I’ll spare you yet more speculation about whether the Republican Party can adapt to shifting demographics. We’ll see how GOP windsocks like Rep. Joe Heck and Sen. Dean Heller react soon enough.
My retroactive analysis of the president’s victory in Nevada is similarly brief, and the same as it was more than a year before the election: Voters didn’t blame Obama, and didn’t trust Romney.
More political ads ran in Las Vegas than any other media market in the country this year. That’s unlikely to happen again anytime soon. Compared to 2012, the 2014 election in Nevada is going to be a snoozer.
Gov. Brian Sandoval and the rest of the state officers will be on the ballot. Nature loves a vacuum. So does your Republican governor’s approval rating, which benefits from the absence of any hilarious/revolting headlines of the sort generated by his immediate predecessor, disgraced and incompetent Jim Gibbons. As comparative standards go, it’s an extremely low bar, but Sandoval is clearing it.
Perhaps more important, Sandoval and his handlers are free to shape voter perceptions of the governor without being hindered by any pesky alternative vision from Democrats, who thus far appear to have no identifiable policy agenda.
No one pays any attention to the other statewide offices — attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, controller and, the most irrelevant job in Nevada, lieutenant governor. And candidates for those offices typically don’t raise enough money to sustain a truly offensive televised assault on the senses.
Some Democrat will emerge to challenge Heck in the always competitive Third Congressional District. But 2012 would have been the easier year to beat Heck, and Democrats blew it by nominating a demonstrably implausible candidate. The state’s other three congressional seats will also be up, of course, but it is unlikely that any of them will be competitive.
In any case, nothing near the millions of dollars that were dumped on Nevada ads in 2012 will pad the bottom lines of TV stations (disclosure: I work for one) in the next election cycle, and probably not in the one following that, in 2016, either. Harry Reid’s Senate seat will be up, and it will be another presidential year. But Nevada is now trending reliably Democratic with respect to presidential politics. Our days as a swing state may be behind us, so no presidential ads for us — unless the campaigns buy a few ads in the Las Vegas market to reach folks across the river who get Las Vegas TV; if Nevada isn’t a battleground state in 2016, Arizona will be.
In the battle for control of the state Senate, the Democrats hung on, occupying 11 seats to the GOP’s 10. That razor-thin majority means the most consequential state Senate election wasn’t in November, but in June, when Patricia Spearman knocked off incumbent John Lee in the Democratic primary. Lee was an unreliable Democrat at best. He would have been easily manipulated into crossing over to vote with Republicans by that party’s Senate majority leader, Mike Roberson, who has Capitol Hill experience in former Congressman Tom DeLay’s office and is not a citizen legislator but a professional member of the political-industrial complex. Just how much Spearman’s victory will mean will depend on what, if anything, legislative Democrats decide to do vis-à-vis the aforementioned vacuum where a policy agenda should be. But presumably they’ll hold together to block the more egregious assaults against teachers, collective-bargaining rights and other items that Republicans will cook up, and holding together will be much easier with Spearman than it would have been with Lee.
Nevada’s greatest loss on election night was Reno Democratic state Sen. Sheila Leslie, who was defeated by Republican Greg Brower and a coalition of outside interests, including the Koch Brothers and transnational mining conglomerates. Leslie began the year in a safe Democratic district and wasn’t up for election until 2014. But seeing there was a chance the Republicans might gain control of the Senate, she resigned from her safe seat to challenge Brower, also a Republican, in a district where party registration was much more evenly matched.
During the 14 years Leslie was in the Legislature, first in the Assembly and then in the Senate, no politician in Nevada demonstrated a more sincere commitment to representing those most vulnerable Nevadans who don’t have high-powered lobbyists.
Given that the Nevada Legislature is essentially a subsidiary of Nevada’s lobbying industry, which in turn is working on behalf of mining, gambling, banks and other corporate interests, Leslie’s consistent dedication to economic fairness and social justice has been not just unique, but crucial. As thin and lame as Nevada’s safety net is, it would be even more tattered without Leslie. Her work has made a difference, not in the context of abstract public policy, but because she made a tangible, positive difference in the lives of countless children and parents, as well as Nevada’s mentally ill, disabled and elderly. She was the best legislator in Nevada. So naturally, big business did all it could to beat her. Fortunately for Nevada families, she’ll stay in the fight one way or the other.
HUGH JACKSON blogs at The Las Vegas Gleaner (www.lasvegasgleaner.com) and contributes to KSNV Channel 3.