Las Vegas Sun

September 1, 2014

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Jon Ralston wonders who will face Porter, and some other tidbits

Emptying out the notebook as the summer doldrums approach, and I prepare to take a hiatus from bloviating (the Culinary and/or teachers union promised to wait until I return to start the gubernatorial recall):

CD3 conundrum: News that state Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus will not challenge Rep. Jon Porter in the 3rd Congressional District, coming a few weeks after the revelation that Tessa Hafen would not make an encore run despite her close call, is ominous news for the Democrats.

Dr. Larry Lehrner, Rep. Shelley Berkley's husband, is interested in the contest. Some Democrats are excited by his brains, deep pockets and crossover vote-getting ability. Others are not so sure being Berkley's husband is a plus in the district, especially because he does not live there now.

Others are interested, too, including state Sen. Maggie Carlton, who would have to harness her Culinary Union friends to have a chance, and Deputy District Attorney Robert Daskas, a native of Henderson and top-flight prosecutor. This race is difficult enough for the Democrats , but if they can't head off a primary fight, Porter will win easily.

Far, far away speculation: Now that the Session '07 post-mortems are (almost) over, it's time to get on to the previews of 2009, ready or not. Three leadership questions are paramount:

Will Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio return and, if not, who will take over for him? Telescopic answer: I think he will , for two reasons. One, it still invigorates him. Two, he doesn't want ex-Assemblywoman Sharron Angle to have his seat. If I am wrong, watch out for the free-for-all. Leading contenders: Bob Beers and Warren Hardy.

Will Titus still be the Democratic leader? There's a lot of talk (again) about Steven Horsford taking over, made louder by the excellent reviews he received for his session performance. But if Titus sticks with her pledge not to run for Congress and can knock off either Beers or Joe Heck, she will not give up the chance to become majority leader that easily.

Will Garn Mabey continue as the leader of the Assembly Republicans? Hard to see that happening. Mabey is a first-class guy but a second-class political leader - he does not inspire fear or loyalty. I can't believe he wants the job again. Leading candidate: Heidi Gansert, although her Reno home may spark a North-South split. But who from the South could do it? As I said, Gansert is the leading contender.

A movement so big you can't see it: Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman recently was interviewed by a Chicago TV station about his days as a mob lawyer and his transformation to mayor. Goodman downplayed his ex-client Tony Spilotro's villainy and insisted law enforcement never asked him who might have killed him. But the best part of the interview, which can be found at http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=investigative&id=5394961, is how His Honor tells the reporter that he is so popular that there is a move to get his term limit lifted so he can stay on.

A movement, eh? Anyone not named Goodman hear of such a thing?

Megamerger: It has operated under the radar so far, but the pending merger between Sierra Health Services and UnitedHealth Group is becoming very public this week with hearings and the unusual intervention by Gov. Jim Gibbons.

The merger requires approvals by states where the companies operate as well as the federal imprimatur. Sierra is the state's managed care behemoth and a significant political player. So for Gibbons to release a statement Thursday raising questions about the merger - although taking no position - shows that there is sub rosa opposition and that the governor has heard about it.

"Without question an acquisition of this size and scope could have significant impacts on both Nevada's health care providers and on consumers," Gibbons understated in his statement. "These impacts have not yet been fully explored."

But they will be now, especially because Gibbons called for "a series of public hearings" throughout the state to "give all interested parties the opportunity to discuss all possible impacts of this acquisition on our health care system."

Gibbons can't mandate such hearings. But it's hard to say no to the governor, whose position on this could impress some who would think a GOP governor would simply say "the bigger the better."

Watch for the opposition to surface at these hearings and for the political pressure from all sides to increase. Sierra is a multibillion-dollar company, so a lot is at stake here.