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Reid and other Nevada politicians feel Vegas' pain too

September 6, 2009 |  6:48 am

Stalled project

Though the recession has touched all corners of the country, Nevada has had a particularly rough go of things. The economic slowdown hammered its main industries -- tourism and construction -- and saddled the state with the nation’s third-highest unemployment rate, at 12.5%. (California was tied for fourth.)

The political ramifications are numerous. Concern about the tourist trade produced one of the year’s stranger spats, with President Obama being chastised by Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, a Republican, and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, a Democrat, over giving the town publicity it didn’t really want. The high jobless rate also added a bizarre chapter to the ongoing tug-of-war between Nevada and California over which has a better business climate.

More important, the state’s unemployment troubles will likely affect whether Gibbons and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, hang onto their jobs in 2010. Both of their poll numbers are in the dumps. Reid’s prospects, though, are more closely tied to whether the economy rebounds: He’s tightly affiliated with Obama’s fiscal policies, including a stimulus plan that many Nevadans think hasn’t helped the state.

The voters Reid and others will face live next door to foreclosed homes, are surviving on smaller paychecks, have watched neighbors and friends cope with layoffs or have lost their own jobs. Many have been forced out of the state’s middle class.

Nevada -- long blessed with swagger from growing so fast, so furiously -- is also shellshocked from how quickly things went south. To better understand its malaise, check out our two-part series -- “A Losing Gamble” -- beginning in today’s paper, with another chapter Monday.

-- Ashley Powers

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Photo: Construction on Echelon, a hotel-casino, has been stalled by the bad economy. Credit: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times.