Personal or political, GOP bulldog's bite just as bad as his bark

The fact Republican bulldog Chuck Muth is sinking his canines into a member of his own party says a lot about the man. He's serious about winning and even more focused on promoting a conservative agenda in Nevada. But he's not doing it the old-fashioned way, by ripping into Democrats.

Instead, he's used some of his energy to turn his formidable rhetorical and research talents against GOP elected officials whom he considers to have forgotten their roots. To them, he's been downright brutal.

He's been particularly tough on one-term Assemblywoman Francis Allen, R-Las Vegas, going so far as to recruit a Republican to challenge her in the primary.

Why Allen? By Muth's measure, her votes for tax and spending increases put her on the spot with right-thinking Republicans. And it didn't help that she criticized Muth in writing, a politically inept move that tied a bone around her neck.

Muth downplays the personal aspect of his assault, but it's pretty clear he thinks Allen forgot her conservative constituents.

"I was looking for a Republican to make an example out of who was less conservative than their district, because I didn't want to take a chance of losing it," Muth says. "It really isn't personal. I was going to make an example out of someone. The fact that she made it personal to start with made it easier to pick her."

Muth considered using Assemblyman Scott Sibley for a Milk Bone, but at the last minute Sibley folded.

Muth also thought about making an example of 26-year legislator John Marvel of Battle Mountain, but the ranching community's staunchest ally is well-liked among conservatives despite his compromise vote on taxes.

So Allen it was.

Not only has Muth blistered Allen's voting record, he's also repeatedly raised the issue of whether she's seasoned enough to do the job. He took a bite out of her for accepting free Rolling Stones concert tickets and other perquisites that her fellow legislators also enjoyed. He's even pointed out that Allen has social Web pages on and Yahoo. I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't rereading her high school term papers for signs of plagiarism.

"Even if Francis Allen wins the primary election in August, we've sent a message that, in the future, it may very well cost you a lot of aggravation if you forget why you're there," Muth says. "The primary challenge is about changing voting behavior."

Some would argue, me for instance, that Muth's Cujo act on Allen is overkill. But there's no stopping the bulldog once he tastes blood.

At 47, he's written a pointed political newsletter for a decade, has assembled an expansive candidate training program, spent three years in Washington with the American Conservative Union, and today defines the hard edge of the Nevada GOP.

He's also a devoted husband and father of two children. Call him in the afternoon, and you're likely to find him hanging with the kids at his home in Carson City.

Muth's critics would be shocked to learn he was raised in a union household and that his father was a Democrat in the Maryland Legislature.

Young Chuck credits the rise of Ronald Reagan with changing his politics, which he now classifies as "more of a Libertarian" and "Goldwater conservative."

What separates Muth from most is his focus on transforming the Internet into a useful campaign tool. He's developing a series of e-mail lists that will target political districts and enable him to give voters regular updates on favored candidates as well as deliver blistering broadsides against opponents.

Liberal political bloggers recently generated plenty of mainstream media attention during their conference in Las Vegas, and many Internet opinion-makers and idealists have emerged as valid voices. Distinguishing those voices above the din is one of the challenges of the age.

Muth can relate, but he's more than a conservative blogger. He's a political mechanic, a guy who isn't just in this to discuss the issues, but to tear out the competition's throat.

With the right e-mail list, Muth can reach thousands of computer-savvy voters at a fraction of the cost of a conventional mailer. And that could make a difference on Election Day.

Now that the bulldog is loose, no one is safe.

• John L. Smith's column appears by permission of the Las Vegas Review Journal. E-mail him at or call 383-0295.


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