Lethargy is the leading candidate

Nevada’s 2014 elections are shaping up to be the most apathetic in memory.

Few activists work the phones or the doors, there are barely any TV commercials, and the feature contest in the ho-hum cycle is a governor’s race that is embarrassingly one-sided. In Northern Nevada, there are no competitive state Senate races and only one slightly contested Assembly match-up.

There’s also a general feeling that it doesn’t much matter who controls the Legislature anyway, since nothing ever gets done to solve Nevada’s most pressing problem, an unreliable and outdated revenue structure. Arguing over the crumbs is discouraging and depressing.

Many Republican candidates, including the governor, have wised up and are no longer spouting the Tea Party anti-everything philosophy. Instead, they’re going out of their way to cultivate women, gays and young people, although not very successfully—yet.

Democrats, on the other hand, should be worried that disillusioned and unsatisfied voters are not motivated to actively support a legislative candidate slate that seems to have lost its vision, succumbing to a so-called bipartisan go-along and get-along approach that mostly gets things done the governor’s way.

Senate Democrats produced nothing but talk on taxes last session, except for a rightly ridiculed feeble attempt to “study” the revenue structure for the umpteenth time, a bill that was quickly submitted and withdrawn in the waning days of the session. But when the Democratic senators refused to take a vote on the sex education bill promoted by progressives, while finding plenty of time to push a so-called “freedom of religion” bill taking away individual rights, they alienated progressives to the point that some are wondering if losing the Senate to the Republicans this year would be such a disaster.

At least chameleon Republican floor leader Michael Roberson of Clark County ensured the passage of Senate Joint Resolution 15 to finally eliminate the sweetheart tax protections enjoyed by the mining industry—Question 2 on November’s ballot. You never know which of Roberson’s multiple political personalities will show up at a legislative session, but there’s no doubt he will lead.

And then we had the Tesla special session where Senate Democrats’ biggest battle was not over school funding or prevailing wage but outrage over the governor’s decision to move $70 million in Hollywood subsidies to Tesla, decimating the Democrats’ signature corporate giveaway program. Never mind the film subsidy hasn’t produced many jobs, and multiple studies show it costs more than it earns, the Democrats put up a noisy fight for it—and quickly lost. They did wring a promise from the governor to “talk” about those subsidies early in the 2015 session.

One thing no one wanted to talk about during the giga-giveaway session—we’re already at least $120 million short going into the new biennium.

But progressives won’t be voting Republican and the Democratic leadership knows it. The real danger is that the disillusioned base and the growing number of independent voters decide to sit this one out, allowing conservative voters to sway the outcome in races for lieutenant governor, secretary of state, and attorney general, where the choices couldn’t be clearer.

Nevada’s destiny really depends upon the most important item on the ballot this year—Question 3, the Education Initiative. Most elected Democrats have panned it, missing the opportunity to motivate their base with a ready-made economic populist issue to make corporations finally pay their share to fund our schools.

The margins tax isn’t perfect, but legislators can adjust it in three years. If it fails, we’ll have to depend on the 2015 Legislature to come up with a better solution. There’ll be a lot more talk, but reaching a 2/3 consensus on anything of significance is unlikely, given our history.

Early voting begins Oct. 18. Nevada’s future is up to you.