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Dennis Myers: The California ‘issue’ in this campaign year

In 2017, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was speaking in Las Vegas. Seated with him was Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who was warming up to run for governor.

In his remarks, Sessions said, “Removing criminals like these from our streets makes Nevada safer. It would make Los Angeles and San Francisco safer, if they would do it.”

In covering the speech, a Los Angeles reporter wrote a story that was headlined, “Jeff Sessions has a message for Nevada: Don’t be California.”

A light apparently went on over Adam Laxalt’s head. If, in running for governor, he ran against California, he would not have to talk about real issues like economic development or state budgets that would expose his total lack of experience in fiscal matters, akin to Jim Gibbons’ lack of budgetary credentials when HE became governor.

But I don’t think Laxalt was the first one to use the anti-California device. It was Dennis Hof, who – in responding to an anti-brothel petition – ran newspaper ads that read in part, “Keep California out.”

Hof was still using that pitch, as with his “Make Nevada Nevada again” ads for a rally a few days ago prior to his death this week.

Anyway, soon the Laxalt/Hof ticket’s anti-California strategy was in play. Laxalt talked about California laws on things like plastic straws and transgender bathrooms, anecdotes that overlooked the fact that some of those laws had not even been enacted yet, only proposed.

In this, Laxalt was following Sessions’ example. Sessions had compared California unfavorably to Nevada on crime and used anecdotes to make his point. Sessions had to do it that way because California and Nevada’s actual crime rates did not support his argument.

With murder and larceny/theft, California has higher rates. With rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and car theft, Nevada has higher rates. The two states are near to each other on crime rates.

Thus the need for anecdotes.

Move beyond anecdotes to, you know – actual EVIDENCE, and Nevada doesn’t look all that good, nor California that bad. Consider, for instance, the rankings of the two states for teen pregnancy, pollution, tobacco use, tobacco-related death, alcohol- and drug-related death, firearms death, homicide against women, rate of working people in poverty, dropout rate (at both high-school and college levels), health care costs.

Cradle to grave, Nevada’s poor quality of life causes people to DIE sooner! From higher toxic release rates or more infectious diseases or our state and local governments’ weak responses, the result is Californians get about three more years of life expectancy than Nevadans.

Do Californians pay more in taxes? Sure. But just what is the survival of an infant worth? California has a 4.2 percent rate of infant mortality compared to 5.7 in Nevada, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And Nevada has a far higher rate of suicide by senior citizens and a higher rate of suicide generally.

Laxalt promises to preserve this Nevada way of life of ours. Thanks a bunch, dude.

Dennis Myers is an award-winning journalist who has reported on Nevada’s capital, government and politics for several decades. He has also served as Nevada’s chief deputy secretary of state.

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