Although I predicted it on “Nevada Week in Review” back in January, I still harbored a tiny bit of surprise on Friday when it actually happened.
The Nevada Democratic Party, which had 63,000 more active registered voters than its Republican rivals as of February, failed to field a first- or second-tier candidate for the office of governor.
As a result, and despite a crowded field of little-known challengers, incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval is now all but assured re-election.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — the titular and actual head of Nevada’s Democrats, who runs the party with an iron fist in a titanium glove — promised about a month ago the party would muster a quality candidate for the job. “I’m sure that it will be a respectable candidate, someone that people know,” Reid told the Reno Gazette-Journal’s Ray Hagar.
Was Reid referring to Dr. Stephen Frye, the medical marijuana crusader? Or Chris Hyepock, who has been working social media hard prior to filing? Somehow, I don’t think so.
Democrats, including Reid, haven’t been very vocal in their criticism of Sandoval. In part, it’s because Sandoval is a moderate. He signed off on extended tax increases despite an ill-advised promise that he wouldn’t; he agreed to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and created a state-based health insurance exchange; he added funds for English Language Learners and class-size reduction; and he signed plenty of bills favored by Democrats.
But there are issues that need a Democratic champion, from education funding to real reforms in the way the state treats mentally ill people, from the proper balance of state spending between North and South to establishing a sensible tax system. Yes, even a top-name Democrat would have a long, hard slog against the popular Sandoval. But that doesn’t mean you just quit.
From now on, when Democrats complain about the governor, we should all be ready with a response: You had your chance.
• There were some last-minute surprises Friday, the last day to file for office in Nevada. For example, ex-state Sen. Mike Schneider challenged incumbent Clark County Commissioner Susan Brager. Among his reasons for filing: “Jobs, reliable county services, including a focus on public safety.”
That sounds an awful lot like somebody who supports more cops, if not More Cops, the 0.15 percentage-point increase in the sales tax to hire more officers. Brager has opposed the full tax, although she’s said she could support a 0.075-percentage-point increase. But Schneider said he’s open to discussing the original proposal, although he allows he’d prefer to pay for officers with the property tax, a more stable funding source.
“We have to look at that. We are under the national average for cops,” he says. Like Brager, Schneider is a Democrat. He’s known for championing light rail while in the Legislature, an idea that’s caught on with more and more people of late. If elected, Schneider said, “we’re going to get serious about light rail.”
• Two years ago, famous son Danny Tarkanian lost his fourth bid for public office after Steven Horsford defeated him in the race for the newly created 4th Congressional District. At the time, Tarkanian (who’d already lost races for secretary of state, state Senate and a primary for U.S. Senate) said he was done. “My family and I are going to step out away from it and move on with our lives,” he told the Review-Journal at the time.
But on Friday — the last day of filing — Tarkanian stepped right back into it and filed to run for university regent in District 2, currently represented by incumbent Robert Blakely. Up until Friday, it was a two-man race between Blakely and attorney Trevor Hayes, a former Review-Journal reporter.
Fifth time the charm? We’ll find out this summer in the June primary.
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.