Political Eye: Governor still insists he won’t run on GOP ticket

The next time Gov. Brian Sandoval will be on the ballot is 2014 when he runs for re-election.

The governor’s senior adviser, Dale Erquiaga, said Friday that’s what he and Sandoval have been telling everybody who asks — from political reporters to prognosticators who won’t stop putting Sandoval on lists of potential GOP vice presidential running mates in 2012.

Speculation about Sandoval and a possible White House future began even before the former federal judge was elected Nevada’s first Hispanic governor in 2010. As a popular Latino leader, Sandoval immediately made everybody’s long list of speculative GOP vice presidential picks.

This year, he has made many short lists, too, along with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., another Hispanic seen as a political leader who could broaden the GOP appeal.

Now, most Hispanics vote Democratic, giving President Barack Obama a big edge, including here in Nevada.

Last week, Rubio raised his profile by endorsing Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential front-runner who appears on his way to slowly, but surely sewing up the Republican nomination.

Meanwhile, Sandoval was trying to lower his profile in the face of national stories that suggested he might be a safer Hispanic pick as Rubio battles negative stories about his past. His parents were not Cuban exiles who fled the Communist island, but emigres who escaped to the United States for a better life.

Sandoval’s denials that he is interested in being on the presidential ticket hasn’t stopped speculation, no matter how much he and his staff try to tamp it down. (Romney has mentioned Sandoval as a potential ballot-mate, although Sandoval endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry for president.)

“I don’t know how he or we can be any more clear,” Erquiaga said. “The governor loves his job and intends to keep it. He has no intention of appearing on any ballot before 2014.”

Asked if he thought the veep speculation would continue, Erquiaga laughed.

“Charles de Gaulle is still dead and Brian Sandoval is still running for re-election,” he said.

— Laura Myers

SENATE CANDIDATES BACK TAX BREAK

A tax break that has been prized by troubled homeowners expires at the end of 2012. But both of the leading Nevada candidates for U.S. Senate now are pushing bills in Congress to extend it for at least another three years.

The 2007 “Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act” does what it says. It waives taxes on mortgage debt that is erased when a homeowner gets a loan modification, completes a short sale or goes through foreclosure on an underwater property.

Before the law was passed in 2007, the IRS considered any loan forgiveness to be “income” and taxed it as such, adding insult to injury for homeowners who struggled with problem property.

The subsidy is no small matter in Nevada, which continues to suffer the nation’s highest foreclosure rate and where 61 percent of its mortgaged properties are underwater, according to the CoreLogic property data firm.

Republican Sen. Dean Heller introduced a three-year extension bill last Thursday, along with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

It came a day after Rep. Shelley Berkley and two fellow Democrats submitted a similar bill in the House.

“It makes little sense to tax people on income they never received,” Heller said. “Thousands of Nevadans who are underwater in their homes and have received financial relief for their mortgage would be hit with a tax bill if Congress does not act this year.”

Berkley pointed out the extension is timely because the $25 billion mortgage settlement that state attorneys general reached last month with five of the largest banks is expected to yield a flood of loan modifications in the coming months.

The House bill also excuses taxes on cash settlements to homeowners who were wrongly foreclosed by the banks.

It also covers military service members who were cheated by lenders overcharging on mortgage interest in violation of a law designed to help them with finances.

“Acting now will help protect an estimated 1.7 million homeowners across the U.S. — including 68,000 in Nevada — who are eligible to take part in this settlement,” Berkley said in a statement.

— Steve Tetreault

REID DOESN’T HOLD A GRUDGE

Forgive and forget. That must be U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s motto.

On Thursday , the Nevada Democrat plans to visit Xtreme Green, a North Las Vegas company that makes electric vehicles so that he can tout clean energy.

Byron Georgiou is on the company’s board of directors. That’s the same Byron Georgiou who was on Reid’s bad list last year for running as a Democrat in the U.S. Senate race against U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, the party’s favored candidate.

After Reid questioned Georgiou’s credentials and ethics, the green energy entrepreneur bowed to pressure and dropped out of the contest last August.

Immediately, Reid praised Georgiou for seeing the light, saying, “While Byron and I have had our differences in the past, I’m heartened by his decision” to withdraw from the 2012 race.

Reid also noted that Georgiou had performed “a significant public service” by serving in 2009 on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which examined what led to the U.S. economic collapse.

“His is an important voice and perspective on the causes of the financial crisis,” Reid said.

Reid’s visit to Xtreme Green gives the senator another chance to thank Georgiou.

— Laura Myers

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Follow @lmyerslvrj on Twitter. Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Follow @STetreaultDC on Twitter.

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