WASHINGTON — Moving to end speculation about his political future, Sen. Harry Reid delivered a message to his staff on Tuesday that he is moving full speed ahead to run for re-election in 2016.
Reid told about 75 staffers from his leadership and Nevada-issue offices that he was definitely running again, according to several aides who attended. The announcement was met with applause, they added.
While the Nevada Democrat has sought to emphasize he intends to seek a sixth term in the Senate, speculation has continued to persist that he might decide to retire.
The unusual all-hands meeting took place a day before Reid, 75, was scheduled to undergo follow-up surgery for the serious eye injury he suffered while working out at home on New Year’s Day.
Speculation further has been fueled by the release of Reid’s latest campaign finance report last week showing he had $1.5 million in the bank as of the end of 2014 — about half of what he showed at the same point before he ran for re-election in 2010.
Democrats say the discrepancy is because Reid spent significant time last year raising major sums for other Democratic senators running for re-election.
They maintained there is no thinking that Reid, the Senate minority leader, will not have the money he needs to run a major campaign.
In the latest snapshot illustrating that point, Reid’s campaign report covering the final quarter of 2014 shows he transferred $200,000 in October from his “Friends for Harry Reid” political fund to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee that was advising other Democrats in their races.
For his 2010 race against Republican Sharron Angle, Reid raised $24.8 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It is expected a 2016 race would be even more expensive.
Reid political allies, including several former aides now working as lobbyists, had scheduled at least four money events for him in January and February in a bid to get his 2015 fundraising off to a healthy start.
The results of those events won’t be reported until April.
The Reid staff meeting first was reported by Politico. Emerging from the meeting, Reid told a reporter he has directed top campaign aide Rebecca Lambe to move forward on hiring campaign staff including a campaign manager. Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said later in the day Reid would not be commenting on the staff meeting.
Reid is expected to face a tough re-election as the top target of the national Republican Party, and guessing about his intentions has become a pastime in the press and among political professionals.
An unscientific National Journal poll of Washington “insiders” published last week concluded the Nevada Democrat was the “most vulnerable” incumbent in the view of both Democrats and Republicans.
Talking with reporters on Tuesday, Reid said the recovery from his eye injury “is going fine,” but did not provide details of the follow-up surgery he is scheduled to undergo on Wednesday.
On Jan. 26, doctors in a 3½-hour procedure removed a blood clot from Reid’s right eye, drained additional blood from the front of it and repaired the orbital bones surrounding the eye.
“They’ve done some good work reconstructing my face so the sides both match,” Reid said Tuesday. “Tomorrow they are going to do some other stuff. I hope it all works out well.”
Reid suffered vision loss in his right eye after a heavy elastic band he was stretching during exercise at home in Henderson on New Year’s Day snapped back into his face and knocked him over. He continues to wear a protective cup over the eye kept in place by a long bandage.