It wasn’t a good week for Reno Assemblyman Pat Hickey. He is his chamber’s minority leader, an ironic title given his comments on a radio show about 2014 being a good election year for Republicans because minorities and younger people are less likely to vote in years that don’t involve a presidential race.
Democrats seized upon the chance to call him out, with party spokesman Zach Hudson saying that “Republicans will do whatever they can to suppress the vote next year.” Gov. Brian Sandoval and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, both Republicans, quickly condemned the remarks.
Overlooked amid all the knee-jerk reaction is the fact that Hickey’s right. Presidential election years do bring out more minority and young voters, and that does help Democrats. Many factors help one party or the other in elections — the performance of an incumbent, national sentiment about how either party has been running the country in recent years, candidate charisma and prevailing wage issues.
Where Hickey truly went wrong, though, wasn’t in the comments themselves. It was in his attempt at damage control, in which he attempted to defend himself on the TV news show “Ralston Reports” by referring to his Korean wife as “yellow” and his four children as “olive-skinned.”
It’s worth noting that Hickey is a moderate who backed calling on Congress to reform our nation’s immigration policies, as well as the bill allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver privilege cards. That’s not the voting record of someone who isn’t sensitive to the needs of minorities.
But in politics, what you say often sticks in voters’ heads far longer than what you actually do. Hickey, who’s from this area and has written a conservative-leaning columns for the Appeal, should know that after serving two nonconsecutive terms in the Assembly. The aftermath of his ill-chosen words should remind all who practice politics in Nevada about the importance of speaking sensitively.