Pundits say Reid’s departure is going to have dramatic impact on the state
Two of Nevada’s foremost political observers say Harry Reid’s decision to retire at the end of 2016 will have a much more profound impact than just reshaping the 2016 election.
“I hope Nevadans understand that Harry Reid has almost single-handedly positioned Nevada in a way that it otherwise would not be,” said Professor Fred Lokken of Truckee Meadows Community College. “The power we have wielded is not normal.”
Eric Herzik, head of the Political Science Department at the University of Nevada said Nevada “will become invisible” after Reid departs because so much in Washington depends on seniority.
“Seniority matters greatly,” said Lokken. “It takes a long time in Washington to get into that inner circle.”
Herzik pointed out by comparison with Reid’s 30 years in Congress, Nevada’s other Senator, Dean Heller, is only in his third year in the Senate and the deepest experience in the House is just three terms.
“We’re a small western state that is not integrated into the economy of the United States,” he said.
Herzik said Nevada’s clout, including its reputation as a swing state in national elections is directly because of Reid.
“He’s been able to do so much for Nevada,” said Lokken. “His leadership for nine years has just been of phenomenal benefit to Nevada in issues, funding priorities, the ability to get some of that federal money back to the state.”
“Nevada is going to notice in 2017 what a radical change we’re in for,” he said.
Lokken pointed to Rep. Crescent Hardy’s statements last week that basically reopened the debate over Yucca Mountain, which Reid convinced President Obama to defund, blocking the project.
“Reid’s leadership on that issue has certainly helped the state and certainly helped (Gov. Brian) Sandoval,” he said.
Herzik said the state is losing one of the most powerful people in the Senate, a person gaming, mining and local governments among others depend on for roads, schools, grants and other things.
He put it succinctly: “I don’t see anybody else in the delegation who can even come close to lifting that load and that’s not meant as an insult to them.”
For Sandoval, both Lokken and Herzik said the decision opens a clear path to the U.S. Senate if the governor chooses to run.
But Herzik said “Republican hubris” ends dramatically if Sandoval doesn’t run because the field of potential candidates “drops off rather fast after Sandoval.”
Lokken said that scenario, “has the potential to be a very large train wreck for the Republican Party.”
“In 2014, Democrats stayed home and they’re paying the price for it now,” said Herzik. “I would guess organized labor watching what our current legislature is doing will show up (in 2016).”
In Fallon on Friday, Sandoval said he was focusing on the Legislative session.
“Senator Reid has been an influential voice in Congress on behalf of Nevada’s interests, particularly on issues such as Yucca Mountain and renewable energy development,” Sandoval’s statement said. “His service to Nevada as a state legislator, lieutenant governor, congressman and senator spans almost half a century and his legacy will last for generations.”
Sandoval said he has appreciated Reid’s longevity and service to the state, and for his service as both the Senate majority and minority leader.
“I have said it before, but it’s been great for Nevada to be in a position of leadership,” Sandoval added.
For the next 22 months, Sandoval vowed to work with Reid on issues that affect Nevada
Lokken said a larger turnout of Latino voters is likely if Attorney General Adam Laxalt runs for Senate. Laxalt’s support of a lawsuit to block President Obama’s immigration plan, hasn’t sat well with Latino voters. And Herzik said he believes Laxalt is going to run.
Both Herzik and Lokken agreed former AG Catherine Cortez Masto is a leading potential Democratic candidate but Herzik added he doubts Rep. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, is going to step aside for her, creating a potentially damaging primary.
“Dina Titus is a tough campaigner, very well organized, will be able to raise money. And if there’s any hesitation by Masto, Dina will eat her alive,” Herzik said.
Reid said in a Friday interview he could support Masto.
“I think it’s hard for her to lose,” Reid said during an interview on KNPR Friday morning, citing her resume.
Reid, for his part, had nothing but good things to say about Sandoval when the topic of a possible Sandoval Senate run was brought up during his interview.
“Brian Sandoval has done a very fine job as governor. I don’t have anything bad to say about him,” Reid said.
Nonetheless, Reid stood by his pick in Cortez Masto in his plain-spoken, often acerbic, way.
“Whoever runs against Catherine, I think, will be a loser.”
Herzik said state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, “was being groomed to run all along against Reid.”
Former Assemblyman and current Las Vegas council member Bob Beers has already announced a run for the Senate but, Herzik said, “I think Bob Beers’ time has passed.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.