We don’t want to interrupt Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak as he works madly to win the Republican nomination for governor of Nevada in 2014, but there are probably a few things he should know.
What’s that? Sisolak is a Democrat, you say, and he’s not even decided whether he’ll seek that party’s nomination against popular incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval? Well, forgive us. It’s hard to tell from Sisolak’s rhetoric.
Although the county commission is made up entirely of Democrats, it’s got more friction and infighting than the Las Vegas City Council, which features conservative Republicans (former state Sen. Bob Beers) and outspoken Democrats (former state Sen. Bob Coffin). And while Sisolak sits at the center of the commission’s dais, his rhetoric leans right.
Sisolak has attacked public employee unions at nearly every turn, criticizing salaries, benefits and alleged sick leave abuse. (Despite hype generated by Sisolak a few years ago that tainted the entire Clark County fire department, only a few employees were ever disciplined, and those cases were tossed by an arbitrator.)
But sick leave use did fall in the fire department after Sisolak’s crusade, a fact he proudly recounts. Then again, some employees might choose to work sick rather than risk being painted as freeloaders by a high-profile elected official.
Lately, Sisolak is making a name for himself by being anti-tax: He was the lone vote against raising the Clark County fuel tax in order to pay for a list of about $800 million in road projects in the valley. And he’s a consistent no vote against a proposed sales tax increase to pay for police officers around the valley. He’s also raised concerns about the next water rate hike, having been caught flat-footed voting for the last one, which was wildly unpopular.
(Speaking of unpopular: A sales tax on services — which Sisolak discussed at a recent meeting of commercial real estate professionals — is among the worst tax ideas, although businesses sometimes favor it. They don’t pay the tax so much as collect it from the regular folk when they get haircuts, car washes, auto repairs or have their taxes done.)
It’s not entirely clear how Sisolak plans to run against Sandoval, even if he does. The last Democratic Clark County Commission chairman who ran against Sandoval by declaring his hatred for taxes was Rory Reid, and he lost 53 percent to 42 percent. Not that it mattered: When a court ruling blew a $600 million hole in the state budget in 2011, Sandoval didn’t hesitate to continue a set of expiring taxes, which have been in place to this day. And it was Sandoval who signed bills allowing the Clark and Washoe county commissions to impose tax increases for various reasons.
Does Sisolak think he’ll convince voters that he’s more anti-tax than Sandoval? That he’ll be tougher on unions and public employees? That he’ll be a better steward of the state budget than the cautious Sandoval? (Not that it matters; state law requires a balanced budget no matter who is governor.)
If that really is Sisolak’s strategy, then perhaps there’s only one question left to ask: Who’s going run on the Democratic ticket?