Nevada Democrats on top for now; face underfunded future without Harry Reid

By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers

At the national level, Democrats are licking wounds and focusing on the midterm elections in 2018.

In Nevada, Democrats are living in the moment, flush with confidence after overwhelming congressional and legislative victories in 2016.

The 2016 election was the swan song of the “Reid Machine.”


Retiring U.S. Sen. Harry Reid — who provided wealth, influence and national wherewithal to Nevada Democrats — went out with a bang.

Democrats captured three of four Nevada congressional districts. In the Legislature, they earned a majority that is just three Republicans away from super majorities in both houses — needed to pass taxes and override a governor’s veto.

“There has never been a Legislature like this one this year,” State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said the other day on Nevada Newsmakers. “It is so progressive, and so positive and so young and energetic. It is unbelievable.”

Veteran Nevadan Journalist Ray Hagar is known for fair and tough reporting and invigorating commentary.

Vestiges from the days before term limits, when long-elected conservative icons from Northern Nevada wielded power, are dust. The younger generation is in charge. Eleven Democratic lawmakers, all under 40, have formed the “Nevada Future Democratic Caucus.”

“You look at the age and you look at the color, the sex, this is the most diverse we’ve ever seen, by far,” Segerblom said. “This is Nevada. Before, it was a bunch of old white guys tells us what to do. Now the Legislature reflects our communities.”

The ERA, education, marijuana taxes, new energy policies, immigration, health care, LGBTQ community help, combating Trump. Democrats like the view from the top.

“I don’t know if you are looking at the national level, but all eyes right now are on Nevada,” said state Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas. “People are looking to see what we are going to do.

“This is such a dynamic time for our state. All eyes are on Nevada for the ERA. All eyes are on Nevada for energy. All eyes are on Nevada for health care. People are looking to see what we are going to do.”

Some conservatives might be alarmed after hearing Segerblom talk about taxes — and the Democrats’ near-super majority — on Newsmakers on Wednesday.

“Our state is so under-taxed that every where you look, people could pay more taxes,” Segerblom said. “And everywhere you look, we need more revenues.”

YES, NEVADA DEMOCRATS are at their apex and they should taken a picture of it. Things will never be better for them than they are right now.

That’s because of Reid. He was — but not now — one of the most powerful men in Washington D.C. And Harry could certainly “bring home the bacon” for his state and party. An airport in Nevada should be named after him, after all the federal funding he funneled to both McCarran International and Reno-Tahoe International.

Ask Segerblom about the future of the Nevada Democrats without Reid and he’ll call it the “$64,000 Question.”

“It is really going to be difficult,” he said of life without Reid. “Because he was such a leader on the national level, he would bring resources to us, keep us under control, and with (my) being chairman of the (Nevada Democratic) Party for four years, without someone like that helping us, you have basically nothing.”

“You are in charge of nothing (as state party leader) because there is no automatic funding source,” Segerblom said. “I tried to pass a law that would charge a $1-per-slot-machine tax that would go to the political parties and people went crazy, ‘OMG, we cant do that.’

“So if there is no automatic funding source, the political parties are broke,” Segerblom said. “Even if they win, usually they are faced with a huge deficit already.”

WITHOUT REID, Nevada’s lofty place in the system of choosing a president is also in jeopardy, Segerblom said.

Nevada holds a lot of influence in presidential politics now. It is one about about a dozen “battleground” states. More importantly, Nevada’s presidential caucus is among the first four primaries and caucuses in the U.S. election season, making the state a national influencer.

“Frankly, it is the best thing that ever happened to the (Nevada) Democratic Party,” Segerblom said of Nevada’s First Four status.

Reid set that up, Segerblom said. Without Reid, he wonders if it all won’t just blow away, leaving Nevada “irrelevant” again in national politics.

“We are (irrelevant) most of the time anyway,” he said.

Being among the First Four is not clear for Nevada for the 2020 presidential election, Segerblom said.

“Harry Reid made us one of the first four states and that is going to change, now that Harry Reid is gone,” he said. “So if we are back in the pack, we’re really irrelevant again.

“The DNC (Democratic National Committee), through Harry Reid, picked Nevada as one of the first four states,” Segerblom said. “Now, there is a lot of animosity around the country to Nevada having one of those first four states.”

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