Neal black-tie fundraiser in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Democratic gubernatorial nominee Joe Neal will host a black-tie fundraiser at the Clark County Government Center in Las Vegas on Friday, Oct. 18, 2002. Refreshments and hors d'oeuvres will be served in the first-floor Pyramid Room from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m. The price of admission is $200 per person. The Clark County Government Center is located at 500 S. Grand Central Parkway in Las Vegas.

The event represents the veteran North Las Vegas Democratic state senator's only major fundraiser for his underdog campaign. Neal is the first African-American in Silver State history to win a major party gubernatorial nomination. In 1972, he became the first African-American elected to the Nevada State Senate, eventually rising to senate president pro-tem and acting governor.

For those who cannot attend, contributions may be mailed directly to Sen. Neal c/o

Joe Neal for Governor
304 Lance Avenue
North Las Vegas, NV 89030

Nevada's First Independent Governor

It was often said of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall that he lived to see his great dissents become great majorities.

Justice Marshall has always been a hero to Nevada State Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas. Over the past four decades, many of Neal's great dissents have become great majorities.

In the mid-1990s, he saw dark clouds on the state's fiscal horizon and identified its cause: Nevada hotel-casinos creating low-wage jobs and urban sprawl without paying a fair share of taxes. See the Guinn-Hunt administration which
conclusively demonstrated the tax-draining nature of low-wage job creation.

Sen. Neal has stood alone among civic and political leaders in pointing out that the gambling industry broke its 1931 compact with Nevada -- that in exchange for the legalization of a vice, the industry would fund needed government services. Today, Nevada ranks low in every area in which states want to be high and vice-versa.

The Silver State's gross gaming tax is the lowest in the world and has not been raised since 1987.

In 1998, Sen. Neal ran for governor to take his message statewide. The gambling industry inserted a well-monied candidate on the last day of filing with orders to take him out in the primary and get the tax hike off the table. He was vilified and eliminated in the Democratic primary. The gaming tax increase was ignored in the general election as the public was allowed to select from two casino-approved candidates. The 1998 Democratic nominee has become a high executive with a multinational gambling corporation investing its huge Nevada profits in states competitive with Nevada.

At the 1999 legislative session, Sen. Neal introduced a gross gaming tax increase bill. No other lawmaker supported it.

In 2000, in the middle of a tough re-election campaign, he circulated a statewide initiative petition to raise the gross gaming tax on the state's largest, most profitable casinos. Those entities are largely owned by four multinational corporations which use their high profits from low-tax Nevada to go into business against themselves in places like California.

The casinos put out the word to their workers and suppliers: If we find your signature on Neal's petition, you're fired. That's as illegal as a threat can be, but this is the High Desert Plantation. The 2000 campaign was reminiscent of 1998, where casino workers were told that should Neal be elected governor and succeed with any tax increase, that humongous money machine known as the Las Vegas Strip would go dark and everyone would be fired. Preposterous, yes, but sometimes jokes run for office.

The casinos recruited a young, black attorney to run against Sen. Neal in 2000. Sen. Neal had assisted his opponent's family in getting money for food when they first moved to southern Nevada many years ago.

The casinos hired three major PR firms to assist the now-grown hungry child and gave him a bottomless campaign fund. Senator Neal ran as the "unbought and unbossed" candidate (a phrase borrowed from the late Rep. Shirley Chisholm's book). He was re-elected outright in the primary, stunning the gambling-industrial complex.

In the 2001 legislative session, he introduced another bill to increase the gaming industry's taxes. This time, one of his fellow senators supported his proposal. Several assemblymembers and media commentators got aboard.

This year, the industry and the entire political establishment admit that such a tax increase is needed, though they never give Sen. Neal credit for bringing the issue to the front. Public opinion now overwhelmingly favors a gaming tax increase. A great dissent has become a great majority.

Sen. Neal's record of looking beyond the horizon is little short of remarkable. In 1981, against major casino opposition, he forced passage of the toughest fire sprinkler code in the world after starting with only one other senator as a bill co-sponsor.

He warned very early of the dangers of energy deregulation as written by Nevada lobbyists for Enron. He proved so prescient that he was invited to lecture to the congress of Mexico because of his expertise. Mexican lawmakers voted deregulation down.

At the prodding of Nevada's gambling and mining industries and despite the California meltdown, the current governor last year signed a bill deregulating large parts of the Nevada utility industry.

A decade ago, Sen. Neal fought for and won far-reaching health care cost containment, a law which his fellow lawmakers (prodded by industry lobbyists) allowed to expire.

Sen. Neal led an investigation into the northern California-Nevada Honey Lake water importation project, an issue which became such a scandal that U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, personally intervened and killed the program. Sen. Neal has survived the slings and arrows suffered by anyone who brings light to dark places. The lantern makes one an easy target.

He has been shunned by the hierarchy of his own party and by his friends in organized labor this year (despite being honored with the Nevada State AFL-CIO's Lifetime Commitment Award in 1997). The incumbent Republican governor has appointed a labor commissioner who has made it his business to gut Nevada's prevailing wage law.

The Nevada Democratic chairman finally admitted to the Associated Press in September the real reason for the opposition: Sen. Neal wants to raise the gambling industry's taxes.

Sen. Neal is quick to point out that he is not out to damage the gambling industry, he just wants to make it a more responsible citizen for the impacts it causes.

He has lived to see his great dissents become great majorities. He now faces his greatest challenge as the first African-American ever to win a major party nomination for Nevada governor.

Should he prevail against the gambling industry's anointed and well-funded juggernaut, it will be because he has been able to shape an image of independence.

Nevadans like to say they vote for the candidate, not the party. Indeed, historical voting patterns show Nevada to be the closest thing to a non-partisan state.

A coalition of progressive Republicans, old line Democrats and maverick independents could put Sen. Neal in the statehouse.

To do so, he needs a modicum of advertising money. He need not raise enough to match the incumbent, just enough to get out his positions. His message is so compelling, with an electorate already on his side, that the seemingly impossible can happen.

It already has with Jesse Ventura in Minnesota. In New York this year, Carl McCall is positioned to become the Empire State's first African-American governor, again against a well-funded GOP incumbent.

The elements are in place.

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