Robert Redford starred in a movie in the 1970s called The candidate, in which he described a candidate running on a simplified message written by his campaign managers. He eventually wins, and the film famously ends with Redford’s character asking his campaign adviser, “What do we do now?”
It’s easy to imagine Joe Lombardo asking the same question after the results showed he was elected governor of Nevada on Friday night.
In The candidate, the star was Redford. In Lombardo’s campaign, the star was his sheriff’s uniform. The most important specific policy offered by Lombardo as a candidate concerned his signature issue – crime – and called for the repeal of the productive but light-hearted criminal justice reforms passed by Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Steve Sisolak (even though , contrary to Lombardo’s claims, there is no credible evidence correlating these reforms with an increase in crime).
The core of Lombardo’s education program is to establish a voucher program to spend public money on private schools.
His housing policy, as expressed in his debate with Sisolak, is that local governments give land to the development industry for free.
His economic policy, as portrayed during the campaign, is a runoff and mumbles about being “for” economic development.
Besides the repeal of a good but somewhat minor piece of legislation enacted under his predecessor, if there is a unifying theme underlying Lombardo’s entire political agenda, it is a profound lack of detail.
The odds that the major policies he vaguely proposed during the campaign will be enacted into state law are twofold: big and slim.
When Lombardo is inaugurated, Democrats will control both houses of the state legislature. Barring anything bizarre, they will continue to control both houses after the 2024 election. That is, the Democrats will control the Legislative Assembly throughout the next four years of a Lombardo administration.
Certainly, history suggests that the ability of Nevada Democrats to make bad deals with a Republican governor should never be underestimated, especially if powerful vested interests weigh in on the governor’s side. After the 2022 election, some people will be tempted to wonder if Nevada is a red state, a blue state, or a purple state. Meanwhile, Nevada has always been a transactional state.
But maybe the Democrats will convince Lombardo to do some good business with them. Following the death of George Floyd, Lombardo spoke eloquently about the virtue of redirecting law enforcement funding to social service programs, and lamented that the police are the first responders to mental health in the United States. Maybe the Democrats can tap into this Lombardo, and find resources to improve mental health services in Nevada. For instance.
The most likely scenario, it seems, is that a divided state government means Lombardo’s administration will be characterized by small-scale budget fights and, at best, only addressing the most pressing priorities of the State will result in little more than standing still.
Which is actually better than the alternative in the form of Republicans controlling the Legislative Assembly and teaming up with a Republican Governor to roll back the state.
When it comes to the workings of state administration, thank goodness the Democrats defeated the trio of Republican curiosities running for Treasurer, Attorney General, and Secretary of State. Lombardo must be so relieved to know that he won’t have to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get Michele Fiore, Sigal Chattah and Jim Marchant to engage in healthy behavior.
But especially in a state that foolishly insists on a part-time legislature like it’s a Dakota or another, a governor has a lot of authority to shape policy directly. For example, do you think Nevada’s environmental regulatory apparatus and procedures are now business-friendly? Wait until the development and extraction industries start seriously listening to Lombardo. And of course, implementing resort industry guidelines is something Lombardo is already familiar with, with the job of Clark County Sheriff being an upper middle management position in that industry.
As noted by Sisolak’s harshest critics of the pandemic, sometimes fairly (clumsy administration of unemployment benefits) and sometimes not (sinning on the excess of saving lives), governors can do a lot by themselves. themselves.
And that raises the specter of a wild card: The national political climate appears calmer this week than it was last week, after Republicans failed to hit Democrats as promised. But while some Republicans are supposed to be rethinking right now – “fever has fallen” is the prevailing media cliché – the pattern of the past few years is that invariably and inevitably their tail will return to the default position – between their legs – and they moan at Trump. And if we learned anything about Lombardo during the campaign, it’s that he’s incapable of sustained resistance to Trump and Trumpism.
But hopefully we won’t have to worry about any of that, and Lombardo’s administration won’t be creepy or pernicious, but will simply be what currently seems the most likely scenario: banal.
This column originally appeared in the Daily Current newsletter, which you can subscribe to here.