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Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman endorses Harry Reid for Senate

Goodman: Reid is ‘man we go to to get things done in the city’

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Louie Traub / AP

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, right, and Sen. Harry Reid tour the construction site of the Smith Center on Saturday. Reid faces Republican and Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle this November in his bid to keep representing Nevada.

Updated Saturday, July 24, 2010 | 7:46 p.m.

Netroots Nation

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, left, and Sen. Harry Reid tour construction of the Smith Center on Saturday. Reid faces Republican and Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle this November in his bid to keep representing Nevada. Launch slideshow »

Beyond the Sun

Sen. Harry Reid picked up momentum Saturday in his race for re-election, securing an endorsement from Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and solidifying his standing with progressive bloggers and activists, who could be instrumental in helping him raise money and earn votes.

Reid arrived to Las Vegas from Washington, D.C., early Saturday for a whirlwind day of meet-and-greets, tours and speeches. His day started out with an endorsement from Goodman.

Reid and Goodman stood side by side at the construction site of the new City Hall, paid for in part with Build America Bonds that Reid helped secure, grinning and patting one another on the back.

“He’s made himself available to the city of Las Vegas,” Goodman said. “He’s the man we go to to get things done.”

Goodman and Reid have known each other for 40 years, but before Saturday, Goodman remained quiet about his pick for U.S. Senate. Goodman said he wanted “to make an event” out of his announcement, not just hold a standard press conference.

He took Reid on a bus tour of downtown Las Vegas before giving him his nod.

The endorsement should help Reid as he fights a bitter race with Republican opponent Sharron Angle and tries to improve his standing with Nevada voters.

Goodman is popular among voters and offers a strong base of support.

“Oscar Goodman has been the most successful, popular mayor we’ve had in the state of Nevada,” Reid said. “The public can now stop speculating, ‘Why would Oscar not endorse me?’”

Reid is a Democrat. Goodman used to be a Democrat but in December changed his affiliation to non-partisan. It was widely believed Goodman opted out of the party so he could run for governor as a non-affiliated candidate.

A run could have pitted Goodman against Reid’s son, Rory, a Democrat, but Goodman ultimately decided against entering the race.

That begs the question: Since Goodman endorsed Reid for the U.S. Senate, will he endorse Rory Reid for governor?

Goodman wouldn’t say.

“I need to do it with aplomb,” Goodman said.

“That’s not a no,” he added. But it’s also not a yes.

Goodman and Reid haven’t always been on the same side of issues. Years ago, they fought one another as lawyers for opposing interests: Goodman represented the Mob, while Reid chaired the Nevada Gaming Commission.

As politicians, they’ve had a less divisive relationship. Goodman said he visits Reid three to four times a year in Washington. On Goodman’s first trip to the Capitol, Reid threw him a cocktail party.

While Goodman is arguably the more popular politicians of the two — at least among Southern Nevadans — one person who met both picked Reid as her favorite.

Clara Denton, a security guard at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, swooned when she saw Reid walk through the doors. She stopped him to take a picture. Then she asked Goodman to pose for a shot.

“Why didn’t you ask me first?” Goodman asked.

“I’ve voted for him longer,” Denton said. “And I live in Henderson.”

Staffers positioned Denton between the two men for a third photo.

“Oh, I’m going to cry. I’m so happy,” she said. Reid promised to send her a bumper sticker.

“Tomorrow is my 40th wedding anniversary,” Denton said after Reid and Goodman left. “This is the best gift. When I heard Harry Reid was coming, I told my kids, my friends. I was so excited.”

Reid met a slightly less friendly audience later Saturday at the Netroots Nation, a convention of about 2,100 politically progressive bloggers and activists gathered at the Rio. Reid delivered a keynote address and sat for a question-and-answer session.

As he took the stage, Reid received a warm welcome, with several audience members standing and cheering.

But the next person to be introduced, former Lt. Dan Choi, an Iraq war veteran and leading activist for military gay rights, got a more boisterous greeting. The massive banquet room erupted into applause, with nearly everyone giving Choi a standing ovation.

Reid smartly panned to the crowd, thanking them for their hard work and dedication being “a megaphone for the people, not a platform for the powerful.”

He adeptly addressed many of the progressives’ concerns — that he’s not pushing hard enough for liberal agendas, such as a public option for health care — by blaming what he called an obstructionist Republican party.

“I know you wish some of these reforms were more sweeping, and believe me, so do I,” Reid said. “But keep this reform in context. We have to be realistic.”

Still, Reid showed at least some good will toward Republicans.

Reid warned the Netroots crowd not to paint all members of the GOP with the same brush. Senate Republicans don’t necessarily represent Main Street Republicans, he said.

He went on to praise Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, the only Senate Republicans to vote in favor of a bill to extend unemployment benefits to workers.

Not surprisingly, Reid had nothing kind to say about Sharron Angle. He never mentioned her name. But the former boxer still worked in a few jabs.

While progressives’ may not agree with all of his policy choices, Reid said, he’s better than the alternative, his opponent, who wants to store nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain, praises BP and hopes to eliminate the U.S. Education Department.

“The contest is here. The contrast couldn’t be stronger,” Reid declared. “It’s up to us.”

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