Carson back in the national spotlight after 110 years |

Carson back in the national spotlight after 110 years

Kelli Du Fresne
Appeal City Editor

One of the nation’s vices, rather than one of our own creation, has put Nevada and its capital city back on the national map – politics.

Carson City has been in the national spotlight before. In 1897, legalized prizefighting directed the nation’s eyes toward Carson City for the world championship fight between James J. “Gentleman Jim” Corbett and Robert Fitzsimmons.

At a time where most boxing contests were seen as brutal or corrupt, this one showed the world that neither corruption nor brutality were needed for a good fight.

The fight, on March 17, 1897, in the infield of Carson City’s East Musser Street racetrack, was fought with gloves.

Today’s battle, between eight Democrats vying for the presidency, will be a contest of words and last longer than the 14-round thriller that left the “Gentleman” bereft of his title. It will end only at the general election Nov. 4, 2008.

There will undoubtedly be brutality and possibly corruption in the next two years of campaigning, but for Nevada, it doesn’t matter who wins. The Battle Born state, Carson City especially, profits.

State Archivist Guy Rocha has been interviewed already by a reporter writing for the Boston Globe. Reporters from the Los Angeles Times were here Tuesday, and ABC news correspondent George Stephanopolous will act as moderator for today’s forum. It’s likely his first trip to Carson City.

“In this case, the political world is watching this event,” Rocha said. “What’s so interesting about the (Corbett-Fitzsimmons) fight is that the reporters covered the town. They covered the locale, the mining industry. They were reporting to people throughout the country about what was here prior to the grand event.

“It is interesting how much on background (the Globe reporter) was asking me about the area. The same thing was happening in 1897. The reporters were describing Lake Tahoe, the Comstock, Carson City and the general environments.”

That 19th century exposure changed history, Rocha said.

E.E. Roberts, of Sutter Creek, Calif., came to see the fight and stayed on.

He would become an attorney, a principal at the school in Empire and Ormsby County’s district attorney, and he remains one of a handful of Nevadans elected to Congress from Carson City.

“People like him, because of the special event, became aware of Carson City,” Rocha said.

“There are a lot more people who will read these articles, who are going to know a lot more about Carson City, than residents who will attend the forum. In their travels, they may go ‘Why don’t we go see this place?’

“Hopefully, the players here are exploiting this.”

Politically, the Silver State has been snubbed by the political elitists, who have stayed clear of its vice-ridden, desert environs in their quest for higher office.

But since 2000, Nevada has been making its move. In 2008, with Democratic Sen. Harry Reid serving as majority leader, Nevada once again has a dynamic political personality who will draw the attention of the nation.

Not since Grant Sawyer, who served as governor, and Paul Laxalt, who served as governor then senator, has Nevada shown up on the national political radar.

Backed by Sawyer, John F. Kennedy spoke to Carsonites at the Civic Auditorium on Jan. 31, 1960. He then addressed the joint session of the Legislature on Feb. 1, 1960. This was followed by a reception at the Governor’s Mansion.

Sen. Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, Democratic candidate for the U.S. presidency, spoke to a joint session of the Legislature eight days after Kennedy.

On the GOP side, Vice President Richard M. Nixon sent his regrets that he could not accept the invitation to speak to the joint legislative session during his visit to Reno to open the Squaw Valley Winter Olympics. The communication was read into the record Feb. 1.

Nevada’s five electoral votes, backed by its immigrant population, its Southern Nevada money and its position as a Western swing state, again mean something to those seeking the presidency.

The days of “Gentleman Jim” are past, and it “will still be a long time until the rest of the country gets over its prejudices about Nevada” and a Nevadan could make a bid for the White House, Rocha said.


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