Las Vegas Sun

August 30, 2014

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Breathless: Last Campaign Hours

Cast of Characters

<strong>Assemblyman Richard "Tick" Segerblom</strong>, 59, of Las Vegas, supports John Edwards. The lawyer and longtime Democratic activist was elected to the Assembly in 2006.

Assemblyman Richard "Tick" Segerblom, 59, of Las Vegas, supports John Edwards. The lawyer and longtime Democratic activist was elected to the Assembly in 2006.

<strong>Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen</strong>, 27, of Las Vegas, is national co-chairman of Hispanic outreach for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. In 2006, he became the first Hispanic immigrant to win elected office in Nevada.

Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen, 27, of Las Vegas, is national co-chairman of Hispanic outreach for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. In 2006, he became the first Hispanic immigrant to win elected office in Nevada.

<strong>Pilar Weiss</strong> is political director of the Culinary Workers Local 226. She came to Las Vegas from the parent union’s Washington, D.C., headquarters in 2002 and is regarded as a savvy and feared union strategist.

Pilar Weiss is political director of the Culinary Workers Local 226. She came to Las Vegas from the parent union’s Washington, D.C., headquarters in 2002 and is regarded as a savvy and feared union strategist.

State Sen. Steven Horsford, 34, of Las Vegas, backs Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. Generally considered a rising star in the state party, Horsford runs the Culinary Training Academy and is a Democratic national committeeman.

State Sen. Steven Horsford, 34, of Las Vegas, backs Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. Generally considered a rising star in the state party, Horsford runs the Culinary Training Academy and is a Democratic national committeeman.

The hours leading up to Saturday’s 11:30 a.m. Democratic caucus were a whirlwind of activity and emotion for three Nevada legislators and for the political director of the state’s most powerful union, the Culinary. The Sun sent a reporter to tag along with each of the four.

Shadowing Sen. Steven Horsford was reporter J. Patrick Coolican. Trailing Assemblyman Richard “Tick” Segerblom was David McGrath Schwartz. Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen was accompanied by reporter Tony Cook. The Culinary’s Pilar Weiss spent time with reporter Michael J. Mishak.

Here is a look at the morning, sunrise to caucus.

6:48 a.m.: Sen. Steven Horsford speaks to a group of volunteers at Barack Obama's North Las Vegas headquarters. The crowd looks beaten, though lack of sleep plays a role.

Horsford tries to rally the troops: “It may not be Barack Obama’s turn. But it is Barack Obama’s time.”

6:50 a.m.: At Culinary Union headquarters near the Stratosphere, Culinary Political Director Pilar Weiss speaks to a crowd of raucous union employees, all fired up, ready to go round up supporters for Obama, whom the union has endorsed.

“I’m going to be brief, because I want all this energy out on the streets,” she says.

She orders most employees to board RVs that will fan out across nine Las Vegas neighborhoods with high concentrations of Culinary members. The vehicles will serve as mobile headquarters. A fleet of SUVs will then ferry union members to caucus sites.

Moments later, Weiss retreats to her office, where a sign on the door is testimony to the long days of recent weeks. “Please Do Not Knock.” it says. “Sleeping.”

7:10 a.m.: Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, a John Edwards supporter, opens the front door of his Las Vegas home and takes an Obama door hanger off the knob. Doggone things are everywhere.

Segerblom retreats to the kitchen table to read state Democratic Party materials, readying himself to run a precinct caucus meeting.

He grabs three kinds of tape -- Scotch, masking and duct. You never know.

7:12 a.m.: Horsford has arrived at the Clark County Resource Center, where a precaucus rally will be held at 8:30 to promote caucus turnout for all candidates. A number of volunteers are already there, so he starts a chant.

“Tell me what democracy looks like,” he says.

“This is what democracy looks like,” they reply.

Repeat.

7:25 a.m.: Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen -- on three hours’ sleep -- arrives at a Hillary Clinton campaign office in northern Las Vegas. He is immediately swarmed. Dozens of Clinton precinct captains have come by to grab literature and doughnuts before heading to their caucus sites.

“Are we going to kick some butt?” Kihuen says, slapping backs and flashing a smile.

7:33 a.m.: Horsford is at the Marble Manor housing project to arrange vans to carry residents to the rally.

A woman thanks him for helping with an event the night before arranged to help ex-felons vote. “They’re so proud now,” she says.

Volunteers ask if the High Steppers dance troupe will be at the rally.

“You know we got the High Steppers,” he says.

7:45 a.m.: At the Segerblom home, son Carl gets up, looking groggy, soon followed by Chris Chafe, a senior adviser to Edwards who is staying at the house. Chafe grabs a coffee and a banana and sits at the kitchen table. Segerblom keeps studying.

