A Candidate With Executive Hair

by Martin Lane

The Republicans had a big get together at the Delta Saloon last Sunday night with many of the party's state luminaries in attendance including Secretary of State Dean Heller, and Congressman Jim Gibbons. There were about 70 people in attendance at the $25 a head dinner, not all of them Republicans.

The featured speaker at the gathering was Kenny Guinn, the leading candidate for Governor who is reputed to have just about sewn up all the casino industry political donations for that position, along with significant contributions from other business interests in the state. Your Editor was granted a brief audience with Guinn before the evening's festivities began.

In appearance, Kenny Guinn looks like a member of the Barbie family of dolls - Ken Senior, perhaps, with his symmetrical features, square jaw and perfect (Dilbert would call it "executive") white hair. He has immaculate politician's technique for both public speaking and one-on-one exchanges, but the more you listen to what he says the less you hear. He has that slickness that experienced politicians develop - like Senator Richard Bryan, although at least with Bryan you feel there is a keen intelligence behind the facade. With Guinn, it's all form, no substance.

I asked Guinn a series of questions, but elicited no meaningful or even interesting responses. When I was waiting at the bar for Guinn to arrive, a local Republican suggested that I could make Guinn squirm by asking him why he supported Bob Miller against Jim Gibbons in the last gubernatorial race. But he was more than ready for that one, claiming it was a question of his personal friendship with Miller, and that he has supported Gibbons in his subsequent campaigns.

I asked about improving funding for local School Board capital construction in small counties where rural residents couldn't afford the cost. It would all be "looked into" in his accountability survey, he said.

I asked about increasing state reserves for emergencies such as last year's floods. He and Bill Raggio were talking about that. I asked how he felt about legalized prostitution. "That's not on my radar scope," he replied. But he believes it is a local issue.

How about banning smoking in casinos and bars, I asked. That would ruin tourism. I said what about the workers who have to suffer secondhand smoke? "We can mitigate that with new technology," he replied. I then asked why it was the casinos liked him so much that they were pouring money into his coffers to the exclusion of all other candidates. He then went into a long spiel about how he was getting a larger percentage of his campaign funds from n on-gaming industries than the previous six Governors. When I pointed out that wasn't my question, he said that the casinos liked his business experience, reciting a long litany of his past accomplishments.

Enough was enough. I wandered off into the night, feeling I had been talking to a 'built to order" candidate with no ideas, no agenda and no brains - simply designed and created by the gaming industry to protect their interests for the next eight years.

Reproduced by permission from the 2-6-98 Comstock Chronicle, Virginia City, Nevada. For subscriptions or additional information, contact martin@chronicle.comstocklode.com (Martin Lane), phone (702) 847-0765.