You may have noticed that this issue of Vegas Seven is chock full of the Best of the City. To keep up our end of the bargain, Seven Questions needed to take on someone with enough staying power to last the two weeks this issue is going to be out on the stands. One Nevada politician clearly fills that bill: U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.
As the Senate majority leader, the 70-year-old Democrat is one of the most powerful men in the country. But his backstory is the stuff of Nevada legend. His hardscrabble youth in Searchlight led to a life of public service as state assemblyman, lieutenant governor and congressman before he landed in the Senate in 1987. Not known for being subtle or cuddly, Reid has become a controversial figure in his home state where, despite his position as the Senate’s top man, he finds himself in one of the hottest races of this election season.
Why do you think you’re in such a close race this year?
I haven’t had a difficult election for 12 years. During that 12-year period of time we’ve had about 600,000 new people move to Nevada, and so those people that move here really don’t know me. I’m a guy who has made my reputation being a moderate person, and I have the role of trying to stop the privatizing of Social Security, fighting these huge deficits that the former administration ran up, monitoring two wars going on that weren’t paid for, and so they’ve seen me fight George Bush and that’s not really who I am. The other problem is because of the policies of the prior administration the economy is in really bad shape and so I’m faced with all that stuff, none of which I had any control over, especially the economy that is so bad. So that’s why my election is difficult.
Do you ever regret going into public service?
I practiced law while I was [the Henderson] city attorney, while I was on the hospital board, while I was in the assembly, while I was lieutenant governor and when I was chairman of the gaming commission. I had my private law practice during all those different phases of government service doing all those different things. When I was elected to the House of Representatives, I had to be full time. I made a decision because I felt that I had enough money to be able to put my kids through school when I came to Washington and I’ve been able to do that. I had some investments in land, principally—that’s about it, that because of the rapidly increasing value of land in Nevada I was able to keep my kids in school. So, no, public service is a choice I made. My wife and I have enjoyed our public service and I feel comfortable with what I’ve done. Have I been perfect? Of course not, but I’ve done the best I can.
When and how will Las Vegas rebound?
Las Vegas is rebounding. It’s just so slow it’s not good enough. There are some things happening. We got good reports from the Labor Department; they indicate that during the next six months almost 40 percent of businesses around the country are going to be hiring more people. So there are good things happening around the county, which is good for Nevada. Nevada just hasn’t felt the love that it needs and it can’t until we get the economies going in other places because we thrive on other places. Jobs in Las Vegas are created because of other places doing well enough to allow other people to come spend their money in our fine hotels.
Is your home still in Searchlight?
It sure is. I’ve got a big windmill, a big solar array, a flagpole with the Nevada flag. That’s where I was born and raised, and I love coming back and looking out my window, looking west especially. I’ve got nice picture windows, and I can see those storms building in the summer and the winter. I love my home.
Why do you think you’re so polarizing in Nevada?
I think the only reason that I know of would be the economy. Logically, there is no way of getting there. I had nothing to do with job loss during the Bush years; I had nothing to do with Wall Street collapsing during the Bush years. The so-called TARP, that was Bush’s idea, not my idea.
Your son Rory Reid is running for governor. Have you given him any advice?
You know, my boy is a fine young man, but he is almost 50 years old and these are decisions he’s made on his own, and he’s going to have to run his own race. He’s been a wonderful boy, he’s my oldest son and always set such a great example and I love him very much, but he’s running his race and I’m running mine.
What would you like your legacy in government to be?
I don’t think it’s my legacy in the Senate as much as just being a person, and that is just trying to live the golden rule. Trying to be fair to people and not take advantage of them in any way. I would like to say that I was a good dad and a good person.