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Governor’s race

With the underfunded incumbent trailing by double digits in the polls, only an electoral miracle will prevent one-term Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons from losing his own party’s nomination in Tuesday’s Republican primary — a Nevada first.

That would leave former Attorney General Brian Sandoval — who resigned a lifetime seat on the federal bench for the opportunity — as the Republican nominee for governor in November’s general election, likely facing Democratic Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid.

Mr. Sandoval is eminently qualified.

Yes, Gov. Gibbons is a serious fiscal conservative who fought the government unions and other special interests that endlessly shriek how Nevada will remain “last in everything” until our spending and tax rates equal those of such economic powerhouses (irony intended) as Michigan and New Jersey.

Gov. Gibbons can be proud of his military service, and of his terms in Congress, as well. So what happened?

Gov. Gibbons’ personality seemed ill-suited to the job. Recent Nevada governors including Mike O’Callaghan and Richard Bryan thrived in a post that requires a larger-than-life personality, a “big man” who actually enjoys the glad-handing, the give-and-take, the personal, hands-on lobbying required for a governor to push his budget and agenda through an often balky and recalcitrant Legislature.

Jim Gibbons had and has perfectly good legislative and budgetary proposals. But he tended to abandon them on the Assembly’s doorstep like squalling orphans. Given a chance to win over converts to the conservative cause, he frequently seemed to be uncomfortable, on the defensive.

Gov. Gibbons was also dogged by scandal from even before he took office. First a Las Vegas cocktail waitress accused him of putting the moves on her in a parking garage. Then Gov. Gibbons went through a messy divorce while in office.

Thanks in part to all of the above, Gov. Gibbons is the weaker Republican candidate in this primary. It’s unlikely Gov. Gibbons could have ginned up the money or the support to prevail in a statewide race come November.

Mr. Sandoval is the better choice.

Mr. Sandoval, a former legislator and gaming regulator, insists the state budget must be balanced with spending cuts, not tax hikes. He has talked the talk during this primary campaign. Should he prevail, Nevadans will also expect him to walk the walk in Carson City.

Anyone who believes Nevadans want a “go-along” kind of guy who will reach out to the big spenders in Carson City, raising taxes and handing state employees a carte blanche to siphon the taxpayers’ lifeblood, should ask Democrats Dina Titus and Barbara Buckley how they enjoyed their terms as governor.

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