Plea agreement for Lynette Boggs is a blessing in disguise — potentially

I can almost see the hand-wringing, shortly followed by whispered laments.

“Poor Lynette Boggs. Drummed out of Nevada’s elected elite before her time. She was the victim of mean-spirited politics. What a tragedy. And she had such … potential.”

That she did. If there’s one thing Boggs never lacked, it was potential. She had an enormous walk-in closet of political potential, a three-car garage full of potential.

I watched her as a Democrat and as a Republican, as a member of the City Council and County Commission, and as an unsuccessful candidate for Congress. Her potential was a hot topic at each stop along the way.

But if there was one thing she had more than potential, it was ambition. Rapacious ambition, as it turns out.

Boggs was pretty, bright and well connected. She was that rare political bird, a female, conservative, African-American politician. Republicans were so excited to have Boggs on their side, I’m surprised they didn’t have her bronzed. Instead, they settled for the next closest thing, a gushing endorsement by nationally syndicated conservative columnist George Will in 2002 during her kamikaze campaign against incumbent Congresswoman Shelley Berkley.

I wonder whether Will is in the mood for a follow-up column now that it’s been confirmed Boggs will accept a plea bargain to settle the criminal charges against her. District Attorney David Roger says Boggs has agreed to plead guilty to a single gross misdemeanor charge of filing a false statement concerning her residency for the purposes of running for public office. In exchange, the DA’s office won’t seek jail time and will drop a pending perjury charge.

She will be able to quietly go about her life as a single mother and pursue business success, personal happiness and spiritual enlightenment. And that’s great.

But she will have to do that outside politics. Don’t expect any of her ritzy Republican benefactors to underwrite her political comeback. No sports book handicapper in Las Vegas would post the long odds on that proposition.

I followed her political career from the start and never lost the feeling she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to accomplish, only that she believed in advancing her political career at a high rate of speed. She wasn’t unique in that regard, but that pedal-to-the-metal approach often leaves its practitioners in a heap of twisted wreckage on the election year roadside. Newspaper archives are littered with tales of potentially effective public servants who dreamed too big too quickly and wound up bounced back to the private sector, or, worse, into the penitentiary.

Frankly, I think Boggs is a good person at heart who should be thankful she was allowed to exit the public stage so gracefully. Her problems with residency during her campaign were real and, I believe, provable.

But, you say, she had so much … potential.

That she did. And so did other well-known names from local politics who now get their mail at federal correctional facilities. That’s something Boggs’ benefactors should remember.

Some critics will grouse that, because Boggs isn’t wearing pinstripes, the conviction is meaningless, but this community owes a debt of gratitude to Roger for addressing campaign violations and political corruption. The Boggs case sends a clear message that if a politician violates the well-known rules, a price will be paid. In this case, the cost was her political career.

Call the investigation politically motivated — charges stemmed in part from private detective David Groover’s efforts to oust Boggs on behalf of the Culinary union and the Police Protective Association — but they weren’t empty charges. And that’s the way politics works: Give an enemy a shot at your glass jaw, and you’ll be seeing stars.

“We try our best to enforce the election laws,” Roger says. “There are times when these cases are not necessarily embraced by the court system, but nevertheless we continue to file charges when we find wrongdoing.

“We are very aware of the problems that our community has seen with the political process, and we know that it’s important to keep candidates on the up and up.”

Once all the hand-wringing subsides, I hope Boggs sees that this isn’t a tragedy. It’s a blessing.

Not only has she survived politics, but now she gets the chance to walk away and begin living up to her potential.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith/.

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