Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010 | 2:01 a.m.
- Jon Ralston: A frank discussion is missing in the governor’s race (8-6-2010)
This is how low key and underfunded Aaron Honig’s campaign is to be Nevada’s next governor — his boss didn’t know he was running until last week.
The elementary schoolteacher got only 12 valid signatures more than the 250 he needed to get on the ballot. His $2,000 campaign war chest? He charged most of it on his Visa and MasterCard. His volunteer staff is made up mainly of his wife, Heather, and his father, Aryeh.
Little wonder, then, that the media are not taking him seriously. “It gets old being excluded from debates,” he said.
Honig is one of five independent candidates running — not successfully — against Republican Brian Sandoval and Democrat Rory Reid for the governor’s job. The others are an inventor, Gino DeSimone; an insurance counselor, Floyd Fitzgibbons; an architect, David Scott Curtis; and a technology consultant, Arthur Lampitt Jr.
Collectively, they are supported by less than 10 percent of the voters, polling indicates.
Early voting starts today and Election Day is Nov. 2.
Like anyone who has put his heart and soul into campaigning, Honig, 36, thinks he can win, even when repeatedly pressed about the odds.
“If you haven’t really found something to live for or believe in,” he said, “then you haven’t really lived.”
A former Democrat, he hands out brochures with the slogan: “If you are sick and tired of the party system, vote for Aaron Y. Honig this November 2 — A True Independent for the People.”
Honig is earnest but unpolished on the campaign trail. At a campaign event this week at the Lied Discovery Children’s Museum, he addressed a roomful of underage constituents and a few parents.
He either mumbled or forgot to mention that he was a teacher when he talked about how his “life experience” would make him a good governor. Arguably, he was more on point than the other independent candidate there, Fitzgibbons, who asked the toddlers, “How many of you prefer freedom over slavery?”
Afterward, Honig stayed to talk to the few voters. A middle-aged man in a blue Hawaiian shirt depicting martini glasses talked to Honig for several minutes and described him as “pretty cool.”
But the registered voter, who declined to give his name, said he hadn’t decided who to vote for.
Honig provides insight into why somebody would run for public office against insurmountable odds.
Why do dark-horse candidates do it?
“That’s a good question,” said David Damore, a UNLV political science professor. “These guys appear every cycle. It really comes down to the quirkiness of individuals. Sometimes they want to promote a business, other times they want to push an issue that the major-party candidates aren’t pushing. It kind of makes you wonder, but you really have to tip your hat.”
Honig, who wears a shirt and tie even on the weekend, is asked what his students, first-graders at Cahlan Elementary School in North Las Vegas, know about his quest for governor.
“Nothing, sir,” said Honig, a political eccentric who places his right hand over his heart when he answers. “I don’t think it’s a good thing to do in the classroom. I don’t want to use the school to further my ambition, if you will.”
His assistant principal, Robert Rava, didn’t know either, until Honig told him last week. He was “none too pleased,” according to Honig, when the candidate asked permission to have a news photographer visit the classroom.
Rava declined to be interviewed.
Still, unlike the leading candidates, Honig has a detailed plan if (he says “when”) he is elected. Not surprisingly for a schoolteacher, much of his plan involves education. It’s the reason he’s running, he said.
For example, he wants to increase funding for education and keep the money “separate from the state’s general fund,” instead of the current formula, under which much of the money from, say, out-of-state college tuition, is used to finance noneducation programs.
Also, he wants to lengthen the school day for kindergartners, from less than four hours to a full 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The extra time would be spent on reading and other basic skills.
“It would establish a more solid foundation for learning, sir,” Honig said.
The rest of his plan may prove more impolitic. Mindful of the looming deficit, he wants to establish a state lottery to raise revenue, but would have to get the state constitution amended.
And he wants to establish a “fair progressive income tax for corporations,” which would seem to clash with the low-tax philosophy of the chambers of commerce and the Nevada Development Authority. Honig hasn’t come up with detailed economic projections for how much his new taxes might raise.
Honig’s mother was an office worker at the Internal Revenue Service and his father was a truck driver in Buffalo, N.Y. The family moved to Las Vegas when Honig was 4. He attended Tomiyasu Elementary School, Cannon Junior High and Chaparral High School.
In 1997, he graduated after five years from UNLV with three bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice, history and political science.
During school, he worked at a shipping company and as an entry-level pit clerk at the Mirage. After graduation, there were more odd jobs until he decided to take the many tests for certification as a schoolteacher, which he became in 2006.
After spending almost four years at Red Rock Elementary teaching various grades, Honig requested work as a first-grade teacher at Cahlan Elementary because he found younger children both challenging and fascinating.
Honig first thought about running at least three years ago. Honig told the woman who is now his wife that “I want to make a difference and I’m fed up with the way things are.”
Heather Honig, 36, a math teacher at Crestwood Elementary, recalled that “it took me a second to process.” After all, she said, “it was our first date.”
She accompanies her husband on most campaign stops, knocking on doors, handing out literature. They spend an hour or two on weekdays and more hours on the weekends campaigning, sometimes as far north as Reno.
It is frustrating for her when her husband and the other independents are excluded from televised debates featuring Sandoval and Reid. And it infuriates her when reporters are dismissive of her husband when he seeks coverage.
But the biggest limitation for both of them is something neither one can do anything about.
“Lots of things that we could do we can’t do because they are during the school day,” she said.