Getting to know Jack

Jack Carter, Nevada candidate for U.S. Senate, is the spittin’ image of his former president dad. He hangs out with his wife, Elizabeth, in front of Java Jungle in downtown Reno, chatting with we the people at a recent informal Saturday morning get-together.

Carter looks Nevadan enough in trim-fitting Wranglers and silver belt buckle inlaid with gemstones. He’s running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican John Ensign. Between name recognition and the fact that many Nevadans are fed up with the Republican stranglehold on government, Carter stands a chance.

Paula McDonough of the Reno Anti-War Coalition arrives, armed with questions from last month’s RAWC congressional candidate forum. Most of the candidates with “moneyed” campaigns (funding for radio spots, direct mailings, billboards) didn’t attend. Carter did not.

McDonough, an accountant at a local casino, launches right in.

How ’bout that Iraq War?

Carter supports a firm timeline for troop withdrawal with solid deadlines for Iraqis to make progress toward independent government.

“I’m looking for an excuse to leave, too,” he says. “But I don’t want to be indeterminate.”

Should Congress check executive powers?

Absolutely, Carter tells McDonough. “The president shouldn’t do anything except enforce the law,” he says. Carter’s against wiretapping of citizens but understands that in certain circumstances it might be necessary. If that’s the case, the law requires Congress to authorize the wiretap. One human being with executive power shouldn’t be circumventing the law and running the whole show.

“The problem with one guy running everything is that if he makes a mistake, everyone is screwed,” Carter says.

Carter agrees with the U.S. Supreme Court that those being held in U.S. prisons overseas are covered by the Geneva Convention. They ought to have access to lawyers and speedy trials.

How will we know when the War on Terror is over?

“We’re going at this like we’re the Lone Ranger,” Carter says. “The problem is that we have to foot the bill ourselves and take the consequences ourselves. … We’ve squandered the world’s goodwill. When we make mistakes, we need to rethink our approach—and join with the rest of the world.”

McDonough seems satisfied. She tells Jack that Jimmy Carter is one of her heroes.

Jack Carter knows Nevadans are hesitant over his status as a relative newcomer. The Carters bought a Las Vegas condo in 2002.

Carter enjoys living in Nevada. He thinks he’ll provide a great interface between state residents and lawmakers in Washington, D.C. He enjoys meeting with people, listening to their concerns and taking those ideas to the Capitol.

“I don’t have any ties to anyone,” he says. “I’m an American, and I’m a Nevadan.”

When he and Elizabeth moved to Vegas, he says, they found they shared the attitudes and values cherished by Nevadans, like open-mindedness and independent living.

“We’ve been Nevadans all our lives and just discovered it a few years ago,” he says. “Nevadans like people who are real and who are polite—not arrogant and rude. That’s me.”

Though that last bit may look overly polished, in person Carter delivers his ideas with a warm, improvised feel.

Former Republican Michael Dwyer, a 60-year-old veteran, listens from a chair in the shade. He says he became a Democrat after Bush took office. Republicans aren’t committed to veterans. They’re keeping money in the hands of the rich.

Dwyer likes Jack—"Seems like an honest man"—and liked his father. He’d appreciate someone like Jimmy Carter at the nation’s helm.

“We need somebody intelligent back in the White House,” Dwyer says.