- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 7, 2010

CARSON CITY, Nev. | As chairman of the powerful Clark County Commission in Las Vegas, Rory Reid, 47, is not exactly a newcomer to the public spotlight.

Even so, his name is often linked to that of his father, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The younger Mr. Reid is hoping to simplify how he is introduced if he’s successful in his bid for the Nevada governor’s office.

He is expected to coast through the June 8 Democratic primary, with only one little-known opponent, Frederick L. Conquest of Las Vegas, challenging for the slot on the November ballot. Mr. Reid has been campaigning for over a year, quietly amassing more than $3 million, and will have a hefty stash when the campaigning turns tough this summer.

Yet, both father and son are trailing in polls to potential Republican contenders.

The senior Mr. Reid, seeking a fifth Senate term, is in the cross hairs of Republican conservatives. Late last month, thousands attended a rally sponsored by “tea party” activists in his hometown of Searchlight, Nev. Twelve Republican candidates have lined up for the chance to take him on after the primary.

The Reid name could provide a double bull’s-eye on the ballot.

“In any other year, it would have been a benefit,” said Kenneth Fernandez, assistant political science professor at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. “Only this year have we seen it could be sort of a drawback.”

Eric Herzik, a political scientist at the University of Nevada at Reno, said the Reid name has opened doors and attracted campaign donors for Rory Reid in the past.

“However, in this particular campaign, being on the same ballot with his father is not going to be a plus. Rory inherits everybody who doesn’t like Harry,” Mr. Herzik said. “The positives get you in a position to run, but now all the negatives come back.”

Rory Reid doesn’t buy it.

“I think ultimately people make a decision based on who will make their life better,” he said. “They either vote for one person or another. I don’t think they do a genealogy study to determine that.”

A partner in Nevada’s prominent Lionel, Sawyer & Collins law firm, Rory Reid cut his political teeth in the mid-1990s as a member of the state Taxicab Authority, where decorum often had to be gaveled to order. In 1999, he ran unopposed for state Democratic Party chairman, and in 2008 he surprised many when he signed on early to chair Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign in Nevada while his father declined to make an immediate endorsement.

In 2002, Rory Reid was elected to the Clark County Commission, the state’s largest and most powerful local government. Holding sway over nearly three-fourths of the state’s population, the county commission also has seen more than its share of political corruption scandals.

During the past decade, four former commissioners were sent to prison in the Las Vegas “G-Sting” scandal involving a strip-club owner buying political favors.

Rory Reid was not involved in the corruption cases and has been picked by fellow commissioners to serve as chairman for three straight terms, making him just the fourth person in the 100-year history of Nevada’s most populous county to do so.

“Rory and I were friends and remain so,” said former Commissioner Bruce Woodbury, a Republican who served 28 years until being forced out by term limits two years ago. “We voted the same way on most things. … We were able to reform several policies and, I think, turn the county around in a positive way.”

Said UNLV’s Mr. Fernandez, “I think people see him as a sort of squeaky clean, hardworking member of that body. I think that helps him.”

But he has never faced a tight election contest and will run into a tough, equally well-financed foe if Republican front-runner Brian Sandoval, a former state assemblyman, attorney general and federal judge, wins the five-way Republican primary. Mr. Sandoval is challenging incumbent Gov. Jim Gibbons along with Mike Montandon, the former mayor of North Las Vegas, and two others for the party’s nomination.

Ironically, it was Sen. Reid who nominated Mr. Sandoval for the lifetime federal judgeship. Mr. Sandoval resigned in September to take on Mr. Gibbons - and possibly Mr. Reid’s son.

In addition to running as the second Reid on the ballot, Rory Reid also must navigate the state’s north-south rift. Voters in rural northern Nevada are more conservative and distrustful of the state’s population center and power hub in the south.

“Rory Reid is assumed to have more political experience than he actually has,” said Mr. Herzik. “He really hasn’t been exposed statewide. His campaign chops have yet to be tested.”

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