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John L. Smith: Is The Dem Governor Much Different Than the GOP Governor?

Associated Press

Gov. Steve Sisolak

100 days in office.

Governor Steve Sisolak, a former Clark County commissioner, passed that milestone last week.

But what’s the difference? People say there's little difference among politicians once they get into office. Republicans are like Democrats and vice versa.

John L. Smith has seen governors come and go over 40 years in Nevada.

The longtime journalist has some interesting observations on the first Democratic governor in more than 20 years.

“His State of the State address was really a clarion call for a lot of progressive issues,” Smith said.

Smith pointed out that Sisolak has a large checkbook to work with, thanks in large part to his predecessor Brian Sandoval. And with those funds, he has laid out goals that are sure to please supporters like the teachers union, along with supporters of public education and renewable energy.

However, Smith does see a point where questions will arise about spending.

“There is no question in my mind that there’s going to be growing concern with the issue of spending," he said, "You have to balance the budget of course but it’s where your priorities are.”

Smith noted that taxes are still low in Nevada and the state runs much leaner than it's neighbor California; however, the state's demographics are changing.

He's doubtful a tax hike will be discussed in this session but with a big vision for the future of the state, there needs to be money.

“Perhaps not in this session, but there is no question in my mind that Governor Sisolak has painted a very big picture of the future of Nevada,” he said.


“Gary was a cool guy. Gary was smart. He was very glib. A very strong writer on deadline. He had a lot of skills. He had a business background. He had worked at Dow Jones as a writer,” Smith said of the former Las Vegas Sun editor and spokesperson for Caesars Entertainment 

Thompson died this past week of prostate cancer. He was 73.

Smith described him as a "first-class reporter," the kind that wasn't always found in newsrooms of Las Vegas 30 years ago.

He was a regular guy with a high intellect, Smith said. He brought that intellect to several stories, including the saga of Judge Harry Claiborne, who was impeached and sent to prison for tax evasion.

Thompson was also a noted poker player, which allowed him to report on the World Series of Poker in a way other reporters couldn't, Smith said.


“These are the kind of people who help really glue the community together when it comes to the humanities. The world is of made up of a lot of business and a lot of technicalities but it is also made up of word people.”

Smith said the Nevada Humanities Committee has been on the front lines of gathering and helping the artists, writers, and poets that make up the humanities community in the state.

The awards this year went to Claytee White, the inaugural director of the Oral History Center at UNLV Libraries Special Collections. 

Smith said when he's researching something - big or small - White is "helpful soul," who is a real contributor to Nevada.

Other awards went to artist and podcaster Justin Favela and Clark County Poet Laureate Vogue Robinson. 

Smith was happy to see a "brand new generation" coming up in Nevada humanities and "doing great things."


“On a good day, you would call it a niche casino. It’s a casino that is about the size of a casino from a couple of generations ago really. It had a limited potential to draw customers to start with.”

Besides its size, Smith said he's not sure "an authentic Asian casino" was an inspired concept. He pointed out that Las Vegas casinos have been marketing to Asian customers for decades and he's not sure the Lucky Dragon's unique experience was much of a draw.

However, if some of the other casinos that had been planned for the north end of the Strip come together or the expanded convention center had come online earlier, "The Lucky Dragon may have had a little better luck," Smith quipped.





John L. Smith, KNPR contributor, Nevada journalist

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.