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Rory Reid: Diversify state economy

Forget running from his last name.

Rory Reid is running toward his opponents for the title Governor of Nevada.

On Wednesday, Reid — chairman of the Clark County Commission — unfolded a policy road map he says will lead him to Carson City and guide Nevada’s economy out of the ditch.

"I’m going to challenge anyone else who wants this office to either agree with me or propose something different," Reid, a Democrat, told a supportive audience at Hancock Elementary School.

Reid’s father, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., is fighting political headwinds of his own to gain re-election, which political observers have said could play a role in Rory Reid’s bid for the governor’s seat because both men would be on the same ballot. The policy road map for Nevada is a way for the younger Reid to establish a statewide political identity independent of his father and tell voters he’s more prepared to be the state’s chief executive than his potential Republican opponents, including incumbent Gov. Jim Gibbons.

"Rory has never had to run in a competitive race in his life, so we really don’t know how good of a campaigner he is," said David Damore, a political science professor at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "I think he is counting on crossover appeal."

The field so far includes Reid on the Democratic side and three Republicans vying for their party’s nomination — Gibbons, who is unpopular with voters, former federal judge Brian Sandoval who is leading all candidates in the polls, and former North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon.

If Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman enters the race as an independent or Democrat, polls suggest he would be a leading candidate on par with Sandoval and ahead of Reid.

Montandon was the first Republican opponent to take a swipe at Reid’s policy outline.

"There is nothing new in this plan," Montandon said. "Rory is afraid to tackle the fundamental structural problems of education in Nevada."

In the outline Reid proposes ideas he says are pro-business proposals to create jobs that would reduce Nevada’s 13.2 percent unemployment rate and diversify the economy beyond the pillars of gambling, entertainment and mining.

The highlights include helping small and start-up businesses access capital, making education a higher priority when it comes to spending and accountability, and establishing a Nevada Energy Fund to promote development of alternative energy technology and jobs.

"In the short term, we will create jobs, because our people need jobs. In the long term, we’ll grow our economy so we won’t have the typical short term decisions that Carson City has typically had to make," Reid said.

Damore said lack of an opponent in the Democratic primary gives Reid the luxury of presenting an outline that could appeal to centrist and center-right voters.

It also gives critics and opponents material to attack.

"It is interesting he would do that so early and let himself be attacked," Damore said.

Activists from the left and right sides of the political spectrum credited Reid for making policy proposals the focus of his formal campaign kickoff.

Still, they also read the material with a skeptical eye.

"Some of the ideas he puts forth do sound nice in theory," said Andy Matthews, spokesman for the right-leaning think tank Nevada Policy Research Institute. "But I think that what we see throughout is he would instinctively look to the government to achieve these goals. What he should be doing is getting the government out of the way and let the free market flourish."

Matthews says there’s danger in letting the government supersede the role of private enterprise in the development of new products and services, such as alternative energy.

"Then you end up with a situation in which the government is playing favorites and picking who the winners and who the losers should be," Matthews said.

Launce Rake with the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada praised Reid for the plan but still offered some skepticism, albeit from the left side of the spectrum.

"The focus clearly seemed to be on pro-business development," Rake said of the outline. "I think that is laudable, but the focus may be misplaced. One of the reasons we have suffered from a lack of business development and lack of economic diversity in this state is because we have not confronted the profound problems in our educational system and our social safety net."

Rake said the state needs to invest more in programs that improve education and reduce social ills that plague Nevada, such as the high suicide rate and lack of adequate medical care for children.

To do that, Rake said, the state needs to raise money. And Nevada currently isn’t generating enough revenue to cover its projected expenses. Some estimates are the state’s expenses will outpace revenue by $2.4 billion by 2011.

"We need to look at some of the industries that are making money hand over fist right now, particularly mining and out-of-state, big-box discount retailers, and make sure they step up to the plate," he said.

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861.

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