Ralston works the GOP

The ups and downs of partisan politics, the lasting effects of terrorism on tourism and the inevitability of nuclear waste coming to Yucca Mountain were among the topics bandied about by Nevada political columnist and pundit Jon Ralston at a gathering of Northern Nevada Republicans last week.

Ralston warned party members that they might face some serious challenges in next year’s elections for state assembly.

“I think there is an outside chance that the Republicans will have a caucus in the single digits,” Ralston said, explaining that Democrats will likely pick up more seats due to newly drawn district lines and GOP incumbents deciding not to run. “Who wants to be in a caucus that can meet in a phone booth?”

Ralston spoke at the Reno Republican Roundtable’s monthly dinner at the Silver Club Hotel-Casino in Sparks. Ralston, whose weekly column runs in both the Reno Gazette-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun, had some pretty dire predictions for the state’s Democrats as well.

“I think the Democrats have very little chance of winning any of the state’s constitutional offices,” he said, noting that Republican incumbents will likely hold their seats.

Ralston said the recent terrorist attacks could also be a factor in whom voters decide should fill Nevada’s new congressional seat—a contest he says that will be one of five targeted races by both parties.

He described the leading Republican contender in the race, state Sen. Jon Porter of Boulder City, as being perceived as “boring, but stable” and the leading Democrat, Clark County Commissioner Dario Herrera, as “dynamic, but a little unstable.”

“This is the one race where you could see a possible effect of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks,” he said. “When [voters] have to choose between someone who is boring instead of some who is dynamic, but a little unstable, [they] will go for the boring one.”

Ralston discussed nuclear waste policy in Nevada briefly, in response to a question from the audience. He predicted that the U.S. Dept. of Energy will be successful in its efforts to place a high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, located about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

In the face of that inevitability, Ralston said, debate should begin over the state receiving federal benefits for storing the nuclear material. However, he noted that if the state does seek out federal benefits for the project, it might signal “implied consent.” Then again, if leaders don’t attempt to get something for Nevada, they could face repercussions down the road.

"Voters might take it out on the state’s political leaders if they find out that they could have gotten money for the nuclear waste," he said.