When Mark Amodei (pronounced AM-UH-DAY) came up against his term limit after 12 successful years in the Nevada state senate and two years in the state assembly, he quietly assumed his life in public service had ended. Extremely popular in his district, some folks wanted him to challenge the term limits law. If anybody could have done it, he could have: In recent elections, more than 80 percent of voters supported him. But, long before he faced his final year, Amodei said he agreed with the term limit provisions — and he stood by what he said.

So, he would exit the limelight — and on a high note. He had, after all, racked up accolades, from Outstanding Freshman Legislator in the assembly to Best Senate Committee Chairman. Even more importantly, he had served faithfully, consistently espousing the conservative values his constituents had come to expect and reward.

That was about a year ago. Amodei barely had time to catch his breath before U.S. Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) resigned in early May of this year after a scandal that involved an extramarital affair with a staffer — and U.S. Rep. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) assumed Ensign’s position instead. That left Heller’s Congressional seat open for the taking — and the GOP was quick to draft Amodei to run in one of Nevada’s first special elections. It didn’t take Amodei much time to make up his mind to throw his hat in the ring.

“My inspiration [to run] has been the last four years,” Amodei said today in a phone interview. He continued:

If you had told me that General Motors was going to go from being shareholder-and-bondholder-owned to government-and-union-owned at the stroke of a pen, I would have told you that was impossible. If you had told me that the debt was going to grow at a rate that was unprecedented and irresponsible, I would have said, ‘That won’t happen.’ If you had told me the government was going to get so into the health care business that it would tell us what to do about so many different decisions, I wouldn’t have believed it. In my mind, it’s worth fighting for — to get us off this track … that is anti-private sector, anti-capitalism and anti-fiscal responsibility. I could not be more profoundly shocked and disappointed at the direction these people are taking us. It’s a call to arms.

Since he made the decision, he’s kept a brisk schedule. Take yesterday and today as a small sample: In just two days, he’s had lunch with “fundraising and media folks,” TV and radio interviews, the Reno rodeo, meetings with Latinos for Prosperity and the American Israeli group in Las Vegas, plus a debate.

He’s right not to waste time: Early voting for the Sept. 13 special election begins the last Saturday of August — and the Harry Reid machine has already begun to mobilize against him and for Democrat Kate Marshall, the state treasurer. Plus, the stakes are high: Like the NY-26 special election, the vote in Nevada in September will help to shape the run-up to the 2012 elections.

Will Amodei be the man to reveal that Nevadans again think red, after voting for President Barack Obama in 2008? Detractors have already begun to criticize his campaign — but Amodei, undaunted, remains on message, and that message seems to resonate with Nevada voters. After all, Amodei is really one of them — born and bred in the district he served as a state senator — and he knows their top concerns right now are economic.

“Nevada is suffering phenomenally in the unemployment area,” Amodei said.

We’re leading the nation in foreclosures. It is a very, very tough time in Nevada and Nevadans are taking a look at all the federal government promises and the Harry Reid promises and evaluating the impact of Obamacare on small businesses and checking those campaign promises. Nevada has become very sophisticated over the last few election cycles regarding what the promises were and the truth on the ground. Nevada right now is very much in play and is becoming much more of a politically informed consumer. I think Nevadans will respond to plain talk and the truth, as opposed to political spin. I am very much enjoying and looking forward to the next two months, to talking about those issues and to telling them the truth.

And tell the truth, he does, on issue after issue.

“When you start down the list, first and foremost, you have to start with the economy and the debt,” he said. “What we have at the national level is a spending problem. If you have no spending discipline, you’re always playing catch-up on taxes.”

For that reason, Amodei instinctively opposes any debt limit increase at all. “What I’m struggling with is, if you raise the debt limit, you will get more debt,” he says. “When you talk about balancing the budget and limiting spending, raising the debt limit is counterintuitive to all those things. … Until you change the course, the course won’t change.”

He shoots straight and speaks plainly about Medicare, as well. “It is a fact that Medicare is broke and it is a fact that only one person has put forward a plan and that’s [Rep.] Paul Ryan [R-Wis.] and my hat’s off to him,” he said. “Medicare is going to have to be dealt with because it’s a major entitlement area and it’s broke. Do you want someone who’s going to say, ‘Yeah, it’s really OK’ until after the election or someone who’s going to say something that makes actuarial sense? … I’m perfectly comfortable with using Paul Ryan’s plan as a starting point.”

His solid spokesmanship makes it no wonder his political career didn’t stop with his last term as a state senator, that his party would recruit him for another run. Now it’s up to Nevadans to ensure it doesn’t stop with this campaign, either.

Tags: Harry Reid