Newspaper column: Democrat candidate would pick up where Reid leaves off

Former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is imminently qualified to step right into the shoes of Sen. Harry Reid. This past week she became the first Democrat to announce her candidacy for Reid’s seat and he immediately endorsed her.

For example, in March 2010, Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons sent Cortez Masto a letter directing her to file suit challenging the constitutionality of ObamaCare. She fired back a letter refusing to do so.

She wrote: “The Attorney General is the State’s chief legal officer. Like you I have a responsibility to represent the State’s interests. As such, I must be satisfied in my own professional judgment that the case has merit and should be filed.”

Not exactly.

The Nevada Constitution says: “The Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Controller, Attorney General, and Superintendent of public instruction shall perform such other duties as may be prescribed by law.”

Catherine Cortez Masto (AP photo)

Nevada Revised Statute 228 prescribes: “Whenever the Governor directs or when, in the opinion of the Attorney General, to protect and secure the interest of the State it is necessary that a suit be commenced or defended in any federal or state court, the Attorney General shall commence the action or make the defense.”

The governor directed. She refused.

Another section of NRS 228 reads: “If the Attorney General neglects or refuses to perform any of the duties required of him or her by law, the Attorney General is guilty of a misdemeanor or is subject to removal from office.”

Instead, attorney Mark Hutchison, now the lieutenant governor, was hired pro bono to represent Nevada in the Obamacare litigation. He is touted as a potential Republican candidate for Reid’s seat.

An attorney general who refuses to follow the law is qualified to succeed Reid, who has been known to flout a law or two over the years.

Then there was the criminal indictment by Cortez Masto against then-state Treasurer and later-Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki over alleged mismanagement of a college savings program. No funds were missing but the AG claimed Krolicki was not following state budgeting rules.

A judge dismissed the charges completely and Cortez Masto did not appeal.

While the case was pending an invitation to a fundraiser for a Democratic opponent of Krolicki for lieutenant governor listed a sponsor of the event as Paul Masto, husband of the attorney general. She denied any wrongdoing and the event was canceled.

Nevada State Republican Party Chairman Chris Comfort said at the time, “Catherine Cortez Masto and her friends are so arrogant that they change a few words on an invite and pretend this is no longer about Catherine Cortez Masto. The event is hosted by Catherine’s husband and Catherine’s top donors, and it underscores her personal and partisan crusade to destroy Brian Krolicki.”

Partisanship — another qualification to succeed Reid.

Krolicki also is said to be considering seeking the Republican nomination for Reid’s seat. He was contemplating running against Reid in 2010 before he was indicted.

In announcing her candidacy Cortez Masto also announced her resignation as executive vice chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, a job to which she was appointed only three months ago after being term limited as attorney general.

She was appointed without benefit of a national search to a job that had been vacant for five years and was to be paid a salary of $215,000, far more than her pay as an elected official, even though she had no experience in higher education.

While serving as executive vice chancellor, Cortez Masto testified before a legislative panel against a bill that would allow concealed carry permit holders to carry their weapons on college campuses. She testified that guns on campus would have a chilling effect on academic freedom.

Another qualification to succeed Reid, who claims to support the Second Amendment, though he votes consistently to curb those rights.

Even though the Nevada Constitution prohibits the state donating or loaning money to any company, Cortez Masto opined otherwise when the governor and lawmakers wanted to dole out money to various companies through a so-called Catalyst Fund.

On three occasions state officials asked the voters to amend the Constitution to make subsidies to companies legal. It was defeated all three times.

Cortez Masto opined: “The Nevada Constitution does not prohibit the State from disbursing Catalyst Fund money to regional development authorities …”

Some lawyers might call that money laundering. That’s how Reid doles out favors to his cronies, too.

Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers is the only announced Republican candidate for the seat.

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, the Lincoln County Record and the Sparks Tribune — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

What makes Cortez Masto qualified to succeed Harry Reid?

Catherine Cortez Masto seeking Democratic nomination to replace Harry Reid in Senate. (R-J file photo)

Former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto has become the first Democrat to announce her candidacy for Harry Reid’s Senate seat and Harry has already endorsed her. It was in all the papers, along with everything you need to know about her merits and demerits — well, not quite.

As it turns out, a couple of the people being touted as potential Republican candidates for the seat figure into those demerits.

On March 24, 2010, Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons sent Democrat AG Cortez Masto a letter directing her to file suit challenging the constitutionality of ObamaCare. She immediately fired back a letter saying such action would be frivolous and refusing to do so.