8:14 a.m.: As Kihuen answers calls at the Clinton office, the energy turns up a notch. Time is passing quickly. An organizer shouts to a precinct captain: Be sure to take the campaign flier. It says: “I support my union. I support Hillary Clinton. In America, no one can tell you who to vote for.”

8:15 a.m.: Segerblom and Chafe are driving to Edwards campaign headquarters near Pecos and Flamingo roads. Chafe is BlackBerrying; Segerblom is fighting uphill on the phone. “This is a guerrilla war,” he tells a caller. “We have to keep fighting.”

8:31 a.m.: Across the street from the county resource center rally, Horsford skips the free breakfast and leads a parade that includes a marching band. It passes a giant statue of Martin Luther King Jr. before Horsford goes onstage.

All is not well. The turnout is small, which doesn’t bode well for Obama in this largely black neighborhood.

8:40 a.m.: Kihuen is due at Univision studios, where Clinton is to give an interview. A friend will give Kihuen a ride but first wants to affix a Clinton sign to the side of his Chevy TrailBlazer. He has no tape. He uses Clinton bumper stickers.

9:18 a.m.: Segerblom stops at Starbucks for a hit. He sees a woman he knows.

How about that John Edwards?

“I think I’m going with Clinton, but Obama would be great as well,” she says. “Edwards seems like a nice guy. I’d love to have a beer with him. But president?”

9:25 a.m.: Two hours to go. Horsford still has time to go into neighborhoods. He jumps into a van with giant speakers strapped to the roof, blaring Motown. An Obama sign is taped to the side.

9:38 a.m.: Kihuen is at Univision as Clinton is on-air. Photos of the two of them flash before viewers. Afterward, they talk and she gives him a farewell hug.

10:16: Horsford has taken a call from the Obama campaign: Don’t forget to caucus. He’s walking a neighborhood near the Andre Agassi Academy, so he starts springing from house to house on Jimmy Avenue. After months of systematized campaigning, this is the equivalent of cramming. --

He stops a car and implores the driver to support Obama. She says she will.

10:20 a.m.: Kihuen has been on-air too long. He is due at his caucus site in 10 minutes. He jumps into the SUV and his friend floors it. “No need to kill us,” Kihuen says. “If a cop stops us, we’ll ask him if he’s caucusing.”

10:34 a.m.: Segerblom is at the caucus site for precinct 4355. He knows the two Clinton precinct captains. An assistant principal has told them they cannot put up a Clinton sign. “I didn’t hear them,” one says.

“I’m not a criminal lawyer,” Segerblom replies. “But I’ll defend you.”

10:36 a.m.: Kihuen’s friend has kept the pedal down. Kihuen arrives at the caucus location at Halle Hewetson Elementary School, precinct 4387, and promptly gets into a spat with Obama supporters because the registration table bears Clinton campaign items. The registration list disappears. It returns shortly. The table is disadorned.

10:50 a.m.: Horsford arrives at his precinct, 2044, where he is the temporary chairman.

10:52 a.m.: The Culinary’s Weiss has resurfaced and she’s not happy. She’s driving down the Strip to the Luxor, where she has heard the Clinton campaign is electioneering, in violation of state Democratic rules barring overt campaigning outside caucus rooms.

“They’re flouting the rules,” Weiss says. “And they were the ones obsessed with everybody else obeying them.”

She fears she might not make it. Her car’s low on gas.

11:01 a.m.: Segerblom tells caucusgoers they can start signing in. He spots a longtime Republican coming to support the GOP enemy. “You’re switching parties? You’ve finally seen the light.”

11:41 a.m.: Weiss finds the Luxor caucus site crackling -- and the caucus has missed the 11:30 starting time. Inside, Clinton supporters taunt the Obama faithful. Many in the Clinton camp are wearing T-shirts and holding signs that read: “I support my union. I support Hillary.”

Weiss is upset by the Clinton presence outside the room. She paces, types on the BlackBerry and talks on a cell phone. “I’m just trying to keep the rules fair, she says, appearing flustered.

11:42 a.m.: Segerblom’s precinct is also late. He sees the grim numbers. Nearly everyone is going for either Clinton or Obama. An Edwards supporter comes up. “I don’t think we’re going to be viable,” she says. To win a delegate, Edwards needs at least nine supporters. She counts eight.

11:45 to 12:10: All four caucus sites close their doors. When they open in the early afternoon, these are the results:

• Segerblom’s caucus is viable for Edwards. Each of the three major candidates gets one delegate.

• Horsford can’t hold his home precinct for Obama. Clinton takes it.

• Kihuen’s precinct prefers Clinton.

• The Luxor caucus goes for Obama.

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