LAS VEGAS — Six-hundred or so of the state’s Democratic party faithful this morning attended their annual state convention at the Bally’s Hotel conference center in Las Vegas. Five-hundred sixty-two delegates were credentialed but about two dozen vendors lined both sides of the room and guests were also welcomed.
Los Angeles Mayor and Democratic National Convention Chairt Antonio Villaraigosa gave the morning keynote address while attendees were still filing in. He spoke passionately about Democratic issues including party support for the DREAM Act and opposition to tighter voter identification laws.
“‘Show me your papers’ cannot become a common refrain heard on our sidewalks or streets,” said Villaraigosa, eliciting loud cheers and applause from the crowd.
Other speakers included State Senate Majority Leader and candidate in Nevada’s new Fourth Congressional District Steven Horsford, Assembly Speaker and candidate in Nevada’s Third Congressional District John Oceguera, former Congresswoman and candidate in Nevada’s First Congressional District Dina Titus and Secretary of State Ross Miller.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Rep. Shelley Berkley both spoke at length and both received an enthusiastic standing ovation that lasted nearly one minute.
“It’s so good to be home. I have been fortunate to be involved in government my whole life,” said Reid in his opening remarks.
Reid said he admired the courage of President Obama for tracking down and killing Osama bin Laden, spearheading health care reform legislation and holding Wall Street accountable for its part in the financial crisis.
Reid criticized Mitt Romney on numerous issues including immigration policy on which he called the presumed Republican nominee “mean-spirited” for his promise to veto the DREAM Act.
While talking to reporters after his speech, Reid also addressed the housing crisis in Nevada. He said there is always more that can be done but that it’s been a tough road for the state.
“Remember where we started. Nevada was the top economic dog for a quarter century and when Wall Street collapsed, we fell farther than anyone else,” said Reid.
The Senate Majority Leader blamed much of the impasse in Congress on the Tea Party in both houses, specifically naming Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as part of the problem.
“People think it’s just the House but forty percent of the Republicans in the Senate are tea party folks,” said Reid. “What McConnell said at the beginning of this Congress is that his number one issue is to defeat Obama so it’s been a struggle to get anything passed.”
Reid also praised the president for pushing for a clean energy economy “that has brought to Nevada thousands of jobs and tens of thousands of jobs to the nation.”
Nevada received just over $1.1 billion in funding for energy and environment-related projects from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) although the number of jobs created is in dispute.
While talking with reporters, Reid also said his pollster shows Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) ahead in the U.S. Senate race in Nevada.
“My pollster that called the Nevada race when no one else did around the country said that I would win by five or six points. I won by five and a half points,” said Reid with a smile. “Right now he has Shelley Berkley ahead by two points. That’s not 100 votes with the people we have here. That’s tens of thousands of votes.”
But Reid said he is concerned about the influx of money from the opposition, adding that there are “about seventeen very rich old men that are trying to own the country with the money they’re giving, millions and millions of dollars to try to take over the country.”
This afternoon, executive board elections for Clark County, Washoe County and the rural counties will occur along with the election of congressional district-level delegates and National Committee Representatives.
Senator Reid endorsed state Senator Ruben Kihuen for National Democratic Party Committeeman and endorsed sitting Committeewoman Erin Billbray-Kohen for re-election.
Tomorrow’s convention agenda includes an address by Loretta Harper, National Co-Chair of Obama for America, along with caucus reports, ratification of electors and remarks by Nevada State Treasurer Kate Marshall.