On Valentine's Day, my love letter to Nevada politics




On this Valentine’s Day, with apologies to my wife, I must send greetings to my longest love affair.

I refer, of course, to my undying ardor for Nevada politics, which has more ups and downs in a year than most three-decade marriages but never ceases to excite and exhilarate as happy unions are supposed to do.

The thrill is never gone.

Just look what we have enjoyed together in our 26-plus-year match made in heaven. Indeed, it was love at first sight.

Back in 1986, when the relationship began, you gave me Harry Reid’s first run for the U.S. Senate. It was a race filled with twists and turns, presidential visits and national attention. Harry made fewer gaffes back then, but his Machiavellian penchant was already on display.

Two years later, still feeling like a newlywed, you gave me Chic Hecht vs. Dick Bryan for the U.S. Senate. Bryan had to defend flying in a private jet – it actually was a state plane. And Hecht – oh the joy! – was a human gaffe machine, as the Wall Street Journal called him. He told me Martin Luther King wasn’t dead long enough to deserve a federal holiday.

Up in Carson City, you introduced me to legends such as Bill Raggio, Joe Dini and Marvin Sedway. And of course, the incomparable Adele’s, where all of the action happened and many a deal was consummated in the dim lighting.

Ah, memories, like the corners of my mind in a corner at Adele’s.

Then came the ‘90s, and we couldn’t have been happier together.

A car saleswoman named Jan Jones became mayor.  She once flipped me off in the hallway for something I wrote. She later ran for governor and always kept things interesting.

Bob Miller became the longest serving governor in state history – 10 years. That’s longer than most marriages, right? And Miller is the only Nevada politician who ever asked me to step outside after he didn’t like something I wrote. Aren't you surprised there haven’t been more?

1998 brought us our most memorable year up until that time. The Harry Reid-John Ensign race was epic. I still remember so vividly the veteran senator scoffing that the telegenic veterinarian had no business interpreting the Constitution. The race was agonizingly close – Reid won by 428 votes, and there was a recount. But it was short-circuited by a secretary of state by the name of Dean Heller, who just yesterday was sitting in Reid’s office as his fellow senator.

God I love you, Nevada politics.

The end of that decade brought us a gift named Oscar Goodman, the blustering egomaniac who chewed up more scenery than Jim Carrey ever could and threatened to sue me. I had so much effect on Oscar with my critical columns that he became the most popular elected official in Nevada history.

As our marriage crossed the millennium, it only grew better and stronger. Operation G-Sting – what a name! – caused a buzz in Southern Nevada as county commissioners went to prison over low-level bribes from a strip club boss. It was seedy. It was sordid. It was salacious. It was so….Vegas.

And speaking of the three S’s, we also had Jim Gibbons. A candidate accused of taking a bribe, assaulting a cocktail waitress and harboring an illegal nanny. A governor disregarded by his own party, caught texting another woman hundreds of times, defeated in a primary by a federal judge who stepped down to run against him.

Oh, the times we had together.

Soon, Nevada was ascending to the national stage, thanks to Reid’s influence and his ability to put the focus on us as a swing state. We were able to score national politicians for the television program and the beltway media devoured all things Nevada. Your depraved beauty brought presidential debates to the state and scored me gigs on national programs.

We were having the time of our lives, my love.

And how was I to know the best was yet to come. Yes, 2010 was our year together we will never forget. The ever-present Reid showed his true ruthless colors by essentially picking his opponent from a crowded Republican primary. After so-called Chicken Sue was dispatched, we got the incomparable Sharron Angle. From Second Amendment remedies to Hispanics who looked more Asian to her, she spiced up our life as no one had before.

Oh, how I have missed her.

And of course there was John Ensign again, more than a decade later, making news by having an affair with his best friend's wife who was also his wife's best friend. That description just never gets old. He stubbornly stuck around for a couple of years befroe succumbing to the inevitable, before the ethics guillotine came down. What a spectacle we enjoyed together.

And still we are discovering new things about each other so late in our relationship. The 2012 presidential race and the Dean Heller-Shelley Berkley nail-biter poured new life into our marriage. The national attention has continued, and you have made me feel as if we could go on forever.

I have left out so much, my sweet Valentine. All of the characters, the smart and the daffy, the straight and the crooked, the wild and the wonderful. But through it all, I have never been bored, am still constantly amazed (hello, Steven Brooks) and am as much in love – or more so – than that day in 1986 when we first met.

Unto death do we part.