Sen. Joe Neal wins Nevada
Democratic gubernatorial primary

SHAKE 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 election.

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 War reconstruction.

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 for governor.

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 early 1990s.

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 business risk.

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.



Guinn Watch

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