Wimmer takes job as Nevada GOP political director
The Patrick Henry Caucus co-founder says he'll commute to new job as GOP political director.
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Former Utah state Rep. Carl Wimmer will become the new political director for the Nevada Republican Party — a key battleground state in the 2012 election.

Wimmer's family will continue to live in Herriman and he will shuttle back to Utah on weekends.

"The biggest trial that I'm going to be facing is just the short time between now and November — the fundraising we need to do. I'll be aggressive about raising money and the organization," Wimmer said. "I intend to go there and help them with their vote-by-mail and canvassing the voters and just doing what we need to do to make sure the Republicans win in November."

Jon Ralston, a political analyst who hosts a television program in Nevada, said the state party is in shambles.

"I don't know what the heck they're going to need a political director for when they aren't going to be directing anything politically," Ralston said.

The Republican National Committee and Mitt Romney's presidential campaign have set up "Team Nevada," a shadow party created to supplant the Nevada Republican Party, which has been shredded by internal divisions.

"Nobody is going give to the Nevada Republican Party. They're going to be directed to give to the Team Nevada folks," Ralston said. "There is no Nevada Republican Party. It's a shell."

Chuck Muth, a veteran Nevada political consultant, said making the state party function again will be a major challenge.

"I've seen old clunkers sitting out, rusting in the desert that run better than the Nevada Republican Party," Muth said.

Wimmer was elected three times to the state House and was co-founder of the Patrick Henry Caucus, a group of conservative lawmakers focused on state sovereignty. He sponsored numerous pieces of pro-life legislation, gun rights bills and was the lead sponsor of legislation challenging federal health reform.

He was considered the frontrunner to win Utah's new 4th Congressional District and resigned his legislative seat to campaign, but was soundly beaten at the state GOP convention by Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, who won the nomination.

"I know Nevada politics just enough that it's not going to be a big burden for me to get the lay of the land," Wimmer said. "[They're] doing an aggressive rebuild and they're bringing in people who can make a difference from Day One."

But Muth questioned how Wimmer can do his job effectively shuttling back and forth to Utah.

"That's insane," said Muth. "If he's going to be a full-time political director he should be on the ground doing it full time."

Ralston was more succinct: "It's a joke. Who can take that seriously?"

Wimmer said he will spend the time needed in Nevada, if that means skipping trips home. "I don't intend to go down there and golf," Wimmer said.

He said after the election he would consider moving his family to Nevada, but that's not the plan for now.

The Nevada party has been pulled apart by divisions between the establishment GOP and Ron Paul and tea party supporters. Wimmer endorsed Paul for president earlier this year.

In 2008, the Nevada GOP convention was abruptly shut down when Paul supporters sought to get their delegates elected to the national GOP convention.

In 2010, there was a rift in the U.S. Senate race between the establishment Republicans and tea party candidate Sharron Angle, who won the nomination but was beaten by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Nevada is widely viewed as a key battleground state in the 2012 election, one of the few true "toss-up" states. President Barack Obama won the state in 2008, getting 55 percent of the vote and has carried a slight lead in most recent polls.

The state is also home to one of the top U.S. Senate races in the country this year, and a hotly contested U.S. House race. Republicans are also hoping to pick up a handful of seats and take control of the state Senate.

gehrke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @RobertGehrke