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A torrid political season is approaching
by Harry Spencer
Jul 17, 2009 | 1096 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune illustration/Nathan Orme -
Earlier this week, Nevada’s government was named one of the nation’s most dysfunctional, thanks in part to the admission of an affair by Sen. John Ensign (left) and the marital troubles of Gov. Jim Gibbons (right).
Tribune illustration/Nathan Orme - Earlier this week, Nevada’s government was named one of the nation’s most dysfunctional, thanks in part to the admission of an affair by Sen. John Ensign (left) and the marital troubles of Gov. Jim Gibbons (right).
With the news earlier this week that the state of Nevada had achieved the dubious ranking of the second most dysfunctional state in the union, primarily because of the foibles of some of its top politicians, it ratified what many political pundits have been saying — that 2010 will be the wildest election year in the history of the Silver State.

For a long time, Gov. Jim Gibbons got the most negative press nationwide. Then Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki’s impending criminal trial took the spotlight, but we completely usurped by the recent Sen. John Ensign debacle. Since all three are Republicans, it left the Grand Old Party in Nevada in somewhat dire straits. Outgoing State Sen. Randolph Townsend appeared on TV early this week trying to bolster the fortunes of the GOP in Nevada, but even he admitted it was going to be an uphill battle.

Adding to the predicted frenzy of next year’s elections is the fact that the primary has been shifted back to June instead of September, which means that serious contenders for the many open seats are now starting to make waves and schedule fundraising activities.

One of the more interesting primary races looks like it will be between Republican Assemblyman Ty Cobb and former Gibbons press secretary Ben Kiekhofer for the aforementioned Senate seat vacated by Townsend. Cobb, who has proven to be one of the arch conservatives in Carson City during his two-term Assembly career, would seem to have the upper hand when it comes to name recognition, but Kiekhofer has already been endorsed by a passle or powerful Republican officeholders. This could be the race of the season — at least as far as the primary is concerned.

Many other strange scenarios are also being bandied about by the state’s political pundits. One such is that if Ensign should resign his U.S. Senate seat, it might be a chance for Gov. Gibbons to appoint himself to fill out the rest of Ensign’s term. That would automatically move Krolicki up unless his pending financial felony trial does not come out in his favor. The more the turmoil in Carson City develops, the more it gives impetus to the two projected Democratic candidates for governor: Barbara Buckley and Rory Reid, son of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. That Democratic primary will probably generate the most news ink next year. As for Sen. Reid, who is also up for re-election, he has yet to see a Republican challenger of any stature emerge and his war chest is so prodigious that he is already spending some of it on TV ads urging Nevadans to “thank Harry.”

John Ralston, the most respected of the southern Nevada political observers, has pooh-poohed the idea that either Reno Mayor Bob Cashell or Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman would be a viable candidate in the governor’s sweepstakes.

Speaking of which, Gibbons has flatly said he is running for re-election and that the Democrats’ tax package that passed last legislative session over his veto has given his campaign some much-needed steam.

In addition to the above issues, it is no secret that some elected officials who have been termed out of their present positions are planning to re-emerge and seek other — in some cases higher — offices. Nevada Assembly members Sheila Leslie and Bernie Anderson are two of those you might see on next year’s ballot.

One of Nevada’s more savvy politicians, Congressman Dean Heller, is still “keeping his powder dry” as far as announcing his intentions for 2010. Many see him as the only serious challenger that the Republicans can put up against Harry Reid.

Look for some hot and heavy political ads in 2010.

Celebrity Corner

Old-time movies on cable TV continue to feature major stars who had a Reno connection in the past.

The other night, a 1956 flick aired that starred Joan Crawford, Cliff Robertson and Lorne Greene. Although I have no recollection of Crawford ever visiting northern Nevada, both Robertson and Greene made significant appearances here.

Robertson was omnipresent at the 1969 Reno National Championship Air Races, where he was the featured celebrity attendee. Greene not only was in Reno for the world premiere of his hit TV show, “Bonanza,” but also later to receive the Silver Spurs award for his work in that series. In addition, Greene purchased a house at Incline Village and was a regular attendee at the old Tahoe Racquet Club in that community.

The 1956 film referred to above was entitled “Autumn Leaves” and it must have been one of Robertson’s earliest efforts because he played a very young, very thin psychotic character who ostensibly fell in love with the older woman played perfectly by Crawford. Robertson got to test his acting chops in the movie as he had some riveting “cracking up” scenes. Strangely enough, the kindly Pa Cartwright that Greene played on “Bonanza” was nowhere to be seen in the part he portrayed in “Autumn Leaves.” He was an irascible father to Robertson and what he and Robertson’s girlfriend did together was the main reason Robertson’s character became a mental case.

Often at the Tahoe tennis club, between sets, we would shoot the breeze with Lorne and he would note that while he loved his strong lead part in “Bonanza,” he relished the few opportunities to play “heavy” because he could sink his teeth into the roles.

Harry Spencer is a freelance writer in Reno. His column about the past and present of northern Nevada appears weekly in the Tribune.

Editor’s note: Harry Spencer’s column is sometimes a mix of reporting and opinion. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.
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