She wrote:

“Our state constitution creates the Office of the Attorney General as a separate constitutional officer within the executive branch. The Attorney General is the State’s chief legal officer. Like you I have a responsibility to represent the State’s interests. As such, I must be satisfied in my own professional judgment that the case has merit and should be filed. I also have the responsibility to decide how and when litigation is conducted.”

Well, not exactly. As I wrote at the time, the Nevada Constitution and Nevada Revised Statutes seem to reach a different conclusion as to her authority to refuse the governor’s direct order.

The constitution says:

“The Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Controller, Attorney General, and Superintendent of public instruction shall perform such other duties as may be prescribed by law.”

For the AG, law in NRS 228 states unequivocally:

“Whenever the Governor directs or when, in the opinion of the Attorney General, to protect and secure the interest of the State it is necessary that a suit be commenced or defended in any federal or state court, the Attorney General shall commence the action or make the defense.” (Emphasis added.)

The governor directed. The AG refused.

Another section of NRS 228 reads:

“If the Attorney General neglects or refuses to perform any of the duties required of him or her by law, the Attorney General is guilty of a misdemeanor or is subject to removal from office.” (Again, emphasis added.)

Mark Hutchison

Instead, attorney Mark Hutchison, now the lieutenant governor, was hired pro bono to represent Nevada in the unsuccessful litigation to overturn ObamaCare. He is now being urged to run for Reid’s Senate seat.

An attorney general who refuses to follow the law seems imminently qualified to succeed Harry Reid.

Then there was the criminal indictment by AG Cortez Masto against then-state Treasurer and  later-Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and his chief of staff over alleged mismanagement of a college saving program. No funds were missing but the AG’s office claimed Krolicki was not following state budgeting rules.

A judge dismissed the charges completely and Cortez Masto did not appeal.

But during the prosecution an invitation to a fundraiser for a Democratic opponent of Krolicki for lieutenant governor listed a sponsor of the event as Paul Masto, husband of the attorney general. She denied any wrongdoing and the event was canceled.

Brian Krolicki

Nevada State Republican Party Chairman Chris Comfort said at the time, “Catherine Cortez Masto and her friends are so arrogant that they change a few words on an invite and pretend this is no longer about Catherine Cortez Masto. The event is hosted by Catherine’s husband and Catherine’s top donors, and it underscores her personal and partisan crusade to destroy Brian Krolicki.

“Catherine Cortez Masto’s political stunts continue to erode public trust in her and in the judicial system,” he was quoted as saying.

Another qualification to succeed Harry Reid.

Krolicki also is said to be considering seeking the Republican nomination for Harry Reid’s Senate seat and contemplated a run in 2010.

In announcing her candidacy Cortez Masto also announced her resignation as executive vice chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, a job to which she was appointed only three months ago after being termed out as attorney general.

She was appointed without benefit of a national search to a job that had been vacant for five years and paid a salary of $215,000, far more than her pay as an elected official, even though she had no experience in higher education.

Was it merely a ploy to keep her nose in the public trough until some elective office opened up?

Further showing her liberal bona fides, while serving as executive vice chancellor, Cortez Masto testified before a legislative panel against a bill that would allow concealed carry permit holders to carry their weapons on college campuses.

“AB148 is overly broad,” Cortez Masto testified. “This is a solution in search of a problem,” adding that guns on campus would have a chilling effect on academic freedom.

Another qualification to succeed Reid, who claims to support the Second Amendment, while voting consistently to curb those rights.

Even though Article 8, Section 9 of the Nevada Constitution states: “The State shall not donate or loan money, or its credit, subscribe to or be, interested in the Stock of any company, association, or corporation, except corporations formed for educational or charitable purposes,” Cortez Masto opined otherwise when the governor and lawmakers wanted to dole out money to various companies to get them to move operations to Nevada — such as Elon Musk’s SolarCity through a so-called Catalyst Fund. (Billionaire Musk’s Tesla Motors later got more than a billion dollars in tax breaks to build a battery plant near Sparks.)

On three different occasions state officials attempted to get the voters to amend the Constitution make subsidies to companies legal. In 1992, a proposal was nixed by 76.5 percent of the voters. In 1996, 64.8 percent of voters opposed it. By 2000, resistance dwindled to 59.3 percent, but it still failed.

