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June 3, 2015

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Nevada Day Parade attracts candidates, supporters, celebrities

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Rep. Shelley Berkley introduces herself to actor Jon Voight on Saturday at the annual Nevada Day Chili Feed in Carson City. Berkley is running for U.S. Senate, and Voight was in Nevada campaigning for Mitt Romney.

CARSON CITY--Candidates and their campaign supporters traveled down the capital’s main street for the Nevada Day Parade on Saturday, waving to crowds celebrating the state’s entry into the union and stumping for votes in the final push before Election Day.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign rolled out his son, Josh Romney, and actors Jon Voight, Kelsey Grammer and John Ratzenberger in the parade.

Republican Sen. Dean Heller rode a horse, as the Carson City resident has done for the past 25 years or so, as did his wife, Lynne.

Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley, also running for U.S. Senate, ventured into her opponent’s hometown for a pancake breakfast sponsored by the Carson City Republican Women’s Club. She also rode in the parade and ate at the annual Chili Feed, hosted by Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, the most active elected supporter of Romney in the state.

President Barack Obama’s campaign, for all its vaunted ground game, had no celebrities in Carson City on Saturday, though nine actors would be in Reno on Sunday for early vote efforts. Also, the campaign noted it had its RV there, though Romney’s bus was bigger.

For an election cycle that has been punctuated by a flood of political ads — Obama’s campaign and supporters have raised $1 billion, and Gov. Romney’s campaign and Republican-aligned groups are on track to break the same mark — Saturday’s parade marked at least a partial respite from the fierce divisions and a throwback to times of simpler campaigning.

Crowds cheered for Shriners in their tiny cars and high school marching bands. Civil war re-enactors fired rifles into the air, and the float for the counterculture festival Burning Man shot flames into the sky.

Interspersed were the politicians, local and statewide. Gov. Brian Sandoval and first lady Kathleen Sandoval rode in a Humvee toward the front of the parade, apparently unfazed by criticism from Republicans that he could do more to help Romney. In a serious blow to the dental industry of Carson City, Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, told the crowd that parade participants weren’t allowed to pass out candy this year — but the clever Amodei brought along dog biscuits to give to people who had brought their pets. Berkley volunteers, as well as some other parade participants, quietly defied the ban, sneaking handfuls of candy to kids, while Romney volunteers passed out campaign stickers.

At the annual chili feed, Krolicki said, “We brought in the big guns,” as Voight, Ratzenberger (aka Cliff, from “Cheers”) and Grammer ("Frasier") mugged for pictures and talked with residents.

Voight, a Romney supporter, told the audience in the Carson Nugget ballroom that he’d tone down the message because it was a bipartisan affair. But he said, “This is the most important election of my lifetime.”

Ratzenberger struck a more partisan line. “It made me very angry to see our president bow” to leaders of other nations, he said.

Grammer, wearing a Romney/Ryan sticker, said he was supporting Romney because he believed in self-reliance.

But most of the time, Grammer was swarmed by people who wanted their picture with him.

“Battle Born, I love that,” Grammer said to a man wearing a shirt with Nevada’s slogan.

Nearby, on the dance floor, Berkley stood with her son and Zac Petkanas, communications director for the Nevada Democratic Party. At that moment, at least, no one wanted a picture with her.

Still, she declared Nevada Day “a great tradition. A lot of fun.”

She said Republican women thanked her for coming out to the pancake breakfast.

“Today, in Nevada, whether you’re Republicans or Democrats, we come together. We’re all Nevadans,” she said.

When a man put a Romney/Ryan sticker on her shirt, she gamely laughed. Her son, Max, took it off. When the sticker-wielder asked whether he could get a picture of her with the Romney/Ryan sticker on, Petkanas said, nicely but firmly, “Not a chance.”

Heller, working the table on the other side of the room, acknowledged that Carson City, along with Washoe County and rural areas, are his stronghold. Clark County is heavily Democratic, and to win, Republicans must perform strongly outside of Las Vegas.

Heller said the state would get past the partisanship of this race.

“You do move on,” he said. “It’s a little more negative. But first thing for me is getting reacquainted with my family — the wife, kids, the horses and dogs.”

Some weren’t as convinced that the rifts from this election would be as easily put aside.

Guy Rocha, a Nevada historian, said at the chili feed that he believes the partisan divide will be difficult to resolve after Nov. 6.

“I don’t think there will be healing after the election,” he said. “One side will be happy. One side will be angry. This is more contentious than any previous election in modern history.”

Krolicki, though, thanked Berkley for coming before she made an early exit.

“Good to see you. Did get some chili?” he asked.

“Did I get some chili?” she said with a smile. “Did I get some chili!”

Krolicki, in an interview later, said: “Brutality is always a part of national politics. In the past, there were not the resources there are now to punish your opponents.”

He said that although the election appears close, there might be a mandate for the direction of the country. But, he made clear, he was not offering a call for bipartisanship. “There are big issues to be solved by a time certain,” he said, referring specifically to the so-called “fiscal cliff” facing the country. “The mood no longer will tolerate indecision.”

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