Democrats counting on federal aid as they count votes for governor

Can’t help but smile at a news conference lineup where four out of five Democrats all want or wanted the same job — governor of Nevada — making them Nevada’s own team of rivals.

Can’t help but wonder if any of them had to resist an urge to slap the back of another’s head. Probably not. They’re all grown-ups. But the image of foes turned friends (even superficially) or friends evolving into foes distracted me from the business at hand Thursday afternoon at the Paradise Community Center.

Dina Titus was the focal point. The new congresswoman talked about the House version of the stimulus package as if the federal money coming to Nevada was a done deal, as if the local officials should get out their abacuses and prepare to spend, spend, spend.

To one side of her stood Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson, her Democratic primary rival for governor in 2006, who pundits said had a better chance of beating Republican Jim Gibbons in a general election, except he wasn’t far enough to the left to win the primary.

Pundits were right, by the way. Titus couldn’t defeat Gibbons even though he had been wounded by claims of assault by a cocktail waitress and allegations about questionable financial dealings that landed him in the Wall Street Journal wearing a napkin on his head. It wasn’t until later that the allegations were dismissed as unprovable.

As Gibson stood there, welcoming federal dollars to come, did he think of how she challenged his integrity by saying he engaged in pay-to-play politics by helping, then accepting $150,000 in campaign contributions bundled by M Resort developer Anthony Marnell III? Or is all that forgotten?

On her other side was Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who once said he’d tell people after the first of the year whether he planned to run for governor in 2010. Now he says he’ll wait until after the Legislature before deciding.

“I want to get the city out of the doldrums,” Goodman said.

Good luck, mayor. If you can do that by June 1, you should run for governor.

Will anyone in the Legislature want to grant his wish, just to keep him out of a Democratic gubernatorial primary? The wish is an odd one. He wants a new law so he can be mayor but without a vote. He just wants to be the cheerleader for the city with a showgirl on each side.

Best guess: Never gonna happen. Creating a job for one man facing term limits, stripping all future Las Vegas majors of responsibilities so Goodman can keep the title and have fun is not sound public policy.

On Goodman’s other side stood Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid, who is raising money like crazy to run for governor. Heck, former President Bill Clinton is coming to town to help Reid, who already has more than $1 million in the pot.

You know Reid wants Goodman to step aside and decrease the size of the field. Reid wouldn’t object if Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley did the same. (She wasn’t there.)

Remember, Titus stepped aside in 2002 to give Rory Reid an unobstructed shot at the County Commission, partly out of fear of his father. Titus didn’t’ get much help from Harry Reid when she ran for governor, but got an assist when she took on Jon Porter, the Republican congressman mentioned as a potential Harry Reid challenger in 2010.

Gotta love Nevada politics where friends become foes and foes become friends. But is all really forgiven? Or does practicality rule?

Goodman left before Titus talked about the stimulus bill and his two pet projects: “There’s no mob museum in this bill; there’s no new city hall in this bill. They even took out renovations to the Mall in Washington, D.C., because it might look like pork.”

Meanwhile, the foursome probably are secretly delighted they’re not governor in the midst of Nevada’s economic crisis, even if they all believe they could do a better job than the governor we have.

Nevada’s team of rivals may not equate to President Lincoln’s, but you have to wonder what the four thought privately when they all stood together celebrating a pot of federal dollars, which could end up helping their once or future rival — Jim Gibbons.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at

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