Speculation has been bubbling in the press about who from the Republican Party might run against long-time Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid in 2016. Reid insists he will seek re-election despite his recent injury that may leave him with impaired vision in one eye and the fact he was demoted from Senate majority leader to minority leader when Republicans won a majority in the Senate.
Nevada’s Republican junior Sen. Dean Heller recently was quoted as saying Gov. Brian Sandoval would be an “A-plus” candidate to oppose Reid. The names of other potential Republican opponents have been bandied about by liberal columnists, mostly moderates for some reason.
Few press accounts have noted there already is a declared Republican candidate with statewide name recognition, Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers, who in 2006 finished second in a five-person GOP gubernatorial primary behind Jim Gibbons.
Beers, a 55-year-old CPA, also served in the Assembly from 1998 to 2004 and then served a term in the state Senate. In 2012 he was elected to fill a vacant seat on the Las Vegas City Council and was elected to a four-year term on the council in 2013.
Beers said he was approached by a group of people in 2009 and asked to run for Harry Reid’s seat in 2010, but declined. He said the same people approached him a year ago and he agreed.
Asked what he would do if Sandoval does get in the race, Beers replied, “He’s not going to, but, if he does, we’ll have a primary.”
With the agenda Sandoval brought to Carson City this session, he is not intending on running in a Republican primary, Beers surmised, referring to Sandoval proposing a $1.3 billion increase in general fund spending.
As for his tax hike credentials, Beers was one of the so-called “Mean 15” who blocked Gov. Kenny Guinn’s billion-dollar tax hike in 2003 for the entire regular session and through multiple special sessions until one Assembly member caved in to avoid a constitutional crisis after the Nevada Supreme Court suspended the constitutional requirement that tax hikes must be approved by a two-thirds majority. The court later unanimously repudiated that decision.
In 2006, Beers led a group that gathered more than 150,000 signatures to qualify a Tax and Spending Control (TASC) initiative on the ballot. It would have limited tax increases to inflation and population growth unless approved by the voters. The state Supreme Court kicked it off the ballot on a technicality.
In a far ranging interview prior to a meeting with potential backers in Las Vegas recently, Beers was asked what would make him a better senator than Harry Reid. He quickly replied, “I have economic common sense.”
He amplified by saying, “Spending more than we’ve been taking in for what, 80 years now? Has been done in the name of (John) Maynard Keynes, a World War I-era economist who had some interesting ideas. One of them was that when the economy slows down, it’s OK to borrow, spending that money on public works to get the economy going. That’s the part Senator Reid has relied on in these decades of displaying poor economic common sense.
“That’s also page 1. If you turn to page 2, Mr. Keynes writes, and then when you are out of your economic slowdown, you pay it back. Maynard Keynes in no way would endorse what they’ve done, because it has no basis in economic common sense.”
Asked about efforts by the state to take control of some portion of the 85 percent of land in Nevada currently under the jurisdiction of the federal government, Beers replied, “Bad things happen when you have people from far, far away administering vast tracts of land.”
As an example, he noted that ravens are a protected species under the migratory bird treaty. “Now that they are protected their population has exploded, in no small part because of the availability of tortoise eggs and sage hen eggs, which they like to eat,” he said. Both tortoises and sage grouse are thought to be endangered.
On Reid’s proposal to bar development on nearly a million acres of federal land in Coal and Garden valleys in Lincoln and Nye counties and Gold Butte in Clark County, Beers commented, “I don’t understand why Harry would do that. I agree with (Rep.) Cresent Hardy that it doesn’t make sense to increase Washington’s administrative scope on Nevada public lands.”
A version of this column appears this week in the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.