CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Gov. Brian Sandoval filed for a second term Friday, steamrolling into the 2014 election season sitting atop a huge campaign fund and no big-name opponents in his rearview mirror.
Surrounded by reporters as he plunked down three $100 bills to cover his filing fee, the first-term Republican touted Nevada’s improving economy and said he wants to continue working to diversify the state’s economy and improve education and the state’s mental health system.
He also sought to quell suggestions he may seek federal office in 2016 and leave the governor’s office midway through his last term.
“I love my job,” Sandoval said. “I’m focused on one thing: continuing to do the best job I can for the people of the state of Nevada, to hopefully continue to earn their trust and be elected and continue to serve my four years.”
Sandoval noted that when he left a lifetime appointment as a federal judge and took office in 2011, Nevada was in the throes of recession and unemployment hit a record 14 percent. The jobless rate has since retreated to 8.8 percent, but it still remains the second-highest in the nation.
During his term, the governor said the state has added more than 60,000 jobs and has seen three years of economic improvement. “But we’re not where we need to be,” he said.
If re-elected, economic development and education would remain priorities, Sandoval said.
In the 2013 legislative session, the state increased funding for K-12 education by $500 million, expanded all-day kindergarten, decreased class sizes and committed $50 million for English language learner programs, he said.
He wants to build on those efforts and also focus on pre-kindergarten initiatives, Sandoval said.
A rising star in the Republican Party and the first Hispanic to ascend to the governor’s mansion in Nevada, Sandoval hasn’t been able to avoid speculation that he may challenge U.S. Sen. Harry Reid two years from now when the Democratic majority leader is up for re-election.
He was asked about his intentions several times Friday.
“With all due respect, you’ve kind of whipped this all up,” Sandoval told reporters. “My focus has been on doing the best job I can as governor.
“If I’m fortunate and blessed enough to be elected, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Candidate filing continues through March 14. While others have filed for the office, none are well known. Democrats have yet to field a favorite.
Sandoval said he will not dismiss any opponent, saying he plans to “run a very hard, aggressive race.”