Sunday, April 27, 2008 | 2:01 a.m.
He is only 16 months into his term. But it is a measure of the low repute in which Jim Gibbons is held, as the governor consults his Gaffe-a-Day calendar, that Democrats already are talking about who is best suited and situated to defeat him in 2010.
In normal times, this kind of mindless chatter might be of interest only to political junkies. But these are hardly normal times, and those elected officials maneuvering to run against Gibbons — or just contemplating the possibility — cannot help but be thinking how votes and actions affect their viability.
It’s hardly too early for a card-carrying member of the Pundits Association of America to start such speculation. In fact, the Democrats who want to run are tardy by the Kenny Guinn standard — he announced his candidacy in February 1996.
So Kenny of the 1,000 Days set the timeline, although that seat was open. But the governor’s office, at the rate Gibbons is devolving, may well be again in 2010, either literally or figuratively.
There are many wild cards from now until November 2010 that could affect who’s in and who’s out — whether term limits will be thrown out, whether Gibbons runs again, whether anyone has health issues. But here are some thumbnail sketches from the Democratic side as the party faithful salivate about reclaiming the governorship with just less than 1,000 days to go — and pray they don’t end up with the potential primary suicide now unfolding in the White House race:
• Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley: The only Democrat actively talking about it now. But so was the past speaker at a similar point and he didn’t run. Has good relationships with Democratic constituency groups and advocates such as de facto campaign manager Sheila Leslie in critical North. Has to surmount perception that she is Dina Titus without the Southern accent.
• Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman: He’s musing about it — out loud, of course. Would crush anyone in Clark, probably. Anti-establishment persona might play well in these days of cynicism. Would be hurt outside South as Las Vegas mayor, but if anyone could get past that, he could. No one ever had wherewithal and savvy to go after mob stuff — and he has a mayoral record now, too. May depend on term limits.
• Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto: Got most statewide votes in ’06. Female and Hispanic can’t hurt. Doesn’t like nitty gritty of politics — by-the-book demeanor, won’t use office for publicity very much, may not have fire. Yet, at least.
• Secretary of State Ross Miller: Besides Gibbons, most active and visible of constitutional officers. Preternaturally savvy in game. But not in mid-30s yet and may look too young for the job.
• Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus: She may be right that many have buyer’s remorse over 2006 result. But many Democrats still see her as woman who lost to damaged Gibbons and may not want a rerun. She won’t be easily pushed out, though.
• Ex-Harrah’s Chairman Phil Satre: Different kind of Democrat with ties to North and business. That’s great in general, not so great in primary. And he may not want to screw up his semiretirement.
• Retiring Supreme Court Justice Bill Maupin: Loves politics and probably has thought about it. But a lot of dominoes would have to fall for him to have a chance.
Others might consider it — or be told they should consider it — including County Commissioner Rory Reid and Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson. But Reid the Younger won’t want to be on the ballot the same year Reid the Elder has what may be his most problematic reelection, and Gibson will not relish a replay of 2006 as Democrats were inculcated with the notion that he is not one of them.
That’s the baseline and it will be worth recalibrating every few months. One more wild card: Gibbons’ artistry in painting this masterpiece of incompetence, as one wag calls it, also has caused rumbling in GOP circles about a primary should the wounded duck declare himself not so lame.
The most likely possibilities are the two lawmakers with Democratic bull’s-eyes on their backs: State Sen. Bob “Really I am your No. 1 fan, governor” Beers and state Sen. Joe “I can do a better job than you from Iraq” Heck. Others may mull it, too, perhaps including ex-Sheriff Bill Young, Rep. Dean Heller or some rich guy from Lake Tahoe.
So anyone who says Gibbons is not a uniter, for shame. A governor only 16 months into his term who can bring both parties together in plotting his demise is pretty spectacular.
Jon Ralston hosts the news discussion program “Face to Face With Jon Ralston” on Las Vegas ONE and publishes the daily e-mail newsletter “RalstonFlash.com.” His column for the Las Vegas Sun appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Ralston can be reached at 870-7997 or at [email protected]