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September 1, 2014

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Sisolak on challenging Sandoval: I don’t think it’s an impossible task

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Mona Shield Payne

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak

Updated Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013 | 1:35 p.m.

No Democrat has yet declared an intention to run against popular Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, but Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak says, “I don’t think it’s an impossible task.”

Sisolak told a gathering of the Commercial Alliance Las Vegas last week that he’s conducting polls, focus groups and research on a possible run for governor against Sandoval, who is running for re-election.

Sisolak declined to disclose details of his polling about his chances against Sandoval, saying he’s still consulting elected Democrats like Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., about what he should do.

Still, there appears to be at least some momentum for a Sisolak for governor campaign.

Commercial Alliance Las Vegas Government Affairs Director Sean Fellows collected questions from real estate professionals attending a luncheon at the Gold Coast hotel and said he had a handful of cards saying, “Run, Steve, run.”

But Sisolak said he’s not announcing anything yet and still needs to do a lot of homework on his potential race as a Democratic candidate for governor.

He said his polling confirmed the conventional wisdom: a lot of people like Sandoval.

“I don’t know if that translates into the same level of popularity or electability or performance ratings,” he said. “He’s a likeable guy. I like him. He’s a nice guy. That doesn’t necessarily translate into: ‘you’re doing a good job.’”

Sandoval, who grew up in Reno, has been touring rural Nevada and has made several recent trips to the Las Vegas area, as well.

Meanwhile, Sisolak said his polling predictably indicates that he is relatively unknown in Northern Nevada ,but the “vast majority” of Southern Nevadans at least know who he is.

The commissioner delivered a few lines that could amount to campaign jabs against Sandoval during his hour-long chat with the realtors. His rhetoric largely followed the populist title of his speech: “Talking taxes: a few cents here and there. Pretty soon, you're talking about real money.”

“I’m dealing with seniors who go to the 99-cent store to do their grocery shopping because they have to buy whatever they can for a dollar because that’s all they can afford,” he said. “They’re really stretched really thin and you get to the point where it’s — ‘Which straw actually breaks the camel’s back?’ — when you’re talking fuel tax, sales tax, water increases and everything else that comes along.”

He told the largely friendly audience that he had not supported a recent fuel tax increase measure and will likely remain opposed to a sales tax hike the commission is considering to supplement Metro Police’s budget.

Both of these tax measures originated at the state level, where legislators and Sandoval passed the ultimate tax-raising decisions down to the Clark County Commission.

“I am dealing with the things that the Legislature and the Governor didn’t take responsibility for, which are tax raises, potentially, while they’re off campaigning,” he said. “I’m not interested in campaigning right now.”

He took a few other hits at the governor, saying that Sandoval extended tax increases during consecutive legislative sessions rather than letting them expire, or “sunset.”

“I don’t think raising taxes is always a bad thing,” Sisolak said. “They (voters) expect honesty and they expect people to be fair. I mean, don’t keep calling it your sunsets. Call it a permanent tax. Don’t mislead people if that’s what you’re going to do.”

But Sisolak said he’s in no hurry to get into the governor’s race, even as the governor raises campaign cash and meets with groups throughout the state.

“We have done some opposition research, some polling and focus groups and we’re still looking at that very, very closely,” he said. “There’s nobody else looking to get in the race, so I’m not in any rush, unfortunately, to make the decision. … I’ve been in touch with certainly our Congressional delegation and I’ve been in touch with the Democratic Governor’s Association, and I’ve been in touch with various groups, and they’re all very supportive and very encouraging, and I just have to wait and see how things play out.”

CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to reflect the correct name of the group sponsoring the luncheon. | (September 25, 2013)

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