Presidential candidates praise Reid, make pitch to potential caucus goers

Presidential candidates Deval Patrick, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden, Tom Steyer, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang at the Nevada Democratic Party's "First in the West" even Nov. 17, (Photo: Michael Lyle)

Winning Iowa doesn’t matter as much as people think according to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Neither does winning New Hampshire. 

Nevada on the other hand is a better indicator to test the longevity of candidates.

“Nevada is a diverse state, first in the West and representative of the rest of the country,” he said in a press briefing ahead of the Nevada Democratic Party’s First in the West dinner Sunday. “I think the press makes a bigger deal out of Iowa or New Hampshire at the detriment of our election.”

mad about harry
Harry Reid held court at the Nevada Democratic Party’s “First in the West” event Nov. 17. (Photo: Michael Lyle)

Reid, alongside hundreds of potential caucus goers, attended Sunday’s First in the West dinner to learn why presidential candidates should have their vote on Feb. 22 and also why Nevada matters to them.

Fourteen presidential candidates including U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former U.S. Housing and Urban Development secretary Julian Castro, U.S. Rep. John Delaney, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, U.S. Sen Amy Klobuchar, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Admiral Joe Sestak, philanthropist Tom Steyer U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, entrepreneur Andrew Yang attended.

Though the candidates touted their health care proposals, immigration reform plans and ideas to rebuild the middle class, the most common thread among the majority of candidates during the evening was their love for Reid himself.  

Klobuchar called him a “humble senator who never forgets where he came from and always served with home in mind.”

“God, do we wish we had Harry Reid back as the majority leader of the Senate,” Sanders said.

Booker, whose father died in Las Vegas after retiring here, recounted the time Reid visited his dad in the hospital. “When Harry Reid comes to the hospital, people respond,” Booker said. 

Even though he talked with press at length about the significance, or lack thereof, of Iowa and New Hampshire, both Booker and Bennett, who took questions from the press after their speeches, declined to weigh in when asked about changing the order of states. 

In an interview, Castro, who had previously called for the order to be changed so that more diverse states vote earlier, reiterated his position, saying the current process comes at the expense of people of color, the backbone of the Democratic Party. 

Castro used his time to speak about overlooked aspects of Nevada such as the homeless who live in the storm drains below Las Vegas as well as tribal communities. (He mentioned he would be visiting the Anaconda Copper Mine Monday to learn more about how the contaminated groundwater is hurting the community.)

Other popular topics candidates brought up during speeches included strengthening the middle class and supporting unions.

When promoting his plan “Medicare for All Who Want It,” Buttigieg referenced the Culinary Union. “If you are a culinary worker and negotiated a plan you like you oughta have the option to keep it,” he said.

A few candidates made references to unions, though Warren talked specifically about making it easier for people to join unions.

“Wall Street didn’t build America, the middle class did,” Biden said. “And labor built the middle class.” 

They all stressed the importance of beating Donald Trump, but diverged on the fight to get there. 

“The risk of nominating someone who can’t beat Trump is a world our children and grandchildren won’t want to live in,” Biden said. 

Sanders, again, called for a revolution while Warren called for sweeping anti-corruption legislation. 

“We are not going to change things by a nibble here and a little bit of a change over there,” Warren said. “We are going to do it with big structural changes.”

Buttigieg, who warned of an already polarized nation being tired of fighting, focused on the importance of uniting the nation.

Recent polls in Iowa put Buttigieg in the lead with Warren and Sanders not far behind and Biden in the lead in Nevada. But Reid, who won’t endorse until after the caucus, said the polls don’t matter.

Any one of the candidates who spoke has a chance to win, he said, including late entries. 

The dinner was the first time Patrick addressed an audience since announcing his campaign late last week. He said he wouldn’t go through the nomination process, and put his family through it, if he didn’t think a path was feasible. 

“It’s not a fool’s errand and I wouldn’t be running if it was,” Patrick said speaking to the press. 

No matter who wins, Reid called for party unity and urged voters to get behind the winner.

Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years.  He started his career at View Neighborhood News, the community edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During his seven years with the R-J, he won several first place awards from the Nevada Press Association and was named its 2011 Journalist of Merit. He left the paper in 2017 and spent a year as a freelance journalist accumulating bylines anywhere from The Washington Post to Desert Companion. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues. Born and mostly raised in Las Vegas, Lyle graduated from UNLV with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. He is currently working on his master's in Communications through an online program at Syracuse University. In his spare time, Lyle cooks through Ina Garten recipes in hopes of one day becoming the successor to the Barefoot Contessa throne. When he isn’t cooking (or eating), he also enjoys reading, running and re-watching episodes of “Parks and Recreation.” He is also in the process of learning kickboxing.