The NEWS with Tim O'Callaghan

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nevada can’t afford another ‘Empty Suit’ in 2010

This first published March 18, 2009 in the Henderson Home News website, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.


When Nevadans look in the executive leadership closet, they keep finding the same old empty suit. Gov. Jim Gibbons continues the same habits he possessed while in Congress — that is absence.

Jim Gibbons should have never been elected governor and would not have been if the Democrats had been more strategic or the Republicans had convinced Bob Beers to get off his single issue of the "Tax and Spend Initiative."

Hindsight is definitely 20/20. But it sure makes me feel like a pundit to look back at a column I published July 6, 2006.

During Campaign '06, every time Jim Gibbons faced controversy, he would go underground and become as quiet as a church mouse while his handlers would clean up and spin the mess.

At the time, I wrote, "While every other candidate seems to be voicing his or her positions, I don't recall the good congressman (Jim Gibbons) saying a heck of a lot since he supposedly plagiarized a speech in rural Nevada."

Another observation was, "I've heard plenty of people talk about his unwillingness to debate the issues. I tend to ask them, 'What else can we expect from an empty suit?'"

I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "a leopard can't change its spots." In this case, the governor can't change his ways. When things get tough in the capital, he seems to take refuge in Elko, where he is more accepted and less likely to be challenged. However, I'm sure he has worn out a bit of his welcome there, too.

Obviously this tactic worked to get him elected, and I even suggested in my column in 2006 that staying low would be helpful in getting elected.

"Although he is doing well in the polls, he may be better off to just continue to keep a low profile. He has done very little as the congressman from Northern Nevada and continued to be re-elected. This may be a very good strategy. As you know, it worked for President Bush, too."

But I didn't say that would be an effective way to govern the state of Nevada.

Back in July 2006, I was fairly kind to the congressman who never seemed to be in Washington, D.C., whenever I was. I pointed out, "Jim Gibbons is a very likable fellow, so don't count him out too quickly. He could have the Republican primary sewed up, for the most part, and may be completely unscathed and energized to pick apart whatever remains are left on the table from the Democrats, Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson and State Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas."

Beers, the governor's primary opponent, could have been a strong choice, except for his one-track mind and single campaign objective.

I wrote, "Not so fast — let's not forget the ever tenacious and single-issued Bob Beers. If he could spread his wings a bit and show voters he is more than a no-tax, ultra-conservative, then his campaign may take off. Beers needs to show voters he cares about more than TASC, the 'Tax and Spend Control' initiative."

Because of Beers' one-track mind, Gibbons emerged unscathed. But like the leopard, the spots would eventually reappear in the form of trouble, and that trouble was Chrissy Mazzeo. That bit of political scat would have sunk best of political candidates, except that the Democrats had left each other in shreds after the primary.

So what does this column I wrote in July 2006 have to do with today? Simply, folks are throwing their hats in the ring for the election in 2010. Both parties should be planning a strategy to bring their best candidates to the dance. History often repeats itself. 2010 could have a few similarities to the election in 2006, but certainly not the consequences of the past two years of the Gibbons administration — unless the state is unfortunate enough to re-elect him.

Jim Gibbons has indicated he plans on running for re-election. Fellow Republicans North Las Vegas Mayor Michael Montandon, who terms out as mayor, and former state Sen. Joe Heck, who was tossed from Senate District 5 last fall, have thrown their hats in the ring.

The Democrats have no confirmations, but a couple of strong candidates have expressed an interest in the Governor's Mansion, including Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid and Speaker of the Assembly Barbara Buckley.

Of course, this is America and anyone with the filing fee is free to run for office — even an empty suit.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or tim.oc@vegas.com. He writes a regular column for the Home News .