Jim Gibbons exited the Nevada political stage more than seven years ago, but the former Republican congressman and governor left a legacy that will be thrust front and center thanks to the results of the midterm election.
Nevada turned deep blue on Tuesday. State Democrats routed their Republican counterparts up and down the ballot, winning a coveted U.S. Senate seat, three tightly contested House races and the Governor’s Mansion, while increasing their majorities in both legislative houses. In addition, Democrats maintained their lock on the Clark County Commission, and the state Supreme Court took a left turn.
Give credit to the powerful Culinary union for its mobilization efforts. The state Republican apparatus was woefully overmatched, particularly in Clark County.
Democrats now have full control in Carson City for the first time in more than a quarter-century. The question isn’t whether they’ll overreach in trying to impose a leftist agenda, but rather to what extent.
Expect Big Labor to have a field day roaming the friendly legislative halls, perhaps even realizing the holy grail of repealing the state’s right-to-work law and passing budget-busting legislation to grant state workers collective bargaining rights. Expect all manner of tax hikes to be on the table, including property tax increases, a more encompassing business levy, higher sales taxes and the creation of a state income tax on the “rich” — all to feed the insatiable education establishment or to subsidize generous public employee pensions and to pay for “free” college and Medicare for all.
The only obstacle to all this is a unified GOP Senate caucus. Which brings us back to Jim Gibbons.
As a gubernatorial candidate in 1994, he spearheaded the Gibbons Tax Restraint Initiative, which voters approved in 1994 and 1996 to impose a requirement that tax hikes must be approved by a two-thirds legislative majority. Following Tuesday’s balloting, state Democrats hold a 29-13 edge in the Assembly, enough to meet the supermajority mandate. But their 13-8 advantage in the Senate leaves them one vote shy of the magic number.
The two-thirds requirement has the potential to frustrate the Democratic legislative program to some extent. But level-headed Democrats will understand the value of the mandate as a survival mechanism that checks their profligate instincts.
Nevada voters made their preferences clear. But the electorate tends to be fickle. Can legislative Democrats who hope to turn Nevada into a California-like regulatory state suppress their more economically destructive tendencies so as not to alienate the independent voters they’ll need to maintain power? How far will incoming Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak — who cast himself during the general election as a moderate — allow the progressive wing of his party to go?
We’re about to find out.