Despite the clear wording of the constitution and the majority of voters, AG Cortez Masto’s opinion on the Catalyst Fund states: “The Nevada Constitution does not prohibit the State from disbursing Catalyst Fund money to regional development authorities that by definition must be local governments, or prohibit local governments from disbursing Catalyst Fund money to companies.”

Some lawyers might call that money laundering. But that’s how Harry doles out favors to his cronies.

 

The only announced Republican candidate for Reid’s seat is Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just feeling the vexation without representation

Assemblyman Wes Duncan

Well there goes my representation in the state Legislature.

First, my Republican state senator, Mark Hutchison, gets elected lieutenant governor, now my Republican Assembly representative, Wes Duncan, gets appointed chief assistant by Attorney General-elect Adam Laxalt.

Who fills those vacancies?

Of course, the all-Democrat Clark County Commission. There is an online application form to apply for Hutchison’s seat, and I suppose there will be one for Duncan.

I would be tempted to apply, but with all the things I’ve written over the past 40-plus years, I’d probably get Ira Hansened.

What is wrong with this picture?

So, the Clark County Commission, made up exclusively of seven Democrats, will be the arbiter of who gets appointed to fill the unexpired term of Republican state Sen. Mark Hutchison, who was elected lieutenant governor on Tuesday. Oh, they must name a Republican who lives in the district.

According to the Las Vegas newspaper account, Democratic Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak says he will seek input from Republican state Sen. Mike Roberson and Democratic Commissioner Larry Brown, whose commission district covers Hutchison’s state Senate District 6.

Rebplican Mark Hutchison’s senate seat must be filled by the all-Democrat county commission. (R-J photo by Sam Morris, formerly of the Sun)

Sisolak was quoted as saying that he would not choose an appointee based on how that person would vote, but on being a member of the community and life experience.

How quaint. I wonder how the rest of the commissioners will evaluate candidates.

The news story mentions two people as potential candidates for the post, Wes Duncan, a Republican who was just re-elected to a second term in the Assembly from District 37, and Chris Collins, executive director of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association.

To twist a phrase borrowed from Harry Reid, I don’t know how a union guy can be a Republican.

In fact, one of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s supposed priorities is collective bargaining reform. Might be harder to do with a fox in the hen house.

Just for a little perspective on the choices here, NPRI rated Duncan fourth most conservative member of the 2013 Legislature, while Hutchison was the least conservative Republican — although NPRI did not use the term “conservative,” that’s how it worked out.

Hutchison voted for the bill that forces NV Energy to close its coal-fired plants and replace the power with expensive new plants, including overpriced renewables. Duncan voted nay.

The commission is taking applications for the senate seat appointment.

Hmmmm, I have lived in Senate District 6 for 15 years, but just in case the commissioners were to promote Duncan from the Assembly to the Senate and would need to fill Duncan’s seat, I also live in Assembly District 37.  A member of the community and life experience?

Carson City in January? Brrrr.

 

Rural Nevada voters help paint the state red

It may have been a Republican rout across Nevada,  but it was voters in rural counties who turned out in greater numbers and helped turn the state Republican red.

While turnout in Clark County, where more than two-thirds of the state’s population resides, was only 41 percent, turnout in many rural counties topped 60 percent, hitting 83 percent in Lander and 80 percent Eureka.

The dreaded mining tax constitutional amendment, Question 2, which would have removed the 5 percent cap on the net proceeds tax on minerals, went down to defeat by less than a percentage point, or 3,300 votes. The measure won with 56 percent of the vote in Clark County, where the state’s largest newspaper, the Review-Journal, endorsed passage of the amendment, but was defeated by huge margins in the rural counties, where most newspapers editorially opposed the change. Voters opposed the measure by more than 80 percent in Elko, Esmeralda, Eureka, Lander and White Pine counties.

Brian Sandoval

The rural counties also played a role in the Republican sweep of statewide offices on the ballot — Brian Sandoval for governor, Mark Hutchison for lieutenant governor, Adam Laxalt for attorney general, Barbara Cegavske for secretary of state, Ron Knecht for controller and Dan Schwartz for treasurer.

Sandoval, Hutchison, Schwartz and Knecht won in every county, despite the fact Schwartz’s opponent was endorsed by the Reno and Las Vegas newspapers and despite the fact Knecht’s opponent for backed by the Reno paper.

Adam Laxalt

Barbara Cegavske

The biggest difference made by the rurals may have been the somewhat surprising win of newcomer Laxalt over 12-year Secretary of State Ross Miller by less than 1 percentage point statewide. Democrat Miller carried the endorsement of the Las Vegas and Reno newspapers and won in Clark by 6 points and in Washoe by less than 2 points. Laxalt won most of the others counties with double-digit margins, by more than 52 points in Eureka, by 44 points in Lincoln and Elko counties.

