Nevada's Dem convention delegates a diverse bunch

LOS ANGELES - Democratic Party rules require diversity in state delegations going to national conventions - and Nevada's party activists took that mandate and ran with it.

Yes, there's the usual assortment of elected officials among the 29 Nevada delegates to the party's national convention that opens here Monday.

That includes U.S. Sens. Harry Reid and Richard Bryan, Rep. Shelley Berkley, state Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa and several legislators and local government leaders.

But the Nevada delegation also includes three Hispanics, two blacks, a Japanese-American, an American Indian, two gay men, three disabled people and several people in their 20s and early 30s. More than half are women and two-thirds of them have never been national delegates before.

Their jobs are as varied as their backgrounds: six lawyers, three teachers, an ironworker, a real estate saleswoman, a union official, a casino executive and a homemaker.

Catholics account for nine of the delegates. There are four Episcopalians, two Mormons, two Methodists and two Jewish delegates.

''It's a real diverse group,'' says Janice Brown, the state Democratic Party's executive director. ''And the best thing is that we have a lot of young people. That's exciting because we have such a hard time getting kids interested.''

''We have a really good cross-section of Nevada,'' adds delegate Carol Cox. ''We really represent everybody.''

The youngest delegates - all age 28 - are Russell Davis of North Las Vegas, Travis Souza of Sparks and Michael Pennington of Carson City. The oldest delegate is David Hoggard Jr., 65, of Las Vegas.

A pre-convention survey by The Associated Press shows half the Nevada delegates think the incoming president's top priority should be education, followed by health care. Foreign policy and economic issues rank third on the list.

But a few of the Nevada delegates also listed nuclear waste disposal as a top concern - a big issue for Nevada because the state is targeted for a waste dump to handle the nation's high-level nuclear waste.

''We don't manufacture this waste here,'' says Brown. ''Why should it be dumped here?''

Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore has promised to follow President Clinton's lead in protecting Nevada from the dump - for the time being. ''But if George Bush is elected, nuclear waste will be in Nevada in six months,'' Brown said.

Brown adds that Gore is the clear choice over Bush on other issues that resonate with Nevada voters, including environmental protection and future federal policies that could affect the state's gambling industry.

The Nevada delegation was solidly behind Gore early on. But none of the delegates - not even Sam Lieberman of Las Vegas - mentioned U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Gore's pick for vice president.

''None of the Nevada delegates thought of him until now,'' says Brown. ''But he's a great choice.''

She adds that Lieberman could help Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ed Bernstein, who like Lieberman is Jewish, in his battle against Republican John Ensign for Nevada's open U.S. Senate seat.

On other issues, the Nevada delegation is overwhelmingly in support of gun control laws and trigger locks on handguns. And two-thirds support the idea of civil-union rights and benefits for same-sex couples.

The same-sex issue is another big Nevada issue this year, with the state's voters being asked in November whether to impose a constitutional requirement that a marriage only be allowed between a man and a woman.

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