Nevada senator serves as Gore's pit bull at Democrat convention

LOS ANGELES - Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid is soft-spoken and low-key most of the time. But the Nevada senator was Al Gore's pit bull at the Democratic National Convention.

In numerous speeches and interviews, Reid aggressively pushed Gore's presidential qualifications and criticized Republicans and their nominee, George W. Bush.

Reid said he didn't change his demeanor; he just got more attention.

''It's just that I've been on a number of programs to talk about the issues,'' Reid said Thursday.

''Maybe I've always been a pit bull and didn't know it,'' he said. ''I try not to be strident. But there are such striking differences between the candidates. Take any issue - health care, education, Social Security - a whole list of things.''

Reid press secretary Mark Scheurmann said the Gore campaign used Reid to discuss the issues because the two have long-standing ties. Reid backed Gore's presidential campaign in 1988 and Nevada's Democratic caucuses chose Gore that year as their candidate.

Gore even was dubbed the state's ''third senator'' - by former Rep. Jim Bilbray in 1989 - when he repaid Nevada Democrats for their support by helping Bilbray get restitution for residents of Nevada and Utah who developed cancer due to above-ground nuclear testing in the 1950s.

Gore continued to deliver this week with a promise to follow President Clinton's lead and veto legislation that could help speed development of a high-level nuclear dump at Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Reid's convention role and his status as the second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate also helped Nevada get anti-nuclear dump wording inserted in the party's national platform.

Rory Reid, the state Democratic Party chairman and Sen. Reid's son, has said his father's status resulted in ''some obvious benefits'' for Nevada and for the state's 29-member convention delegation.

But would he call his dad Gore's pit bull? ''I would not accuse my father of being any kind of dog,'' he said.

The nickname was used first in a Nevada newspaper as the convention started. Reporters and commentators at the convention picked up on the reference and repeated it.


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