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Nevada Democrats skip on Sandoval challenge


I broke my leg recently, and the fracture has slowed me down a bit.

Getting the hang of using crutches has been a challenge. Walking long distances is impossible. Truth is, even negotiating a simple curb is difficult.

But the way I see it, that ought to give Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval a fair head start for his re-election campaign.

That’s right. I’ve decided to run for governor.

Well, maybe run is too strong a word. Limp forward on oversized chopsticks is more like it.

Sure, I missed last week’s deadline to file for the office. And from the look of things, so did every legitimate challenger to Sandoval’s incumbency from the state Democratic Party. In that context, what’s a little late start?

There may be some question on Election Day about where to write in my name on the ballot, but just ask a volunteer at your polling place for assistance.

Some will say I’m not qualified to be governor. To them, I say, “Jim Gibbons.”

Besides, I’ve followed plenty of elections in three decades as a columnist. I’ve also covered organized crime. I think I can talk the talk on the campaign trail.

Of course, I probably wouldn’t have had to take this drastic measure if the Democrats had fielded a viable candidate to challenge Sandoval. For some reason, no one was available to give him so much as a good scolding.

Even the leader of Nevada’s Democratic Party, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has been downright docile when it comes to taking Sandoval to task. It helped that Sandoval embraced the inevitable arrival of Obamacare by creating a state insurance exchange. The fact that it appears to have been created out of baling wire has been a point of controversy that has yet to reflect on the governor.

Sandoval’s first four years have not been without controversy. His slow reaction to Sacramento Bee articles chronicling the dumping of mentally ill patients by Nevada institutions might be devastating in the hands of a skilled political craftsman.

For that matter, Sandoval’s long-rumored — and flatly denied — plan to leave office at midterm to run for Reid’s Senate seat in 2016 could be tailored to benefit an opponent in the 2014 campaign.

Sandoval is popular, but does that mean he doesn’t deserve an energetic challenger?

As your governor, I won’t sprint away from the duties of running the state. Hey, I can barely walk. Sprinting is pretty much out of the question.

But I also won’t walk away from the state as it continues to rise from recession. Nevada needs someone in leadership who will stand his ground — even if it’s only on one leg.

For months, outspoken Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak said he was considering running against Sandoval. Sisolak was capable of bankrolling a statewide campaign, but after plenty of consideration, he decided to pass on taking on the popular incumbent.

Longtime legislator Tick Segerblom made noise about running against Sandoval. Segerblom is no shrinking violet, but in the end, he also passed on what would have been a long shot at best.

Not even former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman saw fit to step into the breach and muss Sandoval’s hair with a few one-liners. Goodman at least would have made the race quotable, and he might have sold plenty of copies of his memoir.

Nevada needs someone with a dynamic vision when it comes to improving our public schools and social services. If Sandoval is that person, he hasn’t shown it yet. And now he won’t have to.

While I can’t guarantee it, once the swelling subsides I will do my best to stump in all 17 counties. I’ll run, well, actually sort of hop from Searchlight to Jackpot meeting voters and asking them to hold open doors while I offer my reform platform.

I have a broken leg, but it’s the Democrats’ response to Sandoval that’s truly lame.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. E-mail him at jsmith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295.