Ball 2002 An Election Day Pre-Postmortem
Expanded from the 11-3-2002 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
"Everything matters, but nothing matters terribly"
When British actor Hemmings (most famous in recent times as Cassius, Russell Crowe's scarfaced fellow soldier in "Gladiator"), uttered that nihilistic statement back in the 1960s, he caused a mini-firestorm.
How dare he say such a thing? The Baby Boomers were in the streets trying to stop an illegal war. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had just won the Nobel Peace Prize. Peace, love and understanding were on their way to becoming the permanent majority position. This guy was nuts.
Fast forward 35 years.
The results of the Nov. 5, 2002, election proved Mr. Hemmings quite correct.
NOVEMBER 22, 2002 No matter how burning the issue or crying the need, voters were in no mood to suffer increased taxes this year. Even the most worthy of the progressive tax questions, the Washoe County requests for more school construction money and a sorely needed animal shelter, went down in flames.
Part of the problem lay in the sheer number of election day issues. The sample ballot looked like Time Magazine. Ask any salesperson: when you confuse a buyer, you've lost the sale. Taxpayers were quite confused and did not buy.
You couldn't blame them. Even Gov. Dudley Do-Right, after artfully evading commitment on new taxes for the past four years, admitted before the election that some sources of "new revenue" are needed.
He had little choice. The rigged commission he appointed to drag his two-year study into four had been leaking like a sieve all year. The 2003 legislature will face a two-year shortfall of about three-quarters of a billion dollars. That's a lot of money for this small town with a big geography called Nevada.
Gov. Guinn may have defeated his non-funded opponent, Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, but neither Neal nor the shaky state of the state have gone away.
Neal's lonely beating of the drum for the first gaming tax increase since 1987 has become so obnoxious that the casinos themselves have announced their willingness to take a hit, about $22 million vs. Neal's $440 million proposal. They've reached common ground at last.
All of the proposed non-gambling tax increases, even if passed, will only take the state halfway toward a balanced budget. The upcoming legislative session thus looks pretty bloody, just like the recent elections.
The call by some black leaders for a boycott of Democrats other than Neal did not seem to change any elections, but a few got closer than they would have otherwise. Bible-thumping Las Vegas City Councilmember Lynette Boggs-McDonald, like Neal an African-American, scared the bejabbers out of Rep. Shelly Berkley, D-Nev., who survived looking like a bad Martini. She was both shaken and stirred.
Because of the narrow re-election of Republican light guv Lorraine Hunt over pep-girly Clark County Commissioner Erin Kenny, Gov. Guinn has already started backing away from his pledge to serve a full four-year second term. Dudley would have been hard pressed to run for U.S. Senate in 2004 without a Republican backup to keep the governor's mansion in GOP hands.
Should Guinn decide to challenge Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., Gov. Do-Right will run as the favorite. He will stand thus strongly positioned because the three bedrock bases of the Democratic Party stand cracked and crumbling, if not in complete ruin. The casino industry ordered the party hierarchy to trash Sen. Neal's gubernatorial bid, triggering calls for a black boycott of the party's candidates. African-American voters thus served notice that they will no longer be taken for granted by Donkey types.
The Democrats are already scrambling about for a token African-American to run statewide in 2004 to show they've seen the error of their ways.
Guinn was endorsed by the hierarchy of organized labor this year, and thus can run as a labor-Republican against Reid. While the senator will get labor's endorsement, Guinn can say he's cool, too. About a third of trade unionists already vote Republican, so even picking up a few percentage points can prove devastating to Reid, who has a habit of razor-thin wins or losses.
In recent years, Reid said many times that women and minorities elect Democrats. Reid and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., split the women's vote when they ran against each other in 1998 because women mistakenly thought of both as pro-choice. Guinn is, Reid isn't. Females will not be wild about Harry in such a matchup.
Women proved decisive in a few elections this month. Judge Connie Steinheimer, backed by a last-minute recorded phone call campaign by Atty. Gen. Frankie Sue Del Papa, was able to beat off a spirited challenge by labor lawyer Mike Langton. A lifelong commitment to women's issues also allowed Assemblywoman Vivian Freeman,* D-Reno, to squeak through against young Republican Jason Geddes.
God scored a few and proved that He indeed may be a Republican. Mike Weber,* who owns a sign company, defeated longtime Assemblyman John Marvel, R-Battle Mountain, whose district is now populated mostly by eastern Sparks residents. Weber heads up the local chapter of a religious-political cult which believes in government by the Bible rather than the Constitution. Marvel was not able to capitalize on that. Neither was county commission candidate James Balough, who lost to Weber's wife, Bonnie, a national leader of the cult.
Two of the cult's three most prominent adherents also won. Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, and Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, R-Reno, were re-elected. Assemblyman Don Gustavson, R-Sun Valley, fell to Assemblywoman Debbie Smith,* D-Sparks, in their newly combined district.
Newly-elected family court master Frances Doherty survived last-minute misrepresentation of her experience, but Democratic candidate John Hunt was outmudded by Atty. Gen.-elect and gambling industry anointee Brian Sandoval.
TRENCH TOAST. Perhaps the most gratifying election result came from Reno. When Union Pacific witnessed the election of an anti-trench Reno City Council,* the railroad announced that it would pay the entire bill for the construction project.
And so political peace came to the Truckee Meadows, at least until the next election cycle.
Those of you who don't like the results of the above pre-postmortem have 48 hours to do something about it
Be well. Raise hell.
* EDITOR'S NOTE 11-24-2002: The above races marked in red with an asterisk* note an incorrect prediction in which the opposition prevailed.
© 2002 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 34-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org/ He hosts Deciding Factors on several Nevada television stations. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988.
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