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STEVE SEBELIUS: Gaming appointment brings Krolicki back from the dead

“To the last I grapple with thee!” — Moby Dick

Back in 2008, Brian Krolicki’s political career was on the rise. A former two-term Republican state treasurer, he was lieutenant governor, and reportedly had his eye on higher office.

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid was up for election in 2010, considered at the time the most vulnerable senator in the country. Reid’s shepherding of the Democratic agenda in Congress as majority leader had made him a favorite target of the Republican fundraising machine and the grifter gabbers on talk radio.

Krolicki, along with former television anchor Sue Lowden, was among Reid’s most formidable potential challengers. And he said so publicly.

Then came the indictment.

A legislative audit found Krolicki had allegedly mishandled $6 million designated for advertising for a college savings program. It was never alleged that Krolicki pocketed any of the money, or even that it had been misspent. He simply didn’t deposit the funds into state accounts, as required by law.

The indictment was sought by then-Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat. But a judge ruled the following year that prosecutors failed to show specific evidence that a crime had been committed and dismissed the charges against Krolicki. A defiant Cortez Masto criticized the ruling but said she would not appeal.

But the damage had been done. The negative press that Krolicki suffered made running for U.S. Senate impossible. Instead, state Republicans nominated the worst possible option, ex-Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, who lost to Reid by nearly 6 points. Had Krolicki been the nominee, history might very well have been different.

From hell’s heart, I stab at thee!

Krolicki has been out of public life since he left office in 2015, surfacing occasionally to discuss his passion project, landing a winter Olympics in the Reno-Tahoe area. He has served on corporate boards, including that of electric car manufacturer Faraday Future, from April 2020 to July 2021, as well as an affiliated Faraday company through October 2022.

But now, things have changed. Krolicki is back, and in a big way: He has been appointed by Gov. Joe Lombardo to the Nevada Gaming Commission, one of two boards that regulates Nevada’s gambling industry.

If this seems vaguely familiar, it should: It was an appointment to the very same commission by then-Gov. Mike O’Callaghan that resurrected the political career of another once-dead Nevada politician: Harry Reid.

After back-to-back losses in bids for U.S. Senate in 1974 and Las Vegas mayor in 1975, O’Callaghan named Reid chairman of the commission in 1977, and Reid used the posting to return to public life. He ultimately won , winning a seat in Congress in 1982 and then in the U.S. Senate in 1986. It was from that very perch that Reid chose his successor after he finally decided to retire in 2016, a woman by the name of … Catherine Cortez Masto.

She won Reid’s Senate seat in 2016, turning away Dr. Joe Heck in a year when Donald Trump won the White House. She narrowly won again in November, defeating Adam Laxalt by less than 1 percentage point.

For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee!

It’s impossible for Krolicki to have missed that result. The bad blood over that 2008 indictment has not been forgotten; at the 2010 inauguration in Carson City, he reportedly refused to shake Cortez Masto’s hand as state officers were sworn in.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if Krolicki was plotting a Reid-like comeback, with the goal of challenging his old nemesis six years from now, or even challenging freshman Sen. Jacky Rosen in 2024, which would allow him to serve alongside the woman he blames for thwarting his political rise 15 years ago. It would be sweet revenge to show up on the Senate floor alongside Cortez Masto, and sweeter still if he could muster a campaign to replace her.

Whether Cortez Masto had enough evidence to indict Krolicki — and it appeared at the time that she did — or whether she did it entirely for political reasons, to help Reid take an opponent off the board, Krolicki surely hasn’t forgotten. And he’s in a position now to do something about it.

“He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.”

Contact Steve Sebelius at SSebelius@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0253. Follow @SteveSebelius on Twitter.

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