Sign language translator for the hearing impaired had his hands full

Last week's war of words wasn't lost on the hearing impaired thanks to the efforts of Denny Vorack, who signed for a full table of deaf persons as the Democratic presidential debate played to an overflow crowd on flat-screen televisions in a Paris Las Vegas ballroom.

Although Vorack says he's leaning toward Hillary Clinton, other candidates had won over the eight hearing-impaired Democrats.

Vorack, a Las Vegan for five years, has been politically active since his college days at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., where he studied political science. He also interned for former U.S. Sen. John Seymour, a California Republican. Today, Vorack teaches deaf and hard of hearing students at Carroll Johnston Middle School. He's also a member of the adjunct faculty at the College of Southern Nevada.

DODD SQUAD: Clark County fire Capt. Harold Wyatt, vice president of Local 1908 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, proudly displayed his canary yellow T-shirt endorsing Sen. Christopher Dodd. Not all unions have been so bold to endorse this early, but Wyatt says his international backed Dodd because of the Connecticut senator's support of issues dear to firefighters.

Wyatt also likes Dodd's approach to politics.

"He gets right to the point. That's why we like him," Wyatt said.

On debate night, brevity was almost as rare as a Megabucks jackpot.

TIMELESS GENE: When she served in the Legislature, Gene Segerblom was sometimes sensitive about her age. You know, in case folks were concerned that a woman in her 80s couldn't do the job of lawmaking.

Now that she's no longer in office, Gene is happy to let the world know she's 89 and still out stumping for her party.

"I don't mind at all," Segerblom says. "I'm not running for anything."

I noticed that she was sitting with the Bill "Happy Birthday" Richardson contingent while pinning on a John Edwards button. (Her son, Richard "Tick" Segerblom, is Edwards' advance man in Nevada.)

For the record, Gene Segerblom remains officially undecided.

POLISHING A LEMON: Republican National Committee Chairman Robert "Mike" Duncan appears most comfortable when he talks about traditional conservative values and GOP philosophies.

It's when he's asked to discuss the Republican Party's actual performance in recent years that he starts sounding like a used-car salesman buffing up a lemon.

In an hour-long meeting last week with Review-Journal editors and writers, Duncan didn't voluntarily say the word "Iraq" in a sentence. Nor without prompting did he offer a single RNC perspective on the politically volatile issue of illegal immigration. And although he offered his party's take on energy production and environmental protection, he failed to say the words "global warming."

A year after losing control of Congress, Duncan was stuck pumping up a party hamstrung by an unpopular war, a less popular president and an unprecedented deficit. He managed to express optimism - one of the biggest duties of his job - about Republican chances from bottom to top in 2008.

If I had to list a favorite line from Duncan it would be, "We're in favor of the American Dream."

What a relief.

Add to the expensive Iraq war and a foundering presidency various high-profile incumbent scandals - no Larry Craig-meets-Mark Foley-in-a-bathroom-stall jokes, please - and Duncan has his work cut out for him these days.

"We made mistakes, there's no question," he said. "We didn't walk the walk in that period of time. ... I don't know that you blame one person individually."

Fortunately for Duncan, he's practicing politics and not actually selling used cars. In his racket, you get to point out the flaws in the other guy's jalopy.

The reigning Democrats in Washington are to blame for a failure to move the country forward, Duncan said, taking particular umbrage with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Duncan chided Reid for attempting to save face politically by staging an early caucus date.

"I think the Democrats are going to the left," he said. "I think Reid's going to the left."

Duncan saved most of his vitriol for Democratic frontrunner Clinton, whom he called a "cold, calculating, lifelong liberal politician. The calculating part is the part I would home in on."

• John L. Smith's column, reprinted from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, appears on Thursdays on the Appeal's Opinion page. E-mail him at or call (702) 383-0295.


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