HANDS AND COME OUT POLITICKING
Democratic State Sen. Joe Neal, left,will face first-term
Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn in the November 2002 general election.
Neal becomes the
first African-American to advance to a Nevada gubernatorial general election
LAS VEGAS (Sept. 3) -- Shortly
after 9:00 p.m. PDT, Nevada news media declared Sen. Joe Neal,
D-North Las Vegas, winner of the Democratic gubernatorial primary. He
will face incumbent Republican Kenny Guinn in the November general
Guinn spent more than $1.3 million to defeat second-place finisher Shirley
Cook. Final statewide results are not yet in, but it appears Guinn
will finish with over 80 percent of the GOP primary vote. It appears that
Cook will narrowly edge the non-binding "none of these candidates"
by about five percentage points to four.
Neal took Washoe County, Nevada's second most populous which includes
Reno, with 35.11%. "None" garnered 25.25% and Barbara Scott,
the only woman in the race, finished with 23.67% of the vote.
Neal's percentage in the mid- to high-30's appears to be the trend statewide.
Although complete results from Nevada's 15 smaller counties are not yet
available, reporters informed Sen. Neal on Tuesday evening that he is
holding similar margins in several of the smaller counties statewide.
In populous Clark County, which includes Las Vegas and two-thirds of the
state's residents, Neal topped the ticket with 38.28 percent of the vote
with "none" at 22.57 percent and Scott trailing at 19.77 percent.
Gov. Guinn's camp says he has $1.3 million in cash with pledges for $1
million more. Neal raised no money in the primary cycle and spent only
his $300 filing fee.
Ask by Las Vegas reporters why he's running against
such a financial juggernaut, Neal said "one of the things that needs
to be done is to try to keep the two-party system intact. Gaming has created
a virtual one party system in this state. I'm here as the standard bearer
to keep the two party system intact and increase the value of democracy
in this state."
Should he win, Neal would become only the third black governor since post-Civil
PBS Penchback, the freeborn son of a slave owner, became president
pro tempore of the Louisiana State Senate in 1871. He succeeded Lt. Gov.
Oscar J. Dunn upon Dunn's death in January, 1871. The Louisiana
House of Representatives impeached Gov. Henry Warmoth in 1872,
making Penchback acting governor. He served until January 1873.
In an ironic parallel, after
his election as president pro-tem of the Nevada State Senate, Neal twice
served as acting governor of Nevada in 1991.
Penchback's record as the only African-American governor held for more
than 100 years until the election of L. Douglas Wilder in North
Carolina in 1990.
Sen. Neal was defeated in the 1998 Democratic primary by former Las Vegas
Mayor Jan Laverty Jones, who was inserted into the race on the
last day of candidate filing by casino mogul Steve Wynn. Mr. Wynn
announced that both Guinn and Jones were acceptable to him as candidates
Neal has long been Wynn's nemesis, and has opposed Wynn's tax breaks for
his personal art collection.(Search this site for a complete history.)
In February of 1998, a Las Vegas Review-Journal poll showed Neal within
11 points of the well-monied, casino-anointed Guinn. This started an aggressive
push by casino managements to recruit an industry-friendly Democratic
shill to keep Neal out of the general elecion.
Jones took Neal's tax fairness issues off the table in the 1998 general
election and spent her money talking about education instead. She went
on to lose to Guinn by about 10 points. After the election, the wealthy
heiress took a job as vice-president of Harrah's Hotels and Casinos.
Longtime Nevada reporter Dennis
Myers termed the election result an example of an old political truism:
If you give people a choice between two conservatives, they'll always
vote for the real thing.
Guinn hinted that he would
make a major statement on Nevada's tax inequities and revenue problems
before his first state-of-the-state address in 1999, but backed away and
called for a two-year study instead. That research and hearing process
has now been stretched to four years, with no recommendations due until
after the November elections.
Meanwhile, the wheels have come off state and local finances with Guinn
predicting record amounts of red ink. He recently ordered a brutal three
percent cutback at all state agencies.
Late last week, highly placed state officers, social service workers and
activists decried the devastating effects of the governor's across-the-board
slashes. Mental health programs will suffer a double-down in detriment.
Losing three percent of state funding means forfeiting a like amount in
matching federal funds.
Former Nevada Democratic Gov. Mike O'Callaghan (1971-79) has lived
to see the two crowning achievements of his administration destroyed by
his Republican and Dixiecratic successors. O'Callaghan pumped substantial
new funding into the state's 19th Century mental health system and reformed
the state injured workers' industrial insurance program.
The Guinn administration privatized the injured workers' program, making
immediate millionaires out of some former bureaucrats while cutting care
for the injured and disabled. This was nothing new for Guinn. Under Dixiecrat
Gov. Bob Miller (1988-99), Guinn was asked to wield the meat ax
for similar cuts during the Bush I Gulf War triple dip recession of the
Guinn, following the path of least resistence which Nevada governors have
almost always taken in tough times, balanced the budget on the backs of
the weakest among us the physically and mentally disabled. O'Callaghan's
cherished rural mental health clinics program was shut down. Patients
were kicked out in the middle of critically needed treatment. The system
has yet to recover.
The source of Nevada's problems lies with the gambling industry which
creates low-wage jobs while paying the lowest gross gaming tax in the
world. The industry thus effectively privatizes profit while socializing
A 1999 study by the Guinn-Hunt administration conclusively demonstrated
the tax-draining nature of low-wage job creation.
A carpenter from Galilee once admonished his followers to take care of
the least among us. The purpose of Nevada government is the reverse
to enrich the rich and make sure that Nevada casinos continue to foist
new taxes on everyone but themselves.
Sen. Neal feels that the past
need not be a prelude.