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October 24, 2014

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‘I guess I would be surprised … but not that much.’

Ray Hagar’s take on Campaign 2012

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Ray Hagar

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A Q+A with: Ray Hagar

Political reporter, Reno Gazette-Journal and RGJ.com. On Twitter @RGJRayHagar

What trends have you seen this election?

I see the campaigns getting longer and longer. The first interview I did with Shelley Berkley about the U.S. Senate race was in the summer of 2011 when she came to Reno for a roundtable discussion with veterans. Things really started to get busy last October. The Nevada Day Parade in Carson City in 2011 was packed with political candidates and the election was a year away. I recall covering a debate in Las Vegas with all of the GOP presidential candidates in 2011. By January 2012, we were in full campaign mode. It was such a long and intense campaign season. The presidential caucus was in February. Then the primary election was in June. And now the general election is Tuesday. It makes for a long year.

Any trends you are pleased with or worried about?

How about the money spent on campaigns? It’s insane. We did an extensive search of the Reno TV market, and more than $30 million was spent this year for political advertising in the Reno market alone. How does $30 million get spent on TV ads in just Reno when the state is suffering with such bad unemployment, foreclosures, and bankruptcy? In 2010, $13 million was spent in Reno on campaign ads, for a comparison.

Any Nevada-specific trends?

The Republicans seem to pay a lot of attention to Reno. Candidates would never spend the night in Reno. They’d usually fly on to Las Vegas and stay there.

How would you tag this election on a blog?

“The campaign that would not die (but is killing me).”

Best thing(s) you’ve seen this election?

Shelley Berkley and Dean Heller shaking hands after their debate with Jon Ralston. Mitt Romney meeting with the RGJ editorial board in February. Harry Reid evoking the “That’s a clown question, bro” line during a Washington, D.C., news conference.

Worst thing(s) you’ve seen?

The devastation in Reno after the Caughlin Fire and Washoe Drive Fire early this year. I recall that Shelley Berkley came to Reno to tour the fire devastation with Reno Mayor Bob Cashell.

Anything else notable/memorable for you this election?

For me, the most memorable day was when Shelley Berkley held a news conference on the sidewalk of a busy street in Reno in July. It was the worst news conference I ever attended, but I mean that in a good way. It was a terrible location. One step off the sidewalk and you’d be pancaked by a truck. It was the middle of summer. You could fry an egg on the sidewalk. And the exhaust from the cars and trucks was really bad. I could not hear a word Berkley was saying. She was drowned out by engine noise. But the funniest thing was that all of these Dean Heller supporters crowded around Berkley with big Dean Heller signs. It made for a priceless photo.

Campaign cliché(s) that need to be retired?

“The stretch drive, “hard-working middle class,” “America’s candidate,” “We can’t afford four more years like this,” “No New Taxes,” a candidate with “bipartisan support,” “My wife is a teacher,” “Forward,” “What a great-looking crowd.” Also anything that begins with: “If elected, I promise...”

Any surprises you’ve seen so far? Any potential upsets or surprises you see on Election Day?

The big races up North (president, U.S. Senate and Brower-Leslie state Senate race) are so close nothing would surprise me. I guess I would be surprised if Romney beats an incumbent, but not that much. The biggest surprise is that I’ve survived the campaign (knock on wood, it’s not over yet).

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