Here are six recent stories on political posturing, pre-electoral positioning and perplexing priorities. In other words, just another week in Nevada:
• North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee has blistered the administrations preceding his for leading the city to the brink of bankruptcy. Former Mayors Michael Montandon and Shari Buck published an op-ed in the Las Vegas Review-Journal advising him on how to run a city. Beyond the two of them having very little credibility on that particular subject, it’s worth noting that two right-wing Republican Mormons are criticizing a conservative Democratic Mormon. Mormons traditionally have wielded great power in North Las Vegas, but they occasionally have had nasty splits that roiled the city. Stay tuned.
• Governor Brian Sandoval tore into Xerox, the company hired to run Nevada’s health insurance exchange. This brings two thoughts to mind: First, his fellow Republicans are unlikely to be as critical of his handling of this as they were of the president over the national website’s problems (which are now resolved, with enrollment growing). Second, nationally and locally we continue to avoid the main issue: why major initiatives by and for a government that runs as a nonprofit are outsourced to profit-seeking companies.
• Speaking of Sandoval, the state GOP has announced a process by which it will determine primary endorsements, and the governor has refused to participate. Granting that the governor and the state party apparatus haven’t been bosom buddies, it’s nice to see that Nevada has its own version of the battles going on nationally within the Republican party between conservatives and the far right.
• The state’s Board of Regents approved a $200,000 annual pay raise for Bobby Hauck, who led UNLV’s football team to a winning record for the first time since the days when players wore leather helmets. State officials continue to fret that they can’t afford to end furloughs for employees, including university staffers relying on a food pantry to eat, or raise pay for higher education staff whom consultants have found to be underpaid—while other consultants are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to study arenas and other subjects. It would be nice if some people drew the connection between these stories.
• Some Democrats have been upset that Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto chose not to challenge Sandoval’s re-election in 2014. But if she ever does seeks higher office, it will be interesting to track the effects of her original position supporting the state’s argument for upholding Nevada’s ban on gay marriage in the case of Sevcik v. Sandoval. She reconsidered the brief her office filed, but it’s hard to un-ring a bell, especially when the brief unnecessarily invoked bigamy and incest as part of its argument.
• Sharron Angle is back with an initiative petition to block Nevada’s health care exchange. If she and her fellow Tea Partiers find enough tinfoil wearers—101,667—to sign by June 17, it will be on the ballot. This puts Republicans in a tough position. On the one hand, Sandoval and his team—including his choice for lieutenant governor, Mark Hutchison, who represented the state in its misbegotten lawsuit against Obamacare—support the exchange. On the other hand, the Republican base doesn’t. This initiative could be like the gay marriage initiative on the ballot a decade ago: an effort to drive turnout. But if it turns out Tea Partiers, will they vote for less right-wing Republicans in November?
Michael Green is a professor of history at the College of Southern Nevada.