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September 22, 2014

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Obama rolls out welcome mat today to Sandoval, other new governors

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Brian Sandoval

WASHINGTON -- Forget new senators and representatives. If you want to see where the 2010 midterms brought about the most sweeping changes, look toward the governors. Washington certainly is.

In a few weeks, 23 new faces will be moving into statehouses across the country, representing turnover in almost half the states in the union. But before they do, Washington is rolling out the welcome mat and pledging, from the White House on down, to work with the new state commanders-in-chief to make sure that policy objectives reflect the needs on the ground.

Nevada’s governor-elect Brian Sandoval and his 22 compatriots meet this afternoon with President Obama and several members of the Cabinet at the White House, in the third of five days of big meetings in and around Washington.

The closeness of the relationship between federal and state government had varied in the past, but in a recession climate where so many states have become dependent on the federal government to contend with budget crises — and on the flip side, leaving less room for states to incorporate any new federal mandates — coordination is more important than it has been for a long while.

Sandoval is acutely aware of that: Nevada is creaking under the nation’s highest unemployment rate, the highest foreclosure rate, the lowest graduation rate, and is facing a budget deficit crisis that state lawmakers will have to start slogging through in two short months. That makes it important, Sandoval said, to have a line into policy as it’s developing around Washington D.C., both to keep a pipeline open from the federal government and to tell them when they’re meddling too heavily in state affairs.

“For me, the most important thing is jobs, making sure we figure out how to bring jobs to my state,” Sandoval said. “But the best thing really is just now knowing when I call about issues, someone will be picking up at the other end of the phone line.”

Sandoval already has been working his way around the Beltway — he met with congressional GOP leaders Mitch McConnell and John Boehner on Wednesday in a summit with the other newly elected Republican governors (of the 17, 12 represent party flips), and spent time with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Sandoval said Duncan pledged to be involved as an adviser as Sandoval drafts an education reform plan for the state, where graduation rates recently dropped to last in the nation.

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