Everybody loves a parade, especially politicians.
They go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Take the GOP team of Gov. Brian Sandoval and state Sen. Mark Hutchison, the governor’s choice to be Nevada’s next lieutenant governor. Hutchison plans to hit Friday’s Independence Day celebrations in Boulder City and in Summerlin, where Sandoval will play a leading role, riding in a car near a float resembling the Great Basin National Park.
Democrat Lucy Flores, who’s running against Hutchison, will be in Boulder City, too, where hopefuls and incumbents alike will stand elbow-to-elbow serving pancakes to Nevadans starting at 7 a.m.
In an email Thursday, the Las Vegas assemblywoman thanked her supporters and asked them to join her in Boulder City. The email includes a “donate” link, where people can give her campaign from $25 to $2,500 a month or more.
Ross Miller, the Democratic secretary of state running for attorney general, will show up in a business suit at Boulder City and will bring a one-ton tank of ice water so he can get soaked in the traditional water fight at the end of the parade.
“I’ve spent my whole life in every corner of our state, sharing in the all the traditions Nevada has to offer,” said Miller, the son of former Gov. Bob Miller. “That’s why we try to put on a full production at every parade. Waving from a convertible is fine, but I immerse myself in the history of our communities and their festivities. It’s what the campaign trail in Nevada is all about, winning votes one at a time and having fun doing it.”
Adam Laxalt, Miller’s Republican opponent, will be in Boulder City, too. Then he’ll drive about 460 miles to Elko for its annual Basque Festival over the Fourth of July weekend. Laxalt, a former Navy judge advocate general, is of Basque heritage, the grandson of Paul Laxalt, a former Nevada governor and U.S. senator.
ON THE RUN
“All of these parades are important to each community,” Laxalt said. “They are a lot of fun to attend and I wish I could be at all of them. Unfortunately, I cannot. However, I will be traveling about 1,000 miles in the next week to be in as many communities as possible, from Boulder City, to Elko and back towards Washoe County and surrounding communities.”
Pancake feeds and parades are must-do events for politicians, especially the annual Nevada Day parade, which is held in Carson City on the Saturday before Tuesday’s general election. This year the parade is Nov. 1; the election Nov. 4.
This year’s celebrations also mark the 150th birthday of Nevada, pumping up the importance for incumbents and challengers alike. Call it tradition, but parades do give candidates valuable face-time with voters who are usually in a good mood. The hope is the interaction will provide a warm fuzzy feeling that can translate into votes.
The Summerlin Council Patriotic Parade, 20 years old this year, is unusual in trying to limit blatant electioneering. Candidates running for election cannot join the parade to campaign, though they can work the sidelines along with supporters, who often show up in campaign T-shirts, give away goodies and sign up volunteers.
The parade is expected to attract about 35,000 people, a big audience to woo.
Sandoval, who is running for re-election, is riding in the parade in his ceremonial capacity as governor for the second year.
“Governor Sandoval was proud to be the first governor to participate in the Summerlin parade and is excited to again join with the thousands of Nevadans who are planning to attend this year,” said Jeremy Hughes, his campaign manager.
Hutchison plans to ride in the parade representing his law firm, Hutchison &Steffen, then work the sidelines.
“The value is you meet with Nevadans and get their sense of what’s happening in the community,” said Hutchison, who has attended dozens of parades as a candidate. “The big benefit is getting out there to talk to Nevadans.”
Volunteers for attorney general candidates Miller and Laxalt also plan to be in Summerlin.
Sometimes, it’s a logistical challenge in vast Nevada to hit as many parades as possible. Hutchison and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who is not up for re-election this year, plan to serve pancakes in Boulder City and then hustle 35 miles to Summerlin to join the parade, which begins at 9 a.m. — the same time as the Boulder City Parade start
Labor Day weekend was a bigger challenge, Hutchison said. He participated in parades and events in Elko, Winnemucca, Fallon, Reno, Carson City and Virginia City — a marathon of merriment both exhausting and exhilarating.
Sandoval, Hutchison and Miller were the only Nevada politicians who completed the full Labor Day parade tour, according to a GOP insider, who said it’s especially important to show up in rural Nevada.
There is one parade candidates cannot skip: the Nevada Day Parade, which attracted 35,000 people last year.
Former U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., caught criticism in the early days of her campaign against Heller for U.S. Senate when she considered not attending the 2011 Nevada Day Parade, a snub that could hurt her chances in Northern Nevada. In the end, she was a late entry, but participated that year and in 2012, when she lost the election.
Getting volunteers to show up is an important sign of organizational strength. As one GOP insider said, “If you can’t turn out volunteers for a parade, how can you turn them out to knock on doors or make calls for the campaign?”
Erik Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, said some politicians are custom-made for Nevada’s homespun parades and food festivals. Heller, for example, wears full cowboy regalia and rides his horse during the Nevada Day Parade in Carson City, where he grew up watching the event as a child.
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who can come off as stiff and awkward on the campaign trail, expressed admiration for Heller’s parade persona in a recent conversation with Herzik in Washington, D.C., he said.
“He said, ‘Dean can go to the Nevada Day Parade and ride that horse. He’s made for parades and I’m not. I’m going to go, but I’m going to get booed,’ ” Herzik said.
Does attending parades win votes? Herzik said that’s hard to answer, but not going is a risk if voters think you’re snubbing their community — and skipping events gives your opponent an open playing field.
Can skipping parades cost you votes?
“You don’t want to find out,” Herzik said.
For Hutchison, appearing with Sandoval as a GOP partner helps, Herzik said. Otherwise, many Nevada voters wouldn’t pay as much attention to Hutchison alone.
“Hutchison gets the afterglow from Sandoval, who’s very popular,” Herzik said. “He can say, ‘I’m with Brian.’ ”
Contact Laura Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj.