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For governor

Nevadans are fortunate to have two eminently qualified major-party candidates seeking the state’s top office. Republican Brian Sandoval is a former gaming commissioner, state lawmaker, state attorney general and federal judge. Democrat Rory Reid, an attorney and son of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, serves on perhaps the most powerful board in the state, the Clark County Commission.

Mr. Reid has broken the standard Democratic template in some ways, and is proud to proclaim it. “I fought the firefighters” on pay and benefits issues, he says, “and I’ve got the scars to show for it. … They follow me around everywhere.”

Mr. Reid also vows to eliminate and consolidate state departments, reducing the current 28 to 16, which sounds like a good start — though absent is any indication of what that might do to the state work force.

On the issue of education, Mr. Reid favors “decentralization” and says he backs more parental choice, although he won’t embrace a full voucher plan. He also vows not to propose any new taxes – although he says he may support the creation of a state lottery — but has waffled on whether he’d sign a budget that included higher taxes.

Mr. Reid says he’s willing to “work toward sustainability” when it comes to public employee pensions and benefits, but won’t commit to shifting government workers from a defined-benefit pension to a defined-contribution system. “Brian (Sandoval) says he’ll do that,” Mr. Reid says, “but it’s a promise he can’t keep.”

Perhaps. But it’s also a fight worth having if the state is to get a handle on personnel costs – and Mr. Sandoval says he’ll advocate precisely such a change for all future state hires.

Mr. Sandoval goes further than his opponent on taxes and school reform, also.

He vows not to support higher taxes and to veto any budget that includes them. “We have $5.2 billion to spend (in the next biennium), and that’s what we’ve got to work with,” he says.

He also embraces a voucher plan, allowing students to take their full share of state funding and apply it toward tuition anywhere that will take it. Mr. Sandoval wants to get rid of tenure in the public school system to better weed out poor teachers.

As a means of controlling costs on state capital projects, he favors eliminating the state’s prevailing wage law, which takes additional, unnecessary millions out of taxpayer pockets each year.

But while tax, budget and education issues are at the forefront of this race, the issue of redistricting looms large in the background. The 2011 Legislature, along with the new governor, will be in charge of reaching a compromise on the boundaries for the state’s legislative and congressional districts, setting the balance of power for the next decade. At this point, the Assembly is firmly in Democratic hands — and almost certain to stay that way — while the state Senate leans slightly Democratic. For its long-term fiscal health, Nevada simply can’t afford next year to have a Democrat in the governor’s mansion at the same time Democrats control the Legislature’s two chambers.

Brian Sandoval and Rory Reid both come with impressive resumes. Both men promise to be hands-on in Carson City, opening channels that remained closed during the administration of incumbent Jim Gibbons. Both men have long ties to the state and sincerely seek to make Nevada a better place.

But we believe Brian Sandoval is the candidate most likely to resist the inevitable special interest pleas for more and more state spending, while at the same time ensuring that the redistricting process is conducted fairly for all Nevadans. We believe Mr. Sandoval’s position on education reform is more likely to shake up a complacent public school system, and that his fiscal agenda will be more likely to help pull the state out of its current economic morass.

The Review-Journal endorses Brian Sandoval for governor.

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