Early Rushes & Timely Reviews
Expanded from the 10-2-2005 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

Last week's Nevada State AFL-CIO convention at the Reno Hilton provided an early snapshot of some major 2006 statewide political races.

Just a few days after withdrawing from the race for governor, Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, was scheduled to speak but did not show up.

PERCOLATING PERKINS. Heavyweight pundits in Gomorrah South have all said that Perkins' rift with the huge Culinary Union presented the most serious stumbling block to his political future. Perkins waffled on a bill tightening up location of neighborhood casinos, a measure pushed by the biggest developer of such enterprises, Station Casinos, Inc., an outfit with two projects on the drawing board in Reno.

Conciliatory statements were made about Perkins at the convention. (You never say never in politics.)

On a TV interview the next day, Perkins announced that he had buried the spatula with organized labor. That would seem to pave the way for a run at the newly created third congressional district seat, most of which covers Perkins' home base of Henderson.

Perkins has an off-the-shelf campaign organization and big bucks in the bank. If indeed the rift with labor is healing, he is a viable congressional candidate right now. Some supporters have been urging him to jump in. The seat is currently held by former Republican State Sen. Jon Porter, now in his second term. Porter has proven a reliable rubber stamp for anything the boys from Texas want.

CONGRESSIONAL DERBY. Longtime Douglas County resident and University of Nevada Regent Jill Derby addressed the convention. She presents the Democrats' strongest shot at the statewide congressional seat since 1992. Back then, Reno Mayor Pete Sferrazza had incumbent Republican Barbara Vucanovich whipped and let her get away by taking bad advice to pull his negative TV spots off the air three weeks before the election. Just after the balloting, Vucanovich campaign manager Bill Martin verified the damage that mis-step caused, something only The Barbwire had warned of in October.

Prior to that, former State Sen. Mary Gojack, D-Reno, looked like a shoo-in when the statewide seat was first created. She led the unknown Vucanovich by 22.5 percent with three weeks to go. Her staff completely mishandled the selection of a debate site (Gojack refused to cross a Culinary Union picket line at John Ascuaga's Nugget). The brouhaha took the focus away from issues and qualifications and cost Gojack the election.

Derby's best and perhaps only chance today lies in filing a lawsuit to bust the gerrymander. The second congressional district covers all 16 northern counties plus a piece of populous Clark. Voter registration now favors Republicans by a lopsided 47,000. The district was gerrymandered in the 2001 legislative session to make it safe for the GOP as long as the central Las Vegas seat was made invulnerable for a Democrat. Such disparities are unconstitutional but remain because no one has challenged them in court.

Derby will face a 55,000 vote edge or more by election day. Despite the depredations of Dubya, the Republican base remains solid. Derby must bust the gerrymander if she wants to seriously harbor any dream of becoming the first Donkeyite to hold the seat.

TIME OUT. Henderson seems to be where the action is this coming season. Its mayor, Jim Gibson, Jr., addressed Reno conventioneers last Monday. He arrived escorted by a staff of heavyweight imported campaign consultants and gave a rambling chamber of commerce-style speech about the wonderfulness of his town.

He reminded me of something Sen. Randolph Townsend once told me: "When people ask you for the time, you give the history of the watch."

It didn't take Gibson much time to put the assembled multitude to sleep, even those like me who braved the lousy Hilton coffee.

Ironically, he even gave the World War II genesis of TIMET, Henderson's polluting titanium metals plant. One of his campaign managers needs to give hizzoner a time out.

RISING STAR. The best chance the Democrats have to win one of the six state constitutional offices now held by the GOP lies with Reno attorney Kate Marshall, candidate for state treasurer.

The content of Marshall's speech was unimportant compared to her style. In this day of media superstars, candidates must be able to create buzz to compete.

Marshall's personal brightness shone through in both her remarks and in shaking hands with delegates afterward. She reminds me of a dear departed friend. The late Sen. Mary Gojack, D-Reno, was beloved of organized labor because the former farm girl was (pardon the pun) so down to earth.

I served on the City of Reno Citizens Cable Compliance Committee with Mrs. Marshall and was impressed by her ability to cut through the clutter and get to the heart of an issue.

If she can survive the usual Democratic Party indifference to down-ticket candidates and win the treasurer's job, this woman has the charisma and ability to become a U.S. senator.

ANTI-WAR LABOR. At its July international convention in Chicago, the AFL-CIO passed a resolution calling for return of the troops in Iraq.

"They deserve leadership that fully values their courage and sacrifice. Most importantly, they deserve a commitment from our country’s leaders to bring them home rapidly. An unending military presence will waste lives and resources, undermine our nation’s security and weaken our military," the resolution stated.

"Our returning troops should be afforded all resources and services available to meet their needs. Our members should return to their jobs, with seniority and benefits. The AFL-CIO calls on Congress and President Bush to expand benefits for veterans and assist those affected by military base closings, including a G.I. Bill for returning Iraq veterans and a Veterans Administration housing program that meets current needs. The AFL-CIO supports the efforts of Iraqi workers to form independent labor unions….These rights must be extended to include full equality for working women. The AFL-CIO condemns the fact that Saddam’s decree No. 150 issued in 1987 that abolished union rights for workers in the extensive Iraqi public sector has not been repealed."

Looking back at the pro-Vietnam War AFL-CIO under Nixon-loving George Meany, this clearly progressive stance makes me very proud to carry a union card

BUMPER STICKER OF THE YEAR: "The Patriot Act – One nation, under surveillance." (Courtesy of retired United Auto Workers Local 2162 President Charlie Cox).

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Copyright © 1982-2005 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 37-year Nevadan and editor of Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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