- Associated Press - Monday, January 16, 2017

RENO, Nev. (AP) - One of the leading Nevada Republicans considering running for governor next year is showing off a sizeable campaign war chest nearly two years before the 2018 election.

Attorney General Adam Laxalt filed an annual campaign contribution report Monday that shows he raised nearly $1.2 million in 2016 - all but about $100,000 of that between Oct. 15 and the end of December. Combined with money left over from 2015, that gives him a record $1.5 million cash-on-hand entering 2017.

His campaign adviser, Robert Uithoven, told reporters on a conference call Monday that Laxalt hasn’t decided yet whether to enter the race to replace GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval, who will be forced to step down because of term limits.

But he said there’s no question Laxalt has the ability to raise the amount of money necessary to win the race, noting his aggressive fundraising push at the end of last year was done “without a declared candidacy or fully active campaign staff.”

“If there is a better fundraiser in the field, I don’t know who it is,” Uithoven said.

Laxalt, the grandson of former U.S. Sen. and Nevada Gov. Paul Laxalt, can use the money for a run for governor or re-election as attorney general.

Two Republicans who had been considered among the potential front-runners for the GOP’s 2018 gubernatorial nomination announced in recent weeks they will not make the race - Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller. Heller said he plans to run for re-election to the Senate.

Uithoven said 70 percent of Laxalt’s fundraising total has come from Nevadans. He said it’s the “largest amount of contributions ever reported by a Republican two years out from the election.”

Uithoven is a longtime GOP strategist who worked as press secretary for former Gov. Jim Gibbons, both as governor from 2006 to 2010 and earlier as congressman.

When Gibbons announced his gubernatorial candidacy in August 2005, he had “several hundred thousand dollars” in his congressional campaign available to spend on the run for governor, Uithoven said.

“But he certainly didn’t have a seven-figure amount to roll-over at a time he could roll federal money into a state race,” he said. He said Sandoval was a federal judge before he ran for governor, so he didn’t have any federal money available to devote to a statewide race.

No Democrat has announced plans to run for governor. Possible candidates include U.S. Rep Dina Titus, Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, state Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford and state Sen. Tick Segerblom.

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