RENO — As embarrassing as it was for leaders of Nevada’s Democratic Party, political analysts say they shouldn’t necessarily have been surprised their candidate topping the ticket in November will be best known as the man who beat out seven other gubernatorial contenders by finishing second in the primary to “none of the above.”
Now, Democrat Robert Goodman, who was Gov. Michael O’Callaghan’s director of economic development in the 1970s, faces the unenviable task of taking on Gov. Brian Sandoval and his big campaign war chest.
For his part, Goodman on Wednesday was sticking to the low-profile approach that proved successful enough to win the nomination Tuesday with 25 percent of the vote, compared to 30 percent for “none of these candidates.”
The contact number on his campaign website — the same one on his campaign finance forms — apparently had been disconnected or was out of order, and he did not respond to emails sent by The Associated Press.
State Democrats also were keeping mum on their plans for how to handle his general-election race, which he begins with virtually no financial resources compared to Sandoval’s $3 million. Party spokesman Zach Hudson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vowed last year Democrats would field a serious challenger for Sandoval’s seat. But all the usual suspects begged off, leaving a field of political unknowns whose campaigns were in most cases largely invisible and in others non-existent.
“My joke during the primary was that I’d tell people there are eight people running for the gubernatorial nomination on the Democratic side, can you name one?” said Erik Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. “Most people would laugh and say, ‘No.’ ”
In the case of Tuesday’s primary, a plurality said, “None.”
“None of these candidates,” a ballot selection unique to Nevada election law, finished with 15,389 votes compared to 13,473 for Goodman. Next with 6,005 votes was Stephen Frye, a retired Army doctor who wants to legalize marijuana.
“It is an embarrassment for the party to have one-third of the votes cast to go for ‘none of the above,’ which exists for no other purpose than to protest,” said Fred Lokken, a political science professor at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno. “Everyone understands Brian Sandoval is a very popular governor, but you don’t just let your party down by not giving them the option to vote for a legitimate candidate.”
Herzik said the Democratic hopefuls were “not a bunch of crazies” but they were unknown, had little money and little or no political experience.
“I blame the Democratic Party, which didn’t even really come out and try to give some guidance to the candidates,” he said. “And they end up getting smacked.”
Goodman ran twice unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, finishing a distant second in 2010 with 18 percent of the vote to Jessica Sferrazza’s 43 percent. He also was runner-up with 22 percent of the vote — 1 percent more than “none” — when Robert Unger won the nomination with 27 percent in 2006.
According to Goodman’s website, he was the president of a real estate company in Barstow, Calif., from 1956-70, then served two years as executive director of the North Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce before Democratic Gov. O’Callaghan appointed him director of Nevada’s Department of Economic Development, a job he held from 1972-78.
Goodman also did a two-year stint as Wyoming’s director of economic development in the mid-1980s, was marketing director for The Ormsby House hotel-casino in Carson City from 1988-90, and later worked as a sales agent for American Airlines and an independent consultant specializing in foreign trade and travel.
While Goodman could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, his website suggests Nevadans won’t have to worry about him cutting out early if he’s elected governor, as some expect Sandoval to do in 2016 to challenge Democratic Sen. Harry Reid.
“Bob Goodman is not looking for a stepping stone to a loftier political position,” the site says.