Sen. Reid’s son Rory struggles to gain traction in Nevada governor’s race

By Sandra Chereb, AP
Friday, October 8, 2010

Rory Reid fights to gain traction in NV gov race

CARSON CITY, Nev. — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid has dumped his famous last name, enlisted charismatic former President Bill Clinton as a political wingman and relentlessly attacked his opponent. None of it seems to be working. The son of Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid trails heavily in recent polls while his father’s political dogfight to retain his Senate seat makes national headlines.

The double Reid ticket has created challenging terrain for Democrats. With Republicans in the midst of an intense effort to oust the senator, Rory Reid is exposed to all sorts of his father’s bad baggage.

In northern Nevada, for example, bumper stickers and soaped window signs proclaiming “Anybody butt Reid,” or “Dump Reid,” are as much a part of the landscape as coyotes and jackrabbits. The messages are about Harry Reid, but they also attack the family name.

Early in the race, Reid dropped his last name on campaign materials, opting for just “Rory” to avoid any taint stemming from his father.

Reid, chairman of the powerful Clark County Commission and former chairman of the Nevada Democratic Party, says he is not hiding from his father’s name or legacy.

“I love my father very much,” he said. “It’s not going to be about who I am related to.”

Reid, 48, is running against Republican Brian Sandoval, a former federal judge who was the first Hispanic in Nevada to win a statewide election when was elected attorney general in 2002.

Reid has enlisted Hispanic leaders, including comedian Carlos Mencia and labor leader Dolores Huerta, who’ve criticized Sandoval as being Hispanic in name only.

Sandoval has mostly kept a low profile, content to sit on his lead and wait for the next debate. Two more are scheduled.

A poll released Sept. 25 by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and KLAS-TV showed Sandoval favored over Reid, 51 percent to 37 percent. The telephone survey of 635 likely voters, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

“Reid can win, he just needs to persuade voters that he is his own man first,” said Roger Homan, a 45-year-old restaurant manager. “Some people are worried about that.”

Even a visit by former President Clinton to headline a Las Vegas rally and fundraiser did little to improve Reid’s standing in the polls despite Democrats outnumbering Republicans statewide by 58,500 voters.

“Rory Reid has tried about everything and has not had much of a reaction from voters,” said Eric Herzik, political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.

To try to close the gap, Reid has tried to provoke Sandoval. He launched television ads seeking to portray Sandoval as beholden to banking industry lobbyists — a group apt to draw scorn in a recession-battered state that leads the nation in foreclosures, bankruptcies and joblessness.

Sandoval’s campaign counter punched with its own ads denouncing Reid as the bank lobbyist and a dishonest politician. In other ads, Sandoval has called Reid a poor leader and a liberal spender.

Reid has issued position papers outlining his plans for public schools, higher education, the hemorrhaging state budget, green energy jobs, and his vision for Nevada’s economic future — and taunted Sandoval for staying mum.

“It’s hard to create controversy when you don’t say anything,” Reid said of his rival.

Both candidates — attorneys in established law firms with banking clients — have said they won’t raise taxes, despite a budget deficit projected by some to reach $3 billion — about half the state general fund.

Reid said he would eliminate multiple state departments and reduce other departments’ funding. For example, he has called for a 33 percent cut in the state’s Corrections Department.

During a debate Thursday, Reid continued to demand Sandoval release a budget plan, but Sandoval remained unruffled. He dismissed Reid’s budget as a “fantasy.”

Sandoval said he would push back spending levels to 2007, but he would not say which departments would be streamlined or how the plan would affect public education.

“It’s not an exact number,” he said. “There are going to be reductions across the board.”

For some voters, Sandoval’s lack of specifics means a vote lost.

“He’s not saying anything,” said Steve Lane, 44, a self-employed businessman in Las Vegas. “If he’s got great plans, show them to me.”

Sandoval easily defeated Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons in the primary after a scandal-plagued first term for the incumbent. He would become the state’s first Latino governor if elected and has released a handful of Spanish-language ads.

But he’s not universally supported by Hispanic residents, who make up roughly 26 percent of the state’s population.

Sandoval, 47, angered some Latinos for supporting Arizona’s tough immigration law, though he later said a similar law was not needed Nevada. He also apologized when a reporter for a Spanish language network, writing in a newspaper column, accused Sandoval of saying his own children “don’t look Hispanic” when asked if racial profiling would be a concern. In a written statement, Sandoval said while he didn’t recall making the remark, which was not recorded, “it was wrong” if he did.

Asked about the flap after the debate, Sandoval said it was telling that a recording of the comment had not been made public.

“I’m proud of my background,” he said. “I’m proud of my kids.”

Associated Press writer Cristina Silva contributed to this report from Las Vegas.

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