Saturday, June 26, 2010 | 4:45 p.m.
Nevada Democrats stuck with familiar themes at the party’s state convention Saturday at the Flamingo, focusing on the two major races of the year, the one for governor and the fight over Harry Reid’s Senate seat.
Speakers largely kept to talking about jobs, the economy and education, while they repeatedly praised both Harry and Rory Reid and poked fun at Republicans Brian Sandoval, Sharon Angle and Jim Gibbons.
The GOP will return the favor at their state convention, which is scheduled for July 9 and 10 at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson.
Rory Reid, the Democrats' nominee for governor, was the first speaker, while his father, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, spoke last.
But the intervening speakers kept the two connected, as the candidates for state offices and Congress voiced their support for the two Reids.
“There’s been some talk about Rory Reid,” U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley said. “Now whether you call him Rory or Rory Reid, it’s all the same to me. I don’t need the last name to know how remarkable that man is.”
The Las Vegas congresswoman, who is running for re-election, went on to praise both Reids, saying Rory wouldn’t be “another empty suit” in the governor’s office and that the “state of Nevada would have to be out of its collective mind” not to re-elect Harry Reid.
Rory Reid spent much of his 10-minute speech attacking Brian Sandoval, his Republican opponent, repeatedly comparing him to Gov. Jim Gibbons, the unpopular leader who lost to Sandoval in the primary.
“Brian Sandoval is Jim Gibbons in a more expensive suit,” Rory Reid said. “His handlers are the same as Jim Gibbons, his donors are the same as Jim Gibbons, his positions are the same as Jim Gibbons and, make no mistake, a Brian Sandoval administration would be Jim Gibbons’ second term.”
Harry Reid refrained from directly attacking his opponent, Sharon Angle, spending most of his more than 20 minutes at the podium covering the major topics he has dealt with, or hopes to deal with, in the Senate, including heath care reform, immigration, the economy and alternative energy.
“You know who my opponent is; I know who my opponent is. This is going to be a campaign that focuses on issues,” he said.
But after his speech, Harry Reid told reporters he does have a challenge to help voters get to know him.
“We’ve had about 600,000 new people move here since I had my last election,” he said. “I have to educate the people who I am.”
Harry Reid said he is really a “moderate guy ... I just have to convince those new people that’s who I am.”
Nevada Democrats have benefited from an organization that was built up in the 2008 presidential race but has faced strong opposition this year as voters have moved to the right, as evidenced by the Tea Party movement and Angle’s victory over Sue Lowden in the primary.
But Harry Reid expressed confidence that Democrats throughout the state will be successful in November.
“We have the best state party organization in the country,” he said. “All Democrats, from those seeking city council races to those running for the Assembly and the state Senate, and all our constitutional offices are going to do very well because of the great state party organization we have.”
The crowd at the convention was small, with more empty chairs than people filing the ballroom, but it was a loud group, chanting “Rory,” “Harry” and other names at the appropriate times.
The parade of candidates who spoke during the convention repeatedly expressed confidence that Democrats are the best candidates to lead the nation and state through the current economic troubles.
“I’ve got to tell you, with 14 percent unemployment, if you’re not a Democrat, something’s wrong,” said an enthusiastic state Treasurer Kate Marshall.
“It’s the Democrats that have the real plan to turn this economy around and bring jobs to our state,” said Jessica Sferazza, a Reno city councilwoman running for lieutenant governor.
But some candidates acknowledged that it’s not going to be an easy fight for them.
“We are facing the toughest re-election, the toughest campaign season, the toughest opposition I have seen in the 32 years I have been in Nevada,” said U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, who is fighting to keep her seat in Congressional District 3. “They are gunning for our senator, they are threatening to take back CD3, and they are promising to overthrow our majorities in the Legislature. We cannot let that happen.”