Last week’s primary election with its record-low voter turnout still shook a few things loose in Carson City. One of the more interesting results came out of Las Vegas, where the Democratic Lee, who represented North Las Vegas, was surprisingly ousted from seeking re-election for not being liberal enough. According to political reporter Anjeanette Damon, who abandoned that other daily newspaper in town in favor of reporting with just about every other print and TV news outlet in Nevada, Lee had the money, the backing of the state’s most powerful Democrat in Sen. Harry Reid and an unknown, unfunded opponent. However, in the end, Lee also didn’t have the votes it took to win.
Turns out his opponent, Patricia Spearman, only raised a few thousand dollars but with the support of environmentalists, gay rights advocates, advocates for more government funding and an energetic campaign, she came out victorious. According to Damon’s article in the Las Vegas Sun, liberals were motivated to oust Lee after the last legislative session, when he pushed a controversial bill to allow guns on college campuses and succeeded in pushing through another bill that could pave the way for more development around Lake Tahoe.
There you have it! Any politician worth his salt knows you don’t mess with the jewel in Nevada’s crown. And you especially don’t mess with people who have too much political angst and too much time on their hands.
Elections are all about momentum. For political challengers, elections are about creating a groundswell of momentum by pushing people’s buttons (whatever those may be) and inspiring them to vote on the basis of making some kind of change. For incumbents, elections are about stopping challengers from gaining that momentum and then convincing every other voter to let them keep the job because, well, it’s just easier that way.
We’ve seen quite a bit of that momentum from the conservative side of the spectrum, in the form of the so-called Tea Party movement. Those folks have been fairly quiet lately, but I assume they will again show signs of life now that campaign season is picking up steam headed into November. But folks on the liberal side can be just as pissed off, meaning they can also stir the pot at the ballot box. In the case of poor Sen. Lee, it seems he angered the tree-hugging, peace-loving, same-sex-marrying crowd. As I pictured him losing his seat because of his support of expanding development at Lake Tahoe, I pictured Lee going out in a little boat for some friendly afternoon fishing with a fellow Democrat he thought was his friend. Then, like that classic scene in “The Godfather: Part II,” a shot rings out and Lee slumps over, his body sliding silently into the crystal blue water, his demise orchestrated by his own family.
I worry a little when an elected official is voted out rather than voted in. It makes me wonder if an otherwise qualified representative is being punished unfairly. It also makes me wonder if the new person is really the best choice, or if he or she is just different. But, after all, this was just the primary, so we’ll see if that momentum has any traction when the campaigning gets really dirty and when the rest of the voters show up to the polls.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to settle some business with the family.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.