Las Vegas Sun

July 31, 2014

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ELECTION 2008:

Hits, misses and the in-between

The election produced lots of winners, and lots of losers, beyond just the obvious.

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Winners

Rep.-elect Dina Titus: She came back from her crushing defeat in the 2006 governor’s race and fought off a barrage of personal attacks to win a seat in Congress.

Sen. Harry Reid: He rebuilt the Democratic Party after the 2004 debacle and got the early caucus for Nevada, and it delivered, helping defeat a slew of potential rivals for his 2010 reelection battle: state Sen. Joe Heck, state Sen. Bob Beers, Rep. Jon Porter.

A concern for Reid, though: Many of the more than 250 voters the Sun interviewed after they voted Tuesday had never heard of Reid, or don’t like him.

State Sen. Steven Horsford: He raised money for and helped elect Shirley Breeden and Allison Copening to the state Senate and is now majority leader. He was also an early backer of President-elect Barack Obama and will now have a friend in the White House.

Billy Vassiliadis: The chief executive of R&R Partners, the big advertising and lobbying firm, took a huge gamble by backing Obama early.

As Vassiliadis tells the story, he told Obama he was supporting him even though he thought he would lose. Now Vassiliadis, who worked hard for the campaign in the closing weeks, will have a friend in the White House. Moreover, Horsford once worked as a lobbyist at R&R. Must be nice.

Culinary Union: The union endorsed Obama before the caucus, which worked out badly when Sen. Hillary Clinton effectively organized union members and won the state. But ultimately, it was the right choice, and now the union, like Vassiliadis and Horsford, will have a friend in the White House.

Political director Pilar Weiss, instrumental in campaigns to defeat Heck and Beers, got sweet redemption after failing to deliver during the caucus.

Obama has promised to sign legislation that will make it much easier for unions to organize, which would be a boon to the Culinary as it tries to reach into Station Casinos properties and the Venetian.

Cardboard cutout candidacies: Democrats Breeden and Copening, who offered very little of substance, won anyway with the help of a barrage of negative ads by state Democrats, showing that a candidate taken randomly out of the phone book can win in some environments.

David Cohen and Rob Hill: They were Obama’s Nevada guys, Cohen during the caucus campaign, Hill during the general. They built an organization from scratch that even Republicans say was a machine to behold.

Rep. Dean Heller: He’s now taken the best shots the Democrats could ever deliver in the 2nd Congressional District, and he’s survived. He goes back to Washington as a rising star in a caucus that’s increasingly conservative, white and rural. Heller will feel right at home.

TV stations and printing companies: Millions upon millions of dollars spent on political advertising. They got rich; we all got dumber.

Secretary of State Ross Miller: First big election went off without a hitch, and he got some nice free pub out of the ACORN nonstory.

Assemblywoman Heidi Gansert: Given the tough environment, losing just one seat can be viewed as something of a victory for the Republican minority leader.

Losers

The Republican Party: Few viable candidates, tough fundraising prospects, no organization. Time for a housecleaning and some outside talent.

Sig Rogich: He was Sen. John McCain’s guy in Nevada, raising lots of money and acting as an informal adviser on advertising and messaging. Word has it, he began distancing himself in late September. He was a close aide to two Republican presidents, but times change.

Sheldon Adelson: Freedom’s Watch, the political group he funded to the tune of millions of dollars, couldn’t stop the Democratic wave, and it couldn’t save Porter. And now his company appears to be in trouble.

The rurals: With so many new voters registered in Clark and Washoe counties, and so many of them turning out, the rurals have become electorally insignificant. Plus, state Sen. Bill Raggio, a defender of rural interests, is minority leader now that Democrats have taken the upper chamber. The cities won the day for Democrats. Expect more hostility than ever from rural Nevada.

The Chamber of Commerce: Beers and Heck were its champions. If there’s a zero-sum game for business power between gaming and the chamber, gaming won because although Heck was a close ally, the industry is comfortable with Horsford because of his ties to the Culinary Union and R&R.

State Democrats: Now they have to actually govern.

Push

Sen. John Ensign: As head of the Senate Republicans election committee, he oversaw the loss of at least six seats and perhaps more, though Democrats seem unlikely to get to the magic number of 60, which would allow them to move more legislation.

Ensign smartly spent a heckuva lot of time diminishing expectations, and he may move up the Senate Republican leadership ladder despite the losses. But Republicans in Nevada were irritated at how little Ensign did to help out here, one Republican operative said.

Chancellor Jim Rogers: On the one hand, he got rid of his least favorite university regent, Bret Whipple, who lost his seat. But with the Democrats taking control of the state Senate, the university system’s most important champion, state Sen. Bill Raggio, is now in the minority.

Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki: He was state chairman of the nonexistent McCain campaign, so that didn’t turn out great. But many of his potential rivals in the party lost, so he’s got that going for him. Which is nice.

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