What about Rory Reid?

Gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid likes fly-fishing. He saw a U2 concert last year. He attends Sundance Film Fests. I hear he’s a Democrat with a sense of humor so he can’t object to my observation that he resembles a middle-aged Harry. Not Harry Reid. Harry Potter.

Trying to distance himself from Papa Reid, Son Reid campaigns for Nevada governor simply as Rory. In Reno, we don’t hear much about him.

Rory’s lighter side emerged when he debated a cardboard cutout of Republican opponent Brian Sandoval at a political event in August. His point? Sandoval, invited, wouldn’t show up to debate. Clever? Maybe. But not while our state’s economy gasps for life on the operating table.

We need money.

I don’t envy Nevada’s next governor. Las Vegas Review-Journal phone polls show Sandoval leading the race. On Facebook, Rory’s page has nearly twice as many “likes”—12,460 to Sandoval’s 6,883 (as of last week).

Looks to me like anyone’s game in November.

Sandoval, born in Redding, Calif., graduated from Reno’s Manogue High. He’s been Nevada’s attorney general. Harry Reid helped Sandoval land a federal judge appointment in 2005. But though we like him in Northern Nevada, he’s not the best choice for governor. Sandoval’s rigid anti-tax stance is unrealistic. His response to recent budget shortfalls—ax programs and punish public employees by cutting wages and benefits—sounds too familiar. Remember Jim Gibbons? Sandoval’s too close for comfort.

Full disclosure: I am a public employee whose salary’s been cut. That’s painful. But the long-term impact is the real bugger. Nevada will lose the best and brightest. “Smart teachers are looking for a job somewhere else,” a UNR education instructor recently told me.

We’ve liposuctioned every ounce of excess from the state budget. We’ve cut into flesh. We’ve hit bone. I think Nevadans can stomach discussion about funding public services that improve our lives. Sadly, neither candidate has got the gonads for honest tax talk.

Rory boasts that, as chairman of the Clark County Commission, he’s managed a budget bigger than the state’s general fund. The budget’s been balanced for seven years—without raising taxes. Well, good. I don’t think it hurts Rory that Papa Harry (sure to be reelected, right?) possesses the clout of U.S. Senate majority leader and has access to the fed’s fat checkbook.

Sandoval doesn’t have comparable budget experience or family ties. He talks about school vouchers and privatizing aspects of public school education. School choice sounds nifty, and I’m a fan of Nevada charter schools. But I get nervous over the potential of voucher plans to line the pockets of for-profit education companies. Does Halliburton have a plan to drill the kindergarten crowd? Kiddie U. of Phoenix anyone?

I’ll vote for Rory but not because he’s running a savvy campaign. Debating a cardboard Sandoval? Yawn. Worse: Rory’s recent smoke-and-mirrors campaign ad.

The ad cobbles together half-assed attacks on Sandoval for such flaws as changing his mind on Arizona’s dismal anti-immigration laws. Sandoval supported Arizona’s campaign against illegal immigrants then changed his mind after angry responses from Nevada Hispanics. Sandoval said he would not push for similar measures here.

Sandoval abandoned a dimwitted idea at the behest of the people. That’s good, right? Are we to infer from the ad that Rory would support Arizona-style xenophobia? Really?

Maybe voters crave baffling negative ads. Perhaps the Harry Potter look could work for Rory. A skilled propagandist might link wizards and wands with jobs and schools in a magical tax-free wonderland.

End the fantasy. Nevada’s gambling-fueled free ride is over. We need money.