Fear factor might be clearing a political path for Harry Reid’s son

Oh, to be Harry Reid’s kid. You want something, you get it.

Perhaps that’s an exaggeration. Perhaps all of his kids got where they are in life through hard work and ability. But that’s not always how it looks from the outside.

And with his eldest son, Rory Reid, a pattern is emerging.

A Democratic woman starts talking about running for a particular office. Rory decides he wants to run for the same office. She gets out, he gets in.

This first happened in the summer of 2001. State Sen. Dina Titus was making noises about running for an open seat on the Clark County Commission in 2002.

Then Rory decided he wanted it, even though his dad encouraged him to run for Congress.

Over coffee, Rory Reid and Dina Titus chatted for five minutes.

Titus pulled out two months later saying she didn’t want to divide the party and the part-time commissioner’s job would take too much time from her job as a political science professor. Her reward was the high-profile job of Nevada Democratic National Committeewoman.

For Rory, victory was sweet. And easy.

The reality is Titus caved because of the Harry Reid fear factor. No Democrat hoping for a future in Nevada politics wants to make an enemy of the most powerful Democrat in Nevada and the most powerful Democrat in the U.S. Senate.

Fast forward six years.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley starts making it clear she’s interested in running for governor in 2010 when she is term limited from running again for the Assembly. Buckley as governor material is mentioned a lot.

But Rory now wants to be a contender for governor. A poll is taken. He polls strong.

Will Buckley and other Democrats step aside for Rory?

Most likely. Because it goes back to this: You could make an enemy of Harry Reid, or you could be his friend. Titus is now his friend, a useful friend. She’s running against Republican Congressman Jon Porter, a potential challenger to Sen. Reid in two more years. Papa Reid is helping her.

Buckley said Friday she hasn’t made any decisions about her political future. “I’ve said many times, right now my focus is running for the Assembly, focusing on the state of our economy, the state of our budget, overhauling the way the state operates, and trying to prevent draconian cuts. That’s where my time and attention is spent.” She’ll decide about her political future “when the timing is right for me.”

“I don’t want to walk into a huge legislative session with my mind focusing on a governor’s race. I enjoy policy too much. That would be the wrong thing for me and the wrong thing for the state.”

The poll for Rory Reid showed him beating Buckley in a Democratic primary 51 percent to 20 percent.

And it showed him beating Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons 49 percent to 32 percent.

The poll taken the third week of June was not designed to chase other Democrats out, Reid said Friday. “Anybody has the right to run. But, I think, for whatever reason, people assumed I wasn’t interested,” he said. “It was time for me to say I was interested.”

That poll said it in a big way and, by including Buckley, eliminated any assumption she’s the Democratic front-runner.

Reid was aware there would be an inevitable comparison with how Titus surrendered the commission race seven years ago.

He regrets his behavior then. “I think I could have handled that better than I did. What I did last time was set up a meeting. I told her what I was going to do and I marched out and did it.”

“I didn’t show Dina the respect I should have,” the county commissioner said. “I tried to do this very early to avoid that kind of situation.”

Rory Reid said there is nothing he can do about the “fear factor” others feel toward his father. “I don’t know what I can do about it. All I can do is control what I do.”

Best guess: When the 2010 election arrives, Rory Reid will be the Democratic nominee for governor and Harry Reid will be running for another term in the U.S. Senate.

Unless, and it’s unlikely, for some reason Harry Reid doesn’t run. Then his eldest son might want that job.

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

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