The Untold Side of the Harry Reid Fracas
As someone who spent 14 years in Henderson, NV and still has a number of connections there, I’ve been watching what’s been said and reported about the canceled firesides for Harry Reid with some amusement. A lot of folks don’t seem to have the slightest clue as to what goes on in Nevada politics, nor have they bothered to find out. Many just charge on down the lane with their opinions despite having a very incomplete view of the picture. If they did, they would walk away with a very different take.
For those of you unaware, a fireside in LDS parlance is basically an optional worship service usually held on Sunday evening after the normal church meetings. Participants are often church leaders, prominent church members, and, from time to time, elected officials. Harry Reid has frequently been the speaker at firesides as long as I can remember. (Bear in mind that he has been a US Senator for 24 years, the US House for 4 years before that, and in the state assembly and gaming commission before that.) And, as far as I can remember, there hasn’t been any controversy during any of those times he’s spoken. So what’s different this time around?
Jim Gibson, that’s what.
Most of you don’t have the slightest clue who Jim Gibson is. If you weren’t from the Las Vegas area, I wouldn’t expect you to. He’s from the prominent Gibson family, a family that has a road named after them on the far edge of the city’s popular Green Valley neighborhood. He served as mayor of Henderson for 12 years and attempted to get the Democratic nomination for governor in 2008, being beaten by long-time State Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus. It also happens that in 2009, after he was no longer mayor of Henderson, he was called as a LDS Area Seventy.
Normally, firesides are promoted with an announcement or two in church meetings and maybe a small poster on the bulletin board. My sources tell me that Elder Gibson was promoting these latest firesides a lot more aggressively, asking members to make it their priority to help plan the events and ensure a high attendance. That’s pretty irregular on it’s own, but that it coincides with an election year in which Harry Reid might be removed from office makes it look even worse.
I don’t know Harry Reid. I’ve never met him. I’m not in any position, personally or ecclesiastically, to make a judgment upon his personal worthiness or moral character. I do know that I disagree strongly with his politics. I also don’t believe him to do a very good job at representing Nevada interests, having shirked the Yucca Mountain fight almost entirely and doing nothing to get back some of the 93% of the state that the feds claim to own. In 2000, he skirted around soft money rules to raise a boatload of campaign cash and in 2006, he was found to be in violation of disclosures involving a shady land deal in Southern Nevada, a deal that netted him a significant amount of money. He talks a lot about his days being raised in Searchlight or graduating from Basic High, but he now spends a lot more of his time outside of the state than in it. I don’t think he has the positions or character to warrant any level of political support from me. Given the expectation that he’s going to lose in November, it sounds like a lot of Nevadans have woken up to it.
I think we can start to get a feel for what might be going on here. Elder Gibson’s political ties to Harry Reid amidst the close election probably pushed him to promote these firesides a lot more aggressively than he ordinarily would have and it probably ended up looking a bit too much like outright electioneering with church resources. That’s a very fine line that the Church likes to stay away from. I’m sure that the folks making outrageous statements about inflicting physical violence upon Brother Reid didn’t help matters at all. (And yeah, I’m pretty sure that most recent Conference talk was directed at you guys.)
This isn’t the first time that LDS Democrats in Nevada have been caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar. Some over-enthusiastic bishops and stake presidents have used member rolls in the past to drum up support for Sen. Reid, playing the MormonCard to drum up support. It’s the same thing often seen here in Utah with LDS Republicans that go over the line, but on the other side of the political spectrum.
Hopefully this provides a bit more illumination as to what is actually happening to one of the Church’s more prominent members. I also hope it provides a bit of pause to those of you who’ve been a little too quick to decide that you really know what’s going on.