WASHINGTON – Sen. Harry Reid, the most famous resident of Searchlight, Nevada, is moving out.
The desert town where Reid was born 74 years ago is a big part of his political identity, studied by those seeking to understand the son of a hard rock miner who grew up to become U.S. Senate leader.
But now Reid and his wife Landra are looking for a place to live in Las Vegas after selling their Searchlight home and 110 acres to Nevada Milling & Mining LLC.
The sale that closed on Friday for $1.75 million also includes water rights and rights to eight mining claims in Searchlight. Nevada Milling & Mining, one of several companies trying to pull gold from old mines around Searchlight using new processes, approached the Reids last year about their property.
Reid once wrote a book on the dusty mining community, calling it “The Camp That Didn’t Fail,” and he displays artifacts from the town and his boyhood in his office.
In the Senate he tells stories about the home he had built in Searchlight, population 569. He brags about being able to enjoy the desert flowers, coyotes, rattlesnakes and jackrabbits he can see out his back window.
After one long stretch in Washington in 2011, Reid said he missed home, 60 miles south of Las Vegas.
“My pomegranate trees are, I’m told, blossoming and have some pomegranates on them,” he said. “I have some fig trees and roses and things that I just haven’t seen.”
After living in Searchlight for 25 years, Reid said he and his wife began thinking a year or two ago of moving to Las Vegas, where four of their children and 16 or their grandchildren live.
“It will be better for Landra and me,” he said in a video released by his office.
Reid, who is up for re-election in 2016, also said he is making the move with an upcoming campaign in mind. “I’ve been through a few elections commuting from Searchlight, and it’s hard,” he said.
“Searchlight will always remain my home, my favorite spot in the world where I can look at the quiet desert for miles at end,” he said.
The eight mining claims part of the sale to Nevada Milling & Mining were valued in total at between $365,000 and $800,000 in Reid’s most recent personal finance report to the Senate. They are the Pan American, Telluride, Santa Fe, Birdie, Elvira, Mesa, Parrot and Oro Flame claims.
Reid’s property transactions customarily have invited close scrutiny that intensified when he became a national figure, including his ownership of 160 acres in Bullhead City, Ariz., that is his most valuable holding.
In 2009 Reid revised seven years of financial disclosures in part to clarify reporting on a controversial 2001 land deal in Las Vegas.
On his latest transaction, Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said Reid’s take of $1.75 million included the sale of his home structure and water rights “which are very valuable in the desert,” though no estimated value has been given for either.
“This property holds geologic interests” that might extend the planned mine, Orthman said, adding the venture “could generate millions of dollars per year in profit from Nevada Milling & Mining.”
“Finally, at the end of the day, the price is determined by a willing buyer and a willing seller. Senator Reid was reluctant to sell, and the mine had to make him an offer that made it worth it, in his mind, for him to sell,” Orthman said.
Orthman said the transaction was in line with the only other comparable sale, where Nevada Milling & Mining paid $3.25 million in February 2012 for 52 acres of land and associated claims.
Reid’s office said he sold two other mining claims in Searchlight – known as the Dubuque and Cushman properties— to American Capital Energy. The sale price was not disclosed. Each of the claims was valued at between $15,000 and $50,000 in Reid’s most recent Senate finance report.
Reid returned to Searchlight during most prolonged Senate recesses. In Washington, he and his wife live in a one-bedroom condominium at the Ritz-Carlton.
Contact Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @STetreaultDC.