Talk host gets state citizenship

It’s a great day for America, everybody: Craig Ferguson is a citizen of Nevada.

Gov. Jim Gibbons earlier this summer quietly conferred honorary citizenship on the host of CBS’ “The Late Late Show,” who is mounting a campaign to become an honorary citizen of as many American jurisdictions as possible while he waits for his real citizenship application to be processed.

The Scottish native, whom Political Notebook considers the thinking person’s Conan O’Brien, has lived in the United States for more than 15 years. Earlier this year, he decided to seek citizenship. But applications take months, even years, to work their way through the bureaucracy.

Meanwhile, in May, after Ferguson appeared in Ozark, Ark., and was quoted in the local newspaper making positive remarks about the town and its catfish, Mayor Vernon McDaniel made him an honorary citizen.

Thus the campaign was born. Nevada was the fourth state to confer the honor, which, Ferguson always points out, is “legally meaningless.”

On June 20, Ferguson showed off the simple certificate signed by Gibbons under the state seal.

On the show, Ferguson strode over to a chalkboard-sized map of the United States. On Arkansas, the first state to give him citizenship, he pasted a sticker of his head with a fishing hat; on North Dakota, with a trapper hat; on South Dakota, with a trapper hat with a chin strap.

On Nevada, the Ferguson-head sticker wore a peacock-feather showgirl headdress.

Ferguson now claims to be a citizen of 13,846 of the country’s 50,911 cities and towns.

Gibbons spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin said the governor knows some people connected to the show and figured it was “pretty harmless.”

PROSECUTING PORTER

The Democrats’ best hope to knock off Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev., is all but in, sources say.

Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney Robert Daskas met recently in Las Vegas with a representative of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Shortly thereafter, he started talking to his boss, District Attorney David Roger, about leaving the office in November so he can spend a year campaigning full-time. It’s not clear if he could take a leave of absence or would have to quit entirely, and it’s not known when he might officially announce his candidacy.

“I’m still in the process of making this very important, career-changing, potentially life-altering decision,” Daskas said last week as he prepared to take a vacation with his two young children. “But things are progressing.”

A political newcomer, Daskas, 40, has been a Clark County prosecutor for 12 years, handling some of the office’s highest-profile cases.

He lives in Henderson with his family and says local residents’ concerns are his main motivation for running.

He wouldn’t be the only Democrat seeking the nomination in Nevada’s 3rd District, the fast-growing, mostly suburban district in which Democrats have recently built a slight edge in voter registration but which Porter has held since it was created. Andrew Martin, an accountant who recently moved to town and also has never run for office, has declared his candidacy.

The party machinery, however, will be behind Daskas, who emerged as the most promising standard-bearer after several other prominent Democrats decided not to run for the seat.

Porter has said he won’t comment on any particular opponent until after the primary a year from now, but he expects a tough race.

GLOVES OFF

Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., was near the top of the list of incumbents that Republicans planned to attack for re-election next year. But then, last December, Johnson suffered a crippling brain aneurysm.

Republicans were reluctant to take him on for fear of seeming insensitive while Johnson has been going through recovery.

Until now. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, declared last week that “it’s time” for the gloves to come off in South Dakota.

Ensign told Roll Call he prays for Johnson’s full recovery, “but this is a United States Senate seat. He was a top target before his health problems and he’s still a top target.”

Johnson spokeswoman Julianne Fisher responded: “It’s clear that this is a classless attack by a desperate chairman.”

Johnson has not been in the Senate since his aneurysm, although aides say he has worked from home. Senate leaders said they hope Johnson can rejoin the chamber sometime this fall.

In the meantime, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and other Democrats have helped Johnson build a heaping war chest for his re-election bid. In March, they held three fundraisers in three days, which galled Republicans, the Washington Post reported.

Ensign said Johnson’s fundraising — more than $1.2 million this year — was the reason he felt Republicans needed to get moving. “We are not going to unilaterally disarm,” Ensign told Roll Call.

REID’S RULES

At the beginning of the year, new Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada laid down the law to the Senate.

There would be no more dilly-dallying: no more holding votes open for long periods while senators saunter to the chamber from their offices or meeting rooms or even across town. Votes would be scheduled for 15 minutes, with no more than a 5-minute grace period.

There was some fuss at first, but senators got used to the new pace. But last Wednesday, Reid had a mini-revolt on his hands. Eleven senators who were in a Homeland Security Committee bill markup missed a vote. They said they were told they would be given time to wrap up their work and get over to the Senate chamber.

“We were advised that we would be given leniency on this vote,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

Reid said he was sorry the senators missed the vote, but there was a “misunderstanding” between the cloakroom and the committee chairman, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn.

“Regardless, I hope everybody understands we have to have some semblance of order around here,” Reid said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and several others suggested reopening the vote and allowing the latecomers to be counted. That has never been done and is not in the Senate rules.

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., said the rules must be followed, but added, “A vote is important.”

After about 10 minutes on the topic, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., suggested the Senate get back to work. And so it did.

IRAQ HOLIDAY

Now that Rep. Dean Heller has been there and back, Rep. Shelley Berkley is the only federal lawmaker from Nevada who has not been to Iraq.

But not for long, if Berkley can help it. She has put in dibs to join House Armed Services Committee chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., the next time he makes the trip. Berkley said she wants to be in the chairman’s entourage because he gets deeper access and straighter answers from the generals.

“I want to see what he sees,” Berkley said. “I am anxious to go.” Berkley’s eagerness to check out the Green Zone is a shift in her thinking from early May, when she said she thought servicemen had better things to do — like fight a war — than to show around visitors.

Berkley said Thursday that her thinking has evolved.

“It looks like we are heading to a major confrontation with the president regarding the future of Iraq,” Berkley said. “Given that, I want to make the most informed decision I can. We are going to have some serious decisions to make, and perhaps I should be on the ground.”

Contact political reporter Molly Ball at 387-2919 or MBall@reviewjournal.com.

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