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August 3, 2015

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Politics:

Jim Rogers taking on Horsford on Twitter — three years after phone call never came

Jim Rogers

Jim Rogers

Former chancellor Jim Rogers has been on a monthlong Twitter rampage against Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, the North Las Vegas Democrat running for Congress against Republican Danny Tarkanian.

Seemingly the No. 1 lesson from this tirade: Do not, under any circumstances, ignore a call from Jim Rogers.

Online attacks have been around roughly since newspapers began allowing comments on the Internet — we think the cool kids might call it “flaming.” But Rogers is no ordinary gadfly. He was the chancellor of higher education for five years and owns the NBC-affiliated television stations in Nevada, as well as other stations across the country. Rogers’ crusade started with this tweet, from @JimRogersNevada (which Rogers said he dictates a couple of weeks in advance) sent Sept. 10 and linking to this blog post: “Three years ago I was about to go out to dinner in Helena, Montana when I got a call from someone in Las Vegas who said that Steven Horsford would like to talk to me. I told that person I would cancel my dinner date and stay home. That was three years ago and I am still waiting on the call. Horsford is an arrogant ass.”

Geoff Mackler, campaign manager for Horsford, said: “Steven has an upcoming meeting with Jim Rogers scheduled. He has always had an open door and is willing to meet with anyone who wants to discuss moving Nevada forward.”

The Las Vegas Sun conducted a telephone interview with Rogers this week to talk about his demand for etiquette, his friendship with the Tarkanian family and just how good it is to own television stations in a battleground state before an election.

Jim, you call Sen. Horsford a “poster boy for arrogance,” a “con man,” “a fraud and an empty suit.” You call him a “terrible person.” His primary sin seems to be not returning your call. Why does that rankle you so much?

Here’s a little background. When I first heard of him, I was very impressed. I was so impressed, I would call him governor. I was that impressed. Slowly but surely, I found it was all a front. He was glib. He could talk pretty well. He was a mile wide but an inch deep. That is my impression.

He has this great sense that the world owes him a job. It seems to me, he thinks he’s a touch better than the rest of us. We’re there for his beck and call.

I’ve known his wife fairly well; she has a doctorate from UNLV, and I’ve had her on my show. Each instance, I asked his wife, “Why doesn’t Steven call me? I want to talk to him.” I never heard from him.

I’m really troubled by people who don’t respond to other people, whether he works for someone or not. As a legislator, he works for the whole state. He should be talking to people. That’s where I am.

But you say he’s a con man. You call him a “terrible person.” Isn’t that harsh?

I don’t say he’s a criminal. He leads people to believe he will do things for them and doesn’t.

You also criticize him for not being able to increase funding for education during his four years as majority leader in the state Senate. Passing taxes is a Sisyphean task at the Legislature. Is it fair to put that on him?

There’s no question it’s difficult to get the votes. But from what I understand, he didn’t even begin trying to get the votes until it was close to the end of the session.

I would think, somewhere at that time, he would’ve called me and said, “Give me your opinion,” or, “What was your relationship with (late Reno Republican Sen.) Bill Raggio?” “What are the problems in the higher education system I could help with?” I didn’t get a call.

You’ve been an advocate for increased spending at the Legislature, particularly on education. Tarkanian doesn’t seem to fit the mold of most of the candidates you’d support. How do you reconcile that?

It’s tough to reconcile. I admit that. Here’s the difference: I've known Danny since he was very young. He’s very smart. Some people question his judgment. People say to me, “He’s a (Tea Partyer).’” But anytime I wanted to talk with him, he is willing to listen. I found him to be smart enough, analytical enough to know what I’m talking about. I have a better chance of persuading Danny Tarkanian on my position than what’s his name (Horsford). I can’t ever talk to him.

Are you a fan of his father, Jerry Tarkanian?

I have to tell you that I have been a fan for a long, long time. I was not involved in bringing him here, but I was one of his biggest supporters when he was here. I always thought Jerry got a raw deal. We had short memories on the good things he did here.

You believe Southern Nevada has been hurt by the state’s funding formula for higher education by about $600 million over the past 30 years. You criticize Horsford for his handling of it this session. Why didn’t you change it when you were chancellor?

I tried. I talked about it until I was blue in the face. I was told by Sen. Raggio, very explicitly, that if I didn’t leave it alone, there would be repercussions about funding decisions being made.

Switching gears, with wall-to-wall political ads, everyone thinks it’s good to be a TV station owner right now.

I think that’s true. It’s very good. Percentage-wise, I think we are probably 20 percent over where we thought we’d be, which is certainly welcome in our business, which has really fallen off since the market plunged in 2008. It’s a welcome flow of money.

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