Campaign’s cast of colorful characters deserving of higher voter turnout |

Campaign’s cast of colorful characters deserving of higher voter turnout

John L. Smith

Talk about a cast of characters. Talk about a variety of choices. Talk about a reason to walk through fire to get to the polls.

Talk, talk, talk. If that’s all you did this week – and a vast majority of registered voters didn’t bother to exercise their right – you missed participating in a remarkable moment in Nevada political history.

I know it’s hard to hold your nose and touch the screen of the voting machine at the same time, but with practice it gets easier.

If you didn’t like this election cycle, nothing this side of a meteor striking the Clark County Government Center will get your attention.

Think about it, people. There were five qualified candidates for governor. Five. Most years we’re lucky to get two. (Or even one, some would argue.)

Disagree with their politics, philosophies, and campaign strategies, but you have to admit that Jim Gibson, Dina Titus, Bob Beers, Jim Gibbons and Lorraine Hunt made formidable pitches for your support. Each offered a compelling portfolio. There were times I was impressed by each, and this state is better off because they stepped into the political arena.

If none of those five pulled you away from the summer “Survivor” reruns and raised your interest in the process, then nothing I’ll write will persuade you to shake yourself and get in the game in time for the November general election.

If the governor’s race didn’t get your heart pumping, there was the nothing-short-of-incredible Clark County sheriff campaign to consider. In an office that had never had an outsider challenge Metro’s hierarchy, wealthy helicopter company owner Jerry Airola flashed the cash and made himself a contender. And Metro officer Laurie Bisch didn’t let her lack of an expansive resume keep her from challenging the establishment.

Whether you found those two candidates intriguing or overrated, you can’t deny that they jazzed up a 16-entry race and sent the political establishment scrambling.

Nevada politics is anything but colorless. This year’s ballot gets more laughs than Comedy Central. Barnum & Bailey doesn’t have this many clowns – and I relate to clowns.

For pure entertainment value, it got no better than casino industry madman Bob Stupak. Admit it, Bob. You bet a bundle on the race.

And there was Renaissance man and neurosurgeon Dr. Lonnie Hammargren, a previous winner in the lieutenant governor’s race. He distributed music CDs as part of his campaign pitch.

Add in retired porn princess Melody “Mimi Miyagi” Damayo (she didn’t draw many votes, but she drew big crowds), self-described dominatrix and bodybuilder Leola McConnell (if she whipped the budget into shape, it would stay whipped and like it), and a long list of other certified characters, and the campaign was downright kaleidoscopic.

Critics and cynics spit at the concept of early voting, but Aug. 15’s turnout once again proved them wrong: If it weren’t for early voting, there might be no voting at all. Those early voters might miss out on a mound of good political dirt, but it’s clear from the turnout at the polls that almost no one cares to be fully informed on a majority of the issues and races. (For that matter, there are plenty of candidates who don’t seem to care to be fully informed on the issues.) It also proves that the lowest common denominator is a good place to start when making an appeal to voters.

Well, actually, making an appeal to a majority of voters appears out of the question because the vast majority of registered voters don’t vote.

• 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.