Election 2010: Nevada sends message to Harry Reid

By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 5:08 PM

Win or lose, Harry Reid is not a beloved Nevadan.

Voters streaming steadily into John W. Bonner Elementary School in Summerlin, west of the Las Vegas Strip, ranged from equivocal to outright hostile when asked their view of the Senate majority leader - even the ones who voted for him.

"I don't want Harry Reid anywhere near us ever again!" said Deborah Graham, a real estate broker who said her livelihood has suffered mightily during the recession of the past two years - a recession that has hit Nevada harder than any other state. "He has destroyed our business. He has destroyed our lives. He's made too many side-room deals with banks and other legislators. He's supported every bank amendment that ever came down the pike. He always supports the big guys, and the little guys are left swimming."

Graham, 56, and her husband, Manuel Gonzales, 71, a retired Army officer, are registered Republicans who have never voted for Reid. But even longtime Reid supporters said they voted for Republican Sharron Angle because of their fears about the economy and their uncertainty about the future.

"I went for the tea party!" said Linda Pearson, 50, a housekeeper who sounded as though she surprised even herself with her vote.

A first-time voter in 2008, when she cast her ballot for Barack Obama, Pearson moved to Las Vegas two years ago from California but is scared about the soaring jobless rates in the city's crucial hospitality and construction industries.

"I just think he's been in power quite a long time, and nothing seems to have improved," Pearson said. "I think the whole country is just saying, 'I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.' I know I am."

Pearson didn't know who she was going to vote for until she started walking over to the polling location. "I just prayed on my way here - 'God, please show me who to vote for.' "

The message, she said, was: not Harry Reid.

In some ways, it doesn't much feel like Election Day in Las Vegas. It might be because so many people voted early in Clark County. Voters are straggling steadily but slowly into polling places in elementary schools and libraries across the city, but strict rules about campaign signs at voting locations make the sites hard to pick out.

Graham and Gonzales's antipathy reached a crescendo this year with the devaluation of their home, from $500,000 to less than half that, and the contraction of their real estate brokerage business.

"He's not listening to us," Gonzales said. "He's not listening to the cries of the small businesses as we go under."

Added Graham, a native of Texas: "I've been in Nevada since 1989 - long enough to watch it all happen. Long enough to make $200,000 in one year and $20,000 another. I don't know where else we could go where the economy would be better, where real estate would be better. We're too old to start over. We started over here in 1989, and we were very successful until the last few years."

Even Reid supporter Cathy Durrill, 47, a homemaker and native of Las Vegas, called the senator "the lesser of two evils."

She said she understands why so many voters are compelled to vote against the four-term incumbent - because in deeply personal ways most Nevadans are confronted every day with the state's economic woes. Durrill's husband sells cars, and he has seen car sales drop from 250 per month to 150. Her mother lives next to a home that has been vacant for two years. Durrill's own investment property, in a subdivision not far from the home where she lives with her husband and 12-year-old twins, has a mortgage that's under water.

"I'm going to stick with Reid," Durrill said, almost sheepishly, as she headed into the school. "People blame him for what happened with the economy. But you know, we're a construction-based town. It's not his fault what happened when the construction went away. It's not his fault what the banks did, giving loans they never should have given."

The Washington Post has reporters out in 10 states on Election Day. Follow all the feeds at PostPolitics.

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