Gibbons had $476,802 in his congressional coffers, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Most of the other major candidates who have indicated they might run are involved in the state Legislature and will have to stop raising money on Friday - 30 days before the legislative session begins.
State law prohibits legislators from raising money 30 days before and 30 days after a session.
Those affected include Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson; Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas; and Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt, a Republican who already has announced her intentions to run.
Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson, a Democrat, also has floated his name but could continue raising money this winter and spring.