They say all roads lead to Las Vegas, but some of them lead to Elko.
The isolated mining town in northeastern Nevada was a swing county in a swing state that played a pivotal role in the 2008 presidential election. Virtually every Republican and Democrat candidate paid the city a visit, including John Edwards, who last week was indicted. He was charged in connection with using close to $1 million in campaign funds to cover up an affair during his most recent bid for the White House.
The night he showed up at The Star Basque restaurant he must have shaken hands with 100 men and hugged 100 women. One of them was Melissa McJunkin, who was captured on camera in a friendly embrace with the candidate. McJunkin, who lived in Elko, is the sister of Edwards’ former mistress Rielle Hunter.
The Elko Daily Free Press reported that the January 2008 event featured an exchange between Edwards and a drunken patron, who called the candidate a slur that means homosexual.
"No. You’re wrong about that," Edwards replied.
— Doug McMurdo
A FEW BARS OF BIPARTISANSHIP
Sometimes it takes a little karaoke to come together.
After GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval brokered a budget deal last week between Democratic and Republican legislative leaders, relieved lawmakers went on a singing and dancing spree across Carson City.
The merriest scene of bipartisan partying took place Wednesday night, hours after the budget agreement was announced at the Capitol.
Inside Jimmy G’s Cigar Bar, state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, Assembly Speaker John Oceguera and Assemblyman Marcus Conklin — all Democrats from Las Vegas — joined Republican state Sen. Michael Roberson for what might be called a get-along sing-along.
The band: "War."
The song: "Why can’t we be friends?"
The refrain is repeated nearly 50 times, making the lyrics a bit easier to follow on a night when the beer, wine and alcohol flowed freely.
Oceguera, who with Horsford negotiated the budget deal, said lawmakers often set aside partisan bickering after-hours to ease the tension of the 120-day session.
"We were just having fun," Oceguera said.
Roberson, who is against the budget deal because it extends $620 million in taxes, said it’s best to put aside personal feelings.
"I think a little karaoke can do that," Roberson joked. "We’re all good people and get along, even when we have policy differences."
There’s another line in the song that might give some lawmakers ideas.
"I’d kinda like to be the president," it goes.
"So I can show you how your money’s spent."
The evening apparently got pretty loose.
On a dare from journalists, Oceguera said he and Horsford, the first African-American majority leader of the state Senate, sang a song together: "Ebony and Ivory," the Stevie Wonder/Paul McCartney duet.
— Laura Myers
ENACTING LAW WITH FANFARE
Late Thursday night, a dozen or more lawmakers joined an outdoor party in a parking lot across from the Legislature.
There were men on stilts and fire dancing entertainers. Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, played deejay, spinning techno and hip-hop tunes.
It was all a big show for an unusual bill signing, with Gov. Sandoval showing up as a surprise guest about an hour before midnight.
Backed by more than a dozen fire performers, a tie-and-suit wearing Sandoval signed a bill to certify the entertainers’ profession.
"There’s not another governor in America who is signing a bill like this," Sandoval joked as he signed the bill into law at 11:02 p.m.
AB304 prohibits a person from "acting as a fire performer" unless he or she holds a certificate as a fire performer or apprentice.
The measure was sponsored by Bobzien, the deejay.
Lawmakers and the performers made a party out of the bill signing, knowing Monday’s scheduled end of the session was in sight. The event drew a crowd of about 250 people.
— Laura Myers
HECK REGRETS TAPED COMMENTS
Rep. Joe Heck backtracked on Friday after a video surfaced in which he called Social Security a "pyramid scheme" in a meeting with constituents last month.
Although Social Security has its problems, it is unusual for it to be likened to a fraud. "I regret that I misspoke," Heck said in a statement after Democrats posted the excerpt on YouTube and began calling attention to it.
It was an early score by Democrats against Heck, a freshman Republican expected to face a competitive race for re-election when the Nevada Legislature finishes rearranging his suburban Las Vegas district.
A Nevada Democratic Party operative videotaped Heck’s May 18 town hall meeting in Boulder City from a seat in the audience. Such "trackers" nowadays are common as campaigns gather intelligence and dirt on each other.
The posted video captured a short segment of what the Review-Journal described in its next-day story as a spirited session in which 50 people in attendance often shouted at each other and Heck repeatedly spoke over the crowd to get a word in.
In the video, Heck tells the group that Social Security is on shaky ground, in part because Americans are living longer than was anticipated when the program was created in 1935.
Nowadays, full retirement age is 67 but people are living into their 80s, Heck said. "When they first conceived of Social Security they didn’t think they were going to be paying benefits for 13-15 years," Heck said. "That’s one of the reasons this pyramid scheme isn’t working."
The comment drew a reaction of surprise from the audience as Heck pressed on.
Democratic Party spokesman Zach Hudson charged Heck was comparing a "sacred" program to "something Nigerian princes try to sell you over email."
"Those who have followed my position know that I am fully committed to protecting the promise of Social Security to our seniors and those who are nearing retirement," Heck said.
— Steve Tetreault
Contact Doug McMurdo at dmcmurdo @reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5512. Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@ reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760.Political Eye blog