Cegavske won in every county expect Washoe and Mineral.

The Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, Lincoln County Record, Eureka Sentinel, Mineral County Independent-News and Mesquite Local News — endorsed the Republican slate, except for Sandoval whose race was never in doubt.

Dan Schwartz

Cresent Hardy

Another race that many considered an upset was determined by rural voters — Congressional District 4, in which Democrat freshman incumbent Steven Horsford was defeated by Mesquite Republican Cresent Hardy by nearly 3 percentage points.

In the portion of Clark County in the district Horsford, who was endorsed by the Las Vegas newspaper, won by less than 2 points. Hardy carried Mineral by only 1 point, but won by double digits in the rest of the counties — 46 points in Esmeralda, 51 in Lincoln, 37 in Lyon, 21 in Nye and 30 in White Pine.

In a reversal of fortunes, Republicans now control majorities in both the state Assembly and Senate, taking 25 Assembly seats and leaving Democrats with just 17. All the Democrats in the Legislature are from either Clark or Washoe. None is from a rural county.

So, yes, your votes counted.

Ron Knecht

Lieutenant governor race will be one to watch

Sue Lowden

Mark Hutchison

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This could get interesting.

A month ago Mark Hutchison, the governor’s hand-picked candidate for lieutenant governor, spoke to the Nevada Republican Men’s Club. On Monday his Republican primary opponent Sue Lowden — though there may be others yet to announce — spoke to the same group.

Shall we say, the two have some differences?

A month ago Hutchison explained that he voted for SB123 — which prematurely closes coal-fired power plants and orders NV Energy to build new plants that will use natural gas and renewables, such as wind and solar — after talking to members of the power company board of directors who supported the bill and have a fiduciary responsibility to operate the company properly. He indicated the Obama administration would have shut the coal plants soon anyway.

On Monday Lowden said she would have opposed the bill because it will increase electricity rates, while mentioning this country has 300 years worth of coal in the ground.

Lowden also announced strong support for legislation that would allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry those weapons on college and university campuses, noting that Hutchison declined to sign on as a sponsor to such a bill in this past session. But in hearings Hutchison did question why campuses should be off-limits for concealed carry any more than any other location and voted for the bill, which died in an Assembly committee.

The issue that may resonate most outside of Clark County is Hutchison’s joining five other Republicans to put forth a measure to raise taxes on the mining industry. A month ago Hutchison told the audience he did so simply to counter the margins tax being put on next November’s ballot by the Nevada State Education Association. He said that tax would destroy businesses and kill jobs, and his mining tax support was a tactical move to head off the far worse margins tax.

On the margins tax, both candidates agree it is dreadful. Lowden said it is already affecting jobs because companies will not move operations to Nevada in fear that margins tax might be approved by voters. But she slammed Hutchison’s mining tax proposal and promised to oppose all tax increases.

Run, Harry, run

Harry Reid, 73, has told Politico he is definitely running for re-election in 2016.

He even was quoted on the possibility of Gov. Brian Sandoval — who he recommended for his federal judgeship that he gave up to run for governor — running against him. “Hey listen, if he wants to run midterm, let him,” Reid told Politico. “I would remind him and everybody else that doesn’t work very well. Anytime anyone who is a governor leaves midterm, it just doesn’t work very well.”

Run, Harry, run

Reid’s pal Richard Bryan did just that in 1988. He served two terms and his lieutenant governor, Bob Miller, served for 10 years as governor. Both are Democrats.

Politico asked Reid if he was bluffing about seeking re-election, and he said, “I guarantee you that I haven’t spent all that money [just] to show strength during the shutdown. To have a campaign operation that I have is not easy.” Reid recently has done fundraisers in Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and Southern California.

The Daily Caller recently called Mark Hutchison’s race for lieutenant governor the most important race you never heard of. The speculation is that Sandoval hand picked Hutchison to step in the governorship when he runs and defeats Harry Reid in 2016, half way through his second term. The Daily Caller pointed out Sandoval has high approval ratings, especially among Hispanics.

Maybe it is time to revise that old bipartisan bumper sticker that was suggested for Hillary Clinton. It would say: “Run, Harry, run.” Democrats would put it on the back bumper, while Republicans would put it on the front.

bumpersticker