Flashes of wit might distinguish Rory Reid from his father

Rory Reid is no Mini-Me.

But many Nevada voters, particularly in Northern Nevada, who know little more than his last name is Reid, assume he is a younger version of his famous father, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

(Dad would be the Austin Powers character in this comparison that surely neither Reid relishes.)

The chairman of the Clark County Commission is more like his mother, Landra, than his father. But few Nevadans know that. They assume the son is like the father. Rory Reid and Harry Reid don’t march in sync.

He bucked his Dad’s advice when he ran for the County Commission.

He bucked his Dad’s advice when he backed Hillary Clinton for president, earning former President Bill Clinton’s gratitude and substantial fundraising help for his governor’s race.

And the other day on KNPR radio, when asked which train system between Las Vegas and Southern California he favored, he totally disagreed with his father.

The 69-year-old senator is supporting the DesertXpress, a private high-speed train effort, although he previously supported the Maglev super speed train.

The 47-year-old commissioner said no elected official should be prioritizing one proposal over another. The two competing proposals should fight it out, and whoever gets the financing and the fastest approval should be chosen. (DesertXpress folks weren’t too happy.)

Rory Reid is working on personalizing himself, letting people see what he’s really like. He knows he comes across as a humorless policy wonk, and his announcement perpetuated his serious side, stressing his ideas to create jobs, outlined in a 30-page epistle.

However, there’s three things you probably don’t know about the leading Democrat running for governor: He’s funny. He loves music and movies. And he’s a damn good fisherman. So he says.

His wry, biting humor was kept under wraps until he participated in roasts of television mogul Jim Rogers and Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley. But afterward, people started telling him: "We didn’t know you had a sense of humor. You look so serious." (I’ve known him for decades and only discovered his wit when working with him on a roast for former Commissioner Chip Maxfield.)

Even Cindy, his wife since 1987, frequently tells him, "You’re a lot more fun than people ever see. Why don’t you smile more?" (He says this without smiling.)

Second revelation. "I really love movies and music. We’ve been to the Sundance Film Festival probably a dozen times," he said. While his guitar lessons didn’t take well, he said, "I can listen with the best of them." When he goes to live concerts, like the recent U2 concert, he’s not there to work the room; he’s there to listen.

The third surprise? "I’m a damn good fisherman." Lakes, ponds, rivers, deep-sea fishing, fly-fishing. He does it all. And yes, he cleans his own fish.

He and his only son, Mason, fish together. "If you have a 13-year-old son who is just becoming a teenager, if you put him in a boat in the middle of a lake, there is no place for him to go. He has to talk to you."

Now fishing, movies, music and humor won’t get him elected governor, but it does humanize him. Reid is doing house parties all over the state, so people will get to know him. "Nobody is asking me who my dad is. Nobody is asking me about my family tree. At the end of the day, it’s not an issue," he said.

They may not be asking it because they know the answer. At the end of the day, it is an issue and Rory Reid must distinguish himself from his father as both men ask Nevadans across the state for their votes.

To win this election, Rory Reid has to demonstrate he’s his own man, that he has a strong record as a commissioner for seven years and solid ideas for the future.

Nobody’s suggesting Reid put a napkin on his head and pose as a pirate like our current governor did on a private cruise. But flashes of the Rory Reid wit over the next year would be welcome and, yes, might distinguish him from his father, whose own wit is often lost in his stoic delivery.

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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