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October 4, 2015

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J. Patrick Coolican:

If Dems can’t beat Gov. Brian Sandoval in ‘14, at least have fun and pick Tick


From war to gay rights, Nevada Senator Richard “Tick” Segerblom speaks his mind on all subjects.

J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

Shortly after Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a bill creating medical marijuana dispensaries while vetoing another that would have required background checks for private gun sales, state Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom, a Democrat, posted one of his signature tweets: “Very sad. @GovSandoval vetos @Jones4Nevada great bill — sb 221. On the bright side, now I can smoke marijuana and shoot people too.”

It was classic Segerblom — irreverent bordering on offensive.

The persona extends well beyond the Twittersphere.

During a field trip of the Judiciary Committee he chairs to a medical marijuana dispensary in Arizona, he quipped: “I’ve never seen bud that good.”

Upon the natural follow-up question from my colleague Andrew Doughman, Segerblom said it had been quite some time since he had partaken.

Segerblom looks like a rumpled philosophy professor, his sun-bleached hair suggesting a sailboat summer sabbatical, icy cocktail in hand, one-liner holstered.

He’s actually the scion of a Nevada political dynasty of sorts: his great-grandfather and grandmother Winnemucca legislators, his mother a Boulder City assemblywoman. His mother’s family were Pony Express riders in the Ruby Valley, though it’s hard to imagine Segerblom the Downtowner on a horse.

Segerblom’s day job is downtown attorney, usually representing workers and unions in employment law cases. The business lobbyists snarl “trial lawyer!” in his direction, but he still gleefully pushed legislation friendly to the trial bar from his perch at Senate Judiciary. But he also amassed a significant Nader-ite legislative record on criminal justice, the environment, public records and so on.

Segerblom is a die-hard progressive, and the best part is that he doesn’t give a damn. There’s no parsing, no hedging, no equivocation.

He wants to raise taxes on mining companies, marry the gays, reduce the principal on your underwater mortgage. And he wants the Legislature to meet every year so he can irritate the conservatives more frequently.

“Hey (expletive),” began one recent email to him from a gun rights advocate.

In 2011, when the teachers union believed its collective bargaining rights were under threat from Sandoval proposals, Segerblom was blunt about how Democrats would respond: “If we piss off the teachers, then we are a defunct party. They are our backbone.” Unlike some more conciliatory colleagues, he declared the proposals dead-on-arrival: “Good thing it isn’t going anywhere.”

Anything can happen in politics, but at this point, it seems like Sandoval will be re-elected governor in 2014. He has governed as a careful, inoffensive moderate, which is just how the state’s dominant business players on the Las Vegas Strip like it, so he’s already begun amassing a pile of money.

The Democrats, meanwhile, have no candidate. Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto could beat Sandoval, but she’s cautious and likely will not run, according to reporting this week from Jon Ralston.

Centrist Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak is just the opposite side of the same coin as Sandoval. A Sandoval-Sisolak race would have all the drama — especially for the Democratic base — of Liam Neeson in “Taken 3: Still More Taken.”

Here’s my solution: Pick Tick!

He laughed at the suggestion. “There are hundreds of people more qualified and better suited than I.” But then he wouldn’t rule it out: “Democrats need someone to run against him, if only to raise the dialogue.”

And that’s the point. Segerblom is 64, in a safe Democratic district, with zero political ambition. He would be unencumbered.

I can envision a campaign in which Sandoval remains in his bunker up north while Tick rolls around Southern Nevada in an old Merry Pranksters bus, trailed by a reporter or two noting his latest quip.

(There’s a historical antecedent here: Democrat Joe Neal’s sacrificial lamb campaign against the late-Gov. Kenny Guinn in 2002. The difference is that Nevada has changed a lot in the past decade, with Democrats now outnumbering Republicans by 100,000. In fact, Segerblom seems to be the only elected official who has recognized how progressive Nevada has become: “The public is so far out ahead of the politicians in this state, it’s incredible,” he said.)

When I asked Segerblom his first priority as governor, he didn’t hesitate: “More revenue.”

He’ll model his campaign after Walter Mondale! The Mondale reference is particularly apt given that Segerblom worked on the Carter campaign and then in the White House as a young staffer.

He was quick to add, though, that the new money would come from out-of-state corporations and mining companies.

Unlike many of his legislative colleagues, Segerblom seems to get that when you have a megaphone at your disposal, you use it to drive the debate. He seems to relish it, and I’d guess would use a quixotic campaign to pound the message home every day — no longer will we be a tax haven for corporations while the schools suffer.

You’re gonna lose, Democrats. Make like Cubs fans and have some fun in the process.

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