Las Vegas Sun

January 17, 2018

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Jon Ralston:

Culinary member Horsford steps on the Station track

It’s hard to think of any elected official closer to the Culinary Union than state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford. It’s hard to think of any company the Culinary hates more than Station Casinos.

And therein lies the tale.

This week, Horsford was feted at the home of Dr. Jim Nave, a longtime Democratic donor and community figure (whose daughter worked for Horsford in the Legislature) who just happens to be a director of Station Casinos. At the event, Horsford, who runs the Culinary’s training academy and is a member of Local 226, also received several checks from Station executives for his congressional bid in a newly created district.

This comes against the backdrop of a renewed, intense guerrilla attack on Station Casinos by the union, which has not only ratcheted up its rhetoric but used other familiar tactics: Erecting attack websites, organizing protests and orchestrating problems in other jurisdictions (generally against the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which the Fertitta family owns).

The Culinary also has brought its campaign to make Station a union stop into the political arena, sending out a letter, which you can read on my blog, to put candidates on notice. It appears one candidate in particular did not notice this part:

“As an elected official, you stand as an example to your constituents and community. We hope you use your position to send a message against the violations of workers’ rights (at Station properties). Making a conscious decision as you plan your fundraisers and upcoming events will show those in your district who you side with.”

No between-the-lines reading needed here. This is an admonition from the Culinary to politicians: “You are either with us or you consort with Stationfolk.”

So Horsford, who is well known as the union’s favorite son, either didn’t read that letter, didn’t think such a litmus test applied here or decided it didn’t matter because he is in a 13-percentage-point advantage district.

Horsford’s campaign manager, Geoff Mackler, emailed, “Steven’s relationship remains strong, as a member of local 226, he’s behind the Culinary 100%.”

Oh? Yes, I’m sure that when Culinary officials, who declined to comment, heard about the Station money, they looked at each other, smiled and said, “Not to worry. He’s behind us 100 percent.”

Please. I am no math genius, but if a union has made its main cause to demonize-to-unionize a casino company and you decide to take money from executives of that company and have an event hosted by a company director, I don’t think that adds up to 100 percent.

To be fair to Nave, he has always backed good Democrats, and Horsford surely is that. And this was not a Station-sponsored event, although the Culinary, which has targeted Nave with one of those attack sites, may see that as a distinction without a difference.

But this is not about Nave. It is about the union trying to hold candidates’ feet to the fire and now having to decide whether to turn off the flame for an elected official who also is family.

So Horsford will have some explaining to do to the Culinary folks, especially after a legislative session in which he scuttled a hearing on a bill, SB404, that was important to the union and that Station wanted entombed. That measure, found here, would have allowed gaming regulators to take into account “discrimination in employment,” which the Culinary has alleged with federal authorities that Station Casinos has done. Union officials were furious with Horsford after they turned out members for the hearing and he canceled it; Station Casinos executives were … not so furious.

So there was lingering tension after the session, and knowing those Culinary insiders, I doubt this will help. It seems unlikely they will not still embrace Horsford, especially because he is a heavy favorite to win the race. But if they excuse Horsford, how do union leaders enforce that letter with other politicians who might have taken Station money — Rep. Shelley Berkley, for example — or have fundraisers with Station folks?

It will be interesting to see what the Fertittas do in this race as time goes on. They are Republicans and have held fundraisers for several presidential candidates. But they also give to Democrats, including Berkley, and last year, they helped Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. (Who didn’t?)

The Station clan has a longtime relationship with Danny Tarkanian, who is edging toward a bid after polling numbers showed him winning the primary (against state Sen. Barbara Cegavske) and also defeating Horsford in the general. So my guess is Horsford could not expect them to snub Tarkanian. But would the Republican Fertittas shut out Republican Cegavske in the general if she wins the primary and instead load up on Horsford?

I wonder how the majority leader’s adopted family would feel at that point.

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