Kevin Clifford / SPECIAL TO THE SUN
Sunday, Sept. 21, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid made a two-day jaunt to Northern Nevada last week. He spoke to the Reno Democratic Club, met with elected officials and community leaders, and sat down with Northern Nevada media.
It was billed as a “listening tour,” but it was really about Reid’s broadcasting he is serious about a run for governor in 2010. The subtext of his stomp across the state was this: I’m the big dog, and you better think twice about taking me on.
Privately, those close to Reid, 46, say he is all in.
Publicly — with the presidential election stealing the show, a contentious legislative session set to start in February and more than two years remaining before the governor’s term is up — the Democrat stood by his claim he was on a listening tour and hadn’t made a final decision.
“I’m in the process of making a decision and want to be fully informed, to make sure I have the support I need to win,” he said.
If you were the chairman of the powerful Clark County Commission, the son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, what, exactly, do you think you’d hear?
“On some level, people tell you what you want to hear,” he said. “I’m encouraged, nonetheless.”
The governor’s seat is particularly attractive to the ambitious in both parties.
Gov. Jim Gibbons is damaged goods, with his weak approval ratings and fellow Republicans openly floating the names of those who might run against him. (Gibbons says he will run, a prospect Democrats are hoping for.)
A number of Democrats are mulling a run: Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, state Treasurer Kate Marshall, Secretary of State Ross Miller and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.
If Reid runs, many of those politicians would likely decide against challenging Nevada’s premier political machine, which happens to be controlled by Reid’s father.
“I can’t control what anybody else does. I’m thoughtful and deliberate when I make a decision,” Reid said in an interview last week.
But that decision, and Reid’s path to the party’s nomination, becomes easier the earlier he sews up support. Hence last week’s trip to Northern Nevada.
Reid said he doesn’t think a contentious primary would be good for Democrats, who are eager to capture the state’s top office.
“It would drain resources and could create a divisive atmosphere,” he said.
That was the case in 2006. The party establishment lined up behind Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson, believing he had the best chance of winning the general election. Much of the party base lined up with state Sen. Dina Titus.
Titus won the primary, but headed into the general election with no money and Gibson supporters bitter over the loss.
Still, it’s too early for potential opponents to be deferential to an apparent front-runner.
Goodman says, “I’d run against anyone ... I owe Barbara Buckley a call. I’ll have another conversation with Rory Reid.”
Many political observers roll their eyes at Goodman’s floating his name because he’s played the will-he-or-won’t-he game before. But two things are different this time: his wife, Carolyn Goodman, has given her approval; and Goodman is serving his last stint as mayor under term limits.
Buckley delivered a televised speech before June’s special legislative session that was considered by many a kickoff for a run for governor.
Reid attempted to quash that talk with a poll, first reported by the Sun’s Jon Ralston, showing he could defeat Gibbons in a landslide, 49 percent to 32 percent. It also showed Reid would stomp Buckley in the primary, 51 percent to 20 percent.
Before candidates make their final decisions about whether to run there’s sure to be more polling. At this point, there would have to be some dramatic numbers to get Reid out of the race.