Las Vegas Sun

November 16, 2018

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Sun editorial:

AG candidate’s past is impressive, as is Nevada’s future if he wins

Aaron Ford’s political opponents want Nevadans to focus on his past as he campaigns to become the state’s next attorney general.

Fine. Let’s just do that.

Let’s focus on how Ford, while growing up in a working-class family where money was tight, became the man of the house when his parents divorced. Let’s focus on how his mother enrolled him in a program of weekend and summer-school classes aimed at helping students become the first in their family to graduate from college.

Let’s focus on how Ford took advantage of that program to earn a bachelor’s degree. Then two master’s degrees, then a law degree, then a Ph.D.

Let’s focus on how Ford, who began his career in education, would shift into the law and become a partner in two firms after moving to Southern Nevada in 2000, then embark on a political career in which he rose to majority leader of the state Senate.

And finally, let’s focus on how he and his wife, fellow attorney Berna Rhodes-Ford, have been raising three sons and a nephew in their home in Las Vegas.

This is Ford — teacher, lawyer, legislator, husband and father.

But that’s not what his opponents want voters to think about. They’d prefer for them to look at a tiny sliver of his past that he has put far, far behind him.

Specifically, Ford’s detractors have revealed that when he was in college, he had several run-ins with the law. Ford, while studying at Texas A&M University, was arrested for public intoxication, a disturbance at his apartment (which Ford described as a party), theft of $20 to $200 worth of tires and failing to make a court appearance in connection with the theft charge. He also was investigated for trespassing after the mother of his child complained to authorities that he had come to her residence against her wishes, but the police investigation went nowhere.

Ford, to his credit, hasn’t offered any excuses for his college-age behavior. He said he made mistakes, paid a price for them and learned from them.

That’s what responsible people do when, as humans so often do, they act irresponsibly. They take ownership of their behavior, make changes and put themselves on a better path.

That’s even the case when those irresponsible actions are minor, college-age indiscretions — which untold numbers of students can thank their lucky stars that they were never caught committing.

But even though Ford has atoned for his indiscretions and become a highly respected state and local leader, his opponents have seized on the decades-old slip-ups to besmirch his character and suggest his record makes him undeserving to serve as the state’s top law enforcement officer. They also dug up records showing that the IRS filed liens against Ford for unpaid taxes from 2010 to 2013, which, according to Ford’s camp, were due to financial problems triggered by the recession and an inadequate amount of taxes being withheld from Ford’s paychecks when he reached partner status.

Playing up this dirt is politics at its ugliest — an obvious attempt to distract voters from what’s important about the election.

Let’s be crystal clear: Ford’s qualifications and character make him an extraordinary candidate for attorney general.

Not only is his résumé as a lawyer impressive, but he understands state government from the standpoint of a legislator who helped pass and even create many of the laws he’d be enforcing.

More than anything, highlighting Ford’s ages-old lapses merely shows that his opponents are desperate. They can’t oppose him on substance, so they have to bring up this nonsense.

But Ford has more than made up for his stumbles in college. A few lapses as a college student do not undermine a life lived well and in service to others.

So while his opponents want Nevadans to focus on the immaturities of Ford’s distant past, we are confident most voters will focus on his leadership and his ability to enhance their future.

Editor’s note: This editorial has been revised to correct the value of the stolen tires. An earlier version contained incomplete information.