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Democrats vying for lieutenant governor look for the right fit

When Democrats choose their candidate for lieutenant governor, they have to ask themselves two questions: Can this person beat incumbent Republican Brian Krolicki? Can this person actually be governor in case the governor is incapacitated? Viewed that way, this is a significant primary.

Yet, the race hasn’t received much attention among Democrats, who have a choice of four contenders: Reno City Councilwoman Jessica Sferrazza, businessmen Robert Randazzo and Paul Murad, and retiree Robert Goodman. (Goodman’s signs mislead some to believe the mayor of Las Vegas is running for lieutenant governor.)

The foursome made their fourth joint appearance Thursday before the Democratic Lawyers’ Caucus. It was a smallish crowd, about 50, including 10 candidates for other offices.

At first I wondered whether the turnout was light because people don’t think Krolicki can be defeated. I vacillate on this race.

Will Krolicki benefit from a sympathy vote among those who believe the Republican was unjustly prosecuted by Democratic Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto? Or will voters think that, even though the indictment was dismissed, he might have done something wrong with his handling of the marketing money for the state’s college savings program, which he managed when he was state treasurer?

The soft turnout may reflect that the lieutenant governor’s job isn’t perceived as a biggie. The lieutenant governor’s main job is to promote tourism and economic development, and act as president of the Senate running the sessions, sometimes (but rarely) casting a tie-breaking vote.

The audience’s reactions to the candidates were all over the map. It was like asking Goldilocks about the porridge. One’s too old. One’s too young. I heard and observed no consensus among the Democratic party faithful.

Sferrazza was the only one who hammered Krolicki, dissing him as “the invisible man who has done nothing to bring jobs to Nevada.” (Krolicki is going to take strong issue with that if she wins the Democratic primary.)

Sferrazza, who might get a boost as the only woman in the race, leads with money, or she did in the last reporting period in January. Part of that is attributed to her position on the Reno City Council. Goodman has almost no money and bragged that means he has no conflicts of interest, forgetting it means he also has no way to get his message out statewide. Nice guy, but not a real contender.

Sferrazza was the choice of those who liked her energy, and the fact that she has held office and is familiar with how the Legislature works. She’s also the establishment candidate with plenty of powerful connections.

Others said she was too young. She’s 33. Goodman was dismissed as too old. He’s 75.

Murad, 34, is the only candidate from Clark County and believes that will help his chances. But I’m not sure he’s as popular among Democrats as he thinks he is, based on post-event comments. Murad repeatedly touted his linguistic abilities. Born in the former Soviet Union, he moved to the United States when he was 16 and has lived in Las Vegas since 2001. He speaks Russian, English and Spanish.

Randazzo, 41, was the “just right” candidate for some in the crowd, favored because of his stances and business experience. Yet I thought he made an over-the-top statement when he said he’s running because he doesn’t want his 3-year-old daughter to “enter an education system on par with a third-world country.”

Not a comment that’s going to win support from teachers.

Those who view this as a race solely between Sferrazza and Murad might be surprised on June 8 when the votes are counted. Despite what I saw as a flub, the reaction of others tells me Randazzo shouldn’t be counted out.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call
702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.

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