Las Vegas Sun

November 24, 2015

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Coolican: Is Brian Sandoval shaping up to be Nevada’s Sarah Palin?

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J. Patrick Coolican

Brian Sandoval

Brian Sandoval

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin

CARSON CITY — Strange notions take hold up here, and one that’s frequently spoken of is that Gov. Brian Sandoval is on the long shortlist of potential Republican vice presidential nominees.

On one level, it makes sense: He has an impressive resume that includes time as a regulator, attorney general, federal judge and now governor. He’s Hispanic, from a Western swing state and looks good on TV.

We’ll be hearing more of this talk when this dreadful legislative session is finished.

Assembly Democrats on Wednesday made one last pathetic attempt to prevent brutal spending cuts, with a parade of business lobbyists strangely begging legislators not to give them a tax cut, which is the practical effect of allowing taxes passed in 2009 to expire, as the law requires.

Allow us to keep paying those taxes, they said. Because they don’t like what bleeding the budget is doing to Nevada.

A hospital lobbyist bemoaned the 5 percent cut in Medicaid reimbursement, which will cripple hospitals that already are losing money.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie said he’s already eliminated 238 police officer positions, with more coming.

Teachers and professors, who already make less than the national average, will take a substantial pay cut, or there will be layoffs, or both, and the best of them will leave as soon as possible.

Then there are the ugly cuts to the most vulnerable — autistic children, the mentally ill.

None of this seems to matter. Democrats need a two-thirds vote to override the governor’s veto, they don’t have the votes and surrender is in the air. There’s private talk of passing the governor’s budget and then trying to hang the ugly consequences on the governor and then go to the ballot to try to get the voters to approve new taxes later.

This strategy has a name: “Burn the village.”

When I point out that Democrats’ message might be muddied if they voted for the budget they’ve decried for months, Democrats give me a look I find concerning — that they haven’t considered this.

And there’s the skilled political play by Sandoval — Democrats are whining losers!

Republicans are jubilant. Senate Republicans released a letter Tuesday, signed by all 10 of them, again expressing support for the governor’s budget. Moderates who once seemed gettable for the Democrats now seem firmly unreachable.

If this all comes to pass, as seems likely, the buzz around Sandoval will merely grow.

Sandoval’s spokeswoman noted in an email that the governor “has said before that he is committed to serving four years. He feels privileged to serve the people of Nevada.”

On its face, the notion is fanciful. Sen. Marco Rubio is more well-known and is from the all-important state of Florida.

Plus, a Nevadan on a national ticket? Imagine the stories about the brothels and the Strip and our rather freewheeling culture. The rest of the country, we often forget, views us a bit differently — Midwesterners like visiting, but it’s not clear they would trust one of our own to be vice president.

There would be uncomfortable questions about our using our jails and prisons as psychiatric facilities; our substandard schools; and our decision to dismantle our university system as a counterintuitive strategy for diversifying our economy.

Stranger things have happened though. Who would have thought Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, would become vice presidential nominee and national political figure.

Sandoval: Our very own Sarah Palin.

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