Many Democrats were sorely disappointed that no experienced candidate from their party stepped up to run for governor this year.
There were possibilities. Former Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley could have brought her serious policy chops and made it a race. Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto could have run on her record of prosecuting fraudsters. State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, could have run as a real-life liberal, carrying the Democratic banner into battle against imperturbable Republican incumbent Gov. Brian Sandoval. Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak could have put his considerable bankroll and even more considerable love of media attention to good use.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he tried hard to find a challenger for Sandoval, although in the end, his efforts came up short. That was odd for a politician who’s well-known for meddling in every race from president of the United States all the way down to the Moapa Valley Television Maintenance District.
But in the end, Democrats got none of those candidates.
And that’s just how they should vote.
A unique feature of Nevada’s ballot is the option “none of these candidates,” a way to show up at the polls and protest without having to pick the lesser of evils. (Not that any of the gentlemen who actually have taken the time to stand up as Democrats and run should be considered evil, of course.) While some say it’s a waste of a vote — even if “none” were to win, the candidate with the highest vote total would take office — they’re wrong about that.
Nevada’s Democratic Party, whatever its reason, has presented Nevada Democrats with a slate of candidates who cannot possibly win, cannot possibly be competitive, and cannot possibly engage Sandoval in the exchange of ideas that is supposed to animate the political party system.
So in return, Nevada Democrats ought to send a message to their party leaders: That’s not good enough. Next time, do better. And in the meantime, we’re not going to check a box just because your vaunted party machine broke down along the way.
Sandoval is a formidable opponent, to be sure. No scandal seems to stick to him. (Think patient dumping, insurance exchange contractor failures or a particularly ill-timed statement of criticism of the Bureau of Land Management during the Cliven Bundy standoff). He’s enjoying the headwinds of a recovering economy — unemployment is down, the state saw the largest one-month jump in job creation in 30 years, Nevada secured an Apple facility in Reno and the state was selected as a drone-testing area by the federal government. He’s no conservative ideologue, evidenced by his extension of expiring tax increases and expansion of Medicaid. And there’s that 40-megawatt smile.
It’s a good bet that if senatorial son Rory Reid could have jumped out of the gubernatorial race four years ago, once the Democrat discovered he’d face Sandoval instead of a scandal-plagued Jim Gibbons in the general election, he’d have run for the hills, too, and the Democrats would’ve ceded the field as they have today.
By failing to field a candidate, Democrats told their voters (and, ultimately, all voters) that Sandoval is good enough for them. So why shouldn’t Democrats take that message to heart, by selecting “none of these candidates” and allowing the Republican consensus choice to walk to victory? (It’s not right to stay home and boycott the June 10 primary election; the field must be narrowed in the lieutenant governor’s race, some county government offices and many judicial contests.)
But if you’re a Democrat, there’s a swell way to tell the powers-that-be in your party how upset you are that they utterly failed to give you a real choice this time around. The party offered you no one. So vote that way. And maybe next time, they’ll work a little harder to make sure you have a choice.
Steve Sebelius is a Las Vegas Review-Journal political columnist who blogs at SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.