Organization and Disorganization

Once upon a time, politicians and diplomats talked about the domino theory to try to justify American efforts to defeat communism in Vietnam. If that country went communist the theory went, the rest of southeast Asia was sure to follow. Communism would continue its march. Eventually, like a long row of dominoes, all of these countries would fall to communism.

That was wrong, but a new domino theory may be at work in Nevada politics.  Somebody decides to run or not to run, and a bunch of dominoes fall.

The key dominoes are state Sens. Steven Horsford (District 4) and John Lee (District 1). Both decided not to seek re-election and instead to run for a new seat in the House of Representatives, against each other. Lee soon discovered that he was on a treadmill to oblivion and said instead he would stand for re-election.

But Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson already had said that he would vacate a safe Assembly seat to seek the state Senate slot that Lee was giving up. What would he do next? Happily for him, Dina Neal, the assemblywoman for District 7, changed her mind about taking Horsford’s old gig and announced her plans for re-election.  So, Atkinson announced for Horsford’s seat, meaning that he will have to rent a home there.

A few notes on this for you to ponder, fun and otherwise:

  • Back in the mid-1990s, Nevada voters foolishly approved term limits for many elected officials, reasoning that it was a great way to throw the bums out.  Set aside that it doesn’t seem to have occurred to said voters that they already could do that on their own. What has been the impact of term limits? It has prompted members of the Assembly to run instead for the state Senate and vice versa, or to seek other offices as their time ran out. Wow. What a change.

  • One of the more interesting questions is whether this demonstrates that the Nevada Democratic Party is organized or uninvolved. Organized, meaning, the leaders are doing their best to avoid the kinds of divisive primaries that can ruin their general election chances or cause long-term grudges. Uninvolved, meaning that, historically, the party caucuses in the Legislature have had much more to say about who runs for what than the party organization.

  • A cute irony or two. One is that Neal was going to run for the state Senate seat long held by her father Joe. She said she changed her mind because she hasn’t finished her work in the Assembly. One wonders whether the party or caucus pushed her or she fell victim to the political history of West Las Vegas; her father had a lot friends but also a lot of enemies.

  • The other is that Neal has an Assembly seat previously filled by Morse Arberry, who often
    was accused of living outside his district. And Atkinson will move so that he resides in the state Senate district he proposes to represent. Maybe, ideally, there has indeed been some progress.