Las Vegas Sun

July 3, 2015

Currently: 101° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account


Democrats take aim at Sandoval — but with no candidate, to what end?

When the Sacramento Bee uncovered the practice of the state-run mental hospital in Las Vegas busing some of its discharged patients out of Nevada with little more than a bottle of Ensure, Nevada Democrats knew they had the kernel of a scandal to hang around the popular governor’s neck.

The news releases started almost immediately.

They only intensified as Gov. Brian Sandoval initially avoided questions about the practice as the Bee stepped up its coverage.

“The fact that it took weeks of devastating coverage in the media to force Gov. Sandoval to make this policy change shows just how morally bankrupt this administration is,” one news release blared in April.

Since then, the news releases haven’t stopped accusing Sandoval of reacting too slowly to the situation and stonewalling the press.

But as the well-liked governor heads into what is shaping up to be an easy re-election bid, some are wondering to what end the Democrats are ramping up their attack machine against Sandoval.

The party so far has been unable to put forward a solid candidate to run against Sandoval. So if Democrats aren’t attacking the governor in the hopes of installing their own candidates in Carson City, what’s the point?

“As much as you can soften him up and break his bank account, you want to do that,” one Democratic operative said.

In other words, the attacks against Sandoval aren’t so much geared toward winning the governor’s race, but keeping him busy defending himself so he can be less of an asset to down-ticket Republicans.

The Sandoval campaign appeared nonplussed.

“We haven’t really noticed any attacks,” Sandoval’s political consultant Mike Slanker said. “Not sure what they might be softening.”

Still, Slanker added, Sandoval isn’t about to simply coast through the 2014 election.

“The governor is fully committed to re-election and to fighting for wins up and down the ticket,” Slanker said. “He is fully engaged.”

The Democratic Party insists that the steady barrage of attacks on the patient busing practice is just the beginning of a sustained effort to drive up Sandoval’s negatives regardless of whether he draws an opponent.

And that’s not exactly an easy proposition. Even Democrats exhibit some awe of Sandoval’s ability to stay relentlessly on message, avoid major missteps and generally remain scandal free.

But Democrats see a few vulnerabilities. Most recently, Sandoval vetoed a bill that would have required private-party background checks, an issue that polls find is popular with Nevadans. The move likely won’t hurt him with Republicans, but could hurt him with key swing voters such as soccer moms, Democratic operatives posit.

Democrats also may turn to the first budget Sandoval put forward in 2011, when Nevada was still firmly in the grip of the recession. Sandoval had promised not to raise taxes or extend temporary taxes and put forward a budget that could have hamstrung the higher education system.

Sandoval finally backed down when a Nevada Supreme Court decision eliminated his ability to pad the state budget with local money and let the temporary taxes continue.

"Brian Sandoval will have to explain next year why the only things he has to show for his four years as governor are a patient dumping scandal, Nevada remaining dead last in education, and why we continue to lead the nation in unemployment and foreclosure rates,” Democrats’ spokesman Zach Hudson said. “Nevada's middle class is suffering under Brian Sandoval's leadership, and we will spend the next year and a half reminding voters how out of touch the governor is with Nevada families."

Republicans don’t seem too concerned with the effort, particularly because Democrats don’t have a candidate to deliver the attacks.

“I’ve never seen one of these efforts succeed. A party attacking a candidate without an alternative is a waste of money,” one Republican operative said. “You have to be a credible messenger to land a credible attack and make it stick. Parties are not a credible messenger.”

While the election is still 17 months away, time is short in political parlance. Typically, candidates begin preparing to launch a major campaign at least two years ahead of time.

That’s not to say, however, that it’s too late for Democrats to come up with a messenger.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak has long been open about his ambition to be governor. He has not yet formally announced, but is in the process of putting together a poll to assess his chances should he enter the race.

And that has many Democrats salivating.

Sisolak has never been shy of emptying the arsenal of negative attacks on a political opponent. And he has the fundraising chops and enough of his own wealth to at least put a tarnish on Sandoval’s shine.

But if Democrats hope Sisolak will get in the race simply to ensure Sandoval doesn’t have a free ride, they’ve got another hope coming.

“I am not getting into the race, as I have said before, to be a sacrificial-lamb type of candidate,” Sisolak told the Reno Gazette-Journal this month. “Unless I thought that there would be a path to victory, I wouldn’t be running. ... We will just have to wait and see.”

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 6 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. If that's all the insane leftist Harry Reid libs have on Sandoval, then they got nothin'.

  2. Gee, can it be that Dumbocrats want to make Sandoval a "one-term" governor? Nah, that can't be. After all, they complained that was the goal of the Republicrats with Osama Obama so it would be hypocritical of them to have a similar goal with NV's chief executive, wouldn't it? But then, when aren't Dumbocrats hypocrites? Take a look at the "nuclear option" now threatened by Reid the Red. Wasn't too long ago he was on the other side doing what he does best: wailing and whining against it when he was the minority "leader." Reid the Red, the complete moron!

  3. After closely monitoring the Assembly this year, this Independent voter has decided to NEVER vote for another Democrat for any state office. So, fire away Democrats.

  4. Gov Sandoval received my vote last go round.

    However, Mr. Sandoval is MIA and AWOL when it comes to responding and replying in relation to relevant mine safety health harassment racial discrimination violations and manufactured false records in Nevada's Mining Industry.

    I am calling on Gov. Sandoval to return all donations from the mining industry and their representatives(lobbyist's) until a proper and lawful investigation of the record at Round Mountain Gold Corp(RMGC)is complete.

    There is no statute of limitations for FRAUD...

    Paul Rupp, using B125 SP NV 89047

  5. Let's assign blame where it clearly belongs: on all career politicians and on the VOTERS! People got the government that they voted for.

    When we follow the patterns of policies and leadership (or lack thereof), Nevada has had Republican Governors for quitea while, so they can enjoy a good portion of responsibility. But, it takes two to tango, so their antagonists, the Democrats, also share responsibility in the tug and pull of lawmaking. The landscape is the national leadership, and economic influences.

    Governor Brian Sandoval has taken a common sense approach in his governance style, trying to stay in the middle rather than the extremes. He wisely acknowledges problems and their sources, and does an average job, but FAIR, in how he handles situations. But WHO are his influences? Governor Sandoval does have his loyalties, longtime friends that he is very careful not to ruffle feathers with. Their influence, power, alliances, trump any little guy citizen voter off the streets, although not in a blatently, glaring in your face manner. Governor Sandoval is finely groomed candidate for higher office, and wields his swag with untouchable couth and finesse. He could have written the book. He is perfection!

    Nevada's on-going issues are problems that are aging with Nevada---they are NOT new, and due to the quality of life in Nevada, Nevadans are waking up to the fact that these age old problems are the foundation for the present problems, and nothing can successfully change until such problems are dealt with by changing the Nevada Constitution and ways things are being done. Governor Sandoval knows this very well, and operates accordingly.

    So what is the point of Ms.Damon's article? Due to the safe political game he has played so far, we can expect Governor Sandoval to be reelected. The only negative is that he has already stated that he plans to bail mid-term to run for higher office, so THAT could change how voters feel. It is a consideration.

    Society is only as strong as its weakest link. The current mental health care system sorely needs updating and a major overhaul. Also, we need to provide mental health care access to our school children, as that will immediately improve both academic and social success with low performing students! A person's thinking influences their decision making, motivation, and behaviors. Start there!

    Will Steve and Rory put their hats into the ring for Nevada Governor? Stay tuned!

    Blessings and Peace,

  6. Yo, Homer---keep firing away at Sandoval. See where it gets ya.