Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Most Important Race You Don't Hear About

So far this year, there's been plenty of buzz about all the big federal level races here in Nevada. We often see the Presidential candidates here, and we're seeing plenty of action in our Congressional races. However, there's another level of races that will be very consequential to Nevada's future.

So today's Las Vegas Sun has a story about what may be the most important Legislature race this year, the race that may very well determine the balance of power in Carson City next year. Oh yes, and that race is actually in Reno.

The most intriguing political contest that hasn’t been splashed on television screens statewide might be a legislative Senate race here in the old part of Reno — Senate District 15, a swing district inside a swing county inside a swing state.

It’s one of five competitive state Senate races that will determine which party controls the state’s upper house in 2013.

But this race has the added drama of pitting two veterans of Nevada’s political class with very different views on the role of government against each other: Sen. Greg Brower, the Republican incumbent, and former Sen. Sheila Leslie, the Democrat who resigned her safe seat in February to move into a house she had bought in the district.

And so far, there's been plenty of drama here. With the stakes so high, the contrasts are being made crystal clear.

She said Brower’s vote against extending existing taxes in 2011 was pandering to the “tea party” element of the Republican Party. At the time of the vote, Brower was in the middle of a contested Republican primary for the congressional seat that covers most of Northern Nevada. He lost that race.

“It’s offensive that someone would change their values and votes for personal political gain,” Leslie said. “Now that he’s in this campaign, he’s portraying himself as a moderate. But he might vote with the tea party again.”

Brower is striking a decidedly more moderate tone on taxes this year. He said he would vote in 2013 to extend the same taxes he opposed last year to prevent further cuts to education. He would also consider more taxes, but said, “It’s premature to go beyond that at this point.”

Indeed, Greg Brower has been changing his tune since he lost his race for Congress last year (which was the NV-02 special election). He tried the "tea party" route last year and lost in the G-O-TEA primary. So now that he's running for State Senate in a swing district and probably preparing to run for Attorney General in 2014, he's trying the "moderate" route. The problem for Brower is that he's playing this great "moderate" game now, he simply can't reconcile that with his "tea party" approved record.

Since Brower has already been flip-flopping on the budget, tax fairness, and education funding, can SD 15 voters really believe what he's saying he will do next year? After all, Brian Sandoval's preferred budget already may be falling apart. And since Greg Brower has been using Governor Sandoval and his preferred budget for political cover, what will he do once that's gone and the "tea party" jumps back in to fill the leadership void on the right?

This may seem like just one local State Legislature race in Northern Nevada, but there's so much more at stake here. The future of Nevada's tax code, Nevada's public schools, and really the entire Nevada economy may rest on the outcome of this local State Legislature race in Reno. Just keep that in mind.

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