Assemblywoman Lucy Flores decided to test her strengths and weaknesses before declaring herself a Democratic candidate in the 2014 lieutenant governor’s race. That’s smart on her part.
Except she didn’t test the things that mattered to me.
I don’t care about her troubled youth, although I admire the turnaround from street gang member to Assembly gang member. I care about her legislative skills more than her abortion at 16.
Her theft of a car and time in juvie aren’t nearly as significant as the fact the outspoken lawmaker was considered the worst Assembly member in 2013 in Review-Journal surveys of lawmakers, lobbyists and the media, even if those polls can be skewed. In 2011, among 18 freshman, she received a C minus and was listed as the third-worst Assembly freshmen, so she actually moved from bad to worse in her second term. Not promising.
I care far more that she is hypocritical about transparency, working for laws for more campaign disclosure, but when the Las Vegas Sun reported she wasn’t disclosing completely how she was spending her campaign money, she whined it was too difficult.
Yes, she was on Assembly Ways and Means, which handles the state’s budget, yet as a freshman she resisted filling out her campaign disclosure reports, offering one of the most foolish quotes of 2012. She told the newspaper, “I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to have every single penny reported just because of the level of burden it really takes on a person. Maybe if I had a staffer that the state paid for to record every single one of my receipts and ensure they were being kept up full time, and I didn’t have to leave my day job so I could spend an additional couple of hours working on that.”
She and six other Assembly Democrats didn’t follow the campaign reporting laws that say you have to report what you spend from your campaign account. They picked what they wanted to report and left some things out. The law doesn’t offer wiggle room in campaign reports.
Flores left off that she spent $8,550 from campaign money for living expenses in Carson City. An attorney told 42 Democratic Assembly members that was all right; but after the Sun’s story broke, the seven who followed his advice turned around and amended their reports, adding a total of $45,000 in expenses.
Secretary of State Ross Miller still fined them $150 each for not following the law.
Did I mention Flores is an attorney who graduated from the Boyd School of Law in 2010? Or that she serves on the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, which handles the state’s $6.2 billion biennial budget? She ought to understand the law. She ought to be able to fill out a campaign expense report without the state hiring a staffer for her.
The November poll recently released didn’t test her weaknesses as a legislator, just her teenage foibles and how she lifted herself up. The Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group concluded: “Overwhelmingly, Nevadans respond positively to Lucy’s life story and say it demonstrates that she has the character, work ethic and determination the state needs in its elected officials.”
The poll said the 618 Nevadans at first favored Republican Mark Hutchison over Flores 41 percent to 35 percent, but after they learned about Flores, she took the lead 46 percent to 43 percent. Republican Sue Lowden was ignored in the poll.
Flores isn’t the first choice of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who doesn’t leave the recruitment of Democratic candidates to chance. His first choice was another Hispanic woman, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who said she is not running for anything in 2014.
Lieutenant governor matters deeply to Reid. He needs a Democrat to hold the seat so that GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval won’t be tempted to run against Reid in 2016, when the governor would be midterm.
If Flores runs for lieutenant governor and loses to the Republican, Flores would lose her District 28 seat, which covers parts of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas.
Since this is a high-stakes race even though the lieutenant governor is a part- time job, Flores and the GOP contenders will all find themselves under fire.
The positive poll numbers for Flores wouldn’t be nearly as positive if her legislative ratings were included, or her failure to report her campaign expenses, when what she said and what she did were in conflict.
I see an ad now, Flores’ head switching back and forth and the word “hypocrite” stamped across her face.
The two-term assemblywoman may run and with a strong Democratic turnout may win.
But there will be a cost to her reputation. There always is.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at 702-383-0275