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What's in a Name? Rory Reid Will Find Out


The Democratic candidate for governor of Nevada is steering clear of dad, Senator Harry Reid, who's facing his own tough election fight

Rory Reid, the 48-year-old son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is running for governor of Nevada. You can just call him Rory.

The younger Reid knows the family name won't help him much this election year, even in his home state. Polls show that his father, 70, is struggling in his bid for a fifth term, with disapproval ratings hovering around 50 percent. The elder Reid is battling voter discontent over the economy and the government's heavy spending to fix it. Nevada's unemployment rate is higher than the nation's (14 percent vs. 9.5 percent), and its home foreclosure rate, at 1.26 percent in May, is about five times the U.S. average. Revenue for the gambling industry fell 10.4 percent last year, the biggest single-year decline in state history and a blow to tourism, the state's largest industry.

No wonder Rory, currently chairman of the Clark County Commission, is keeping his distance from dad. The Reids have attended few events together, and the first statewide television ad for Rory made no mention of his last name. Bumper stickers and campaign banners simply say, "Rory 2010." The biography on his campaign website makes no mention of his father. When Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar joined Harry Reid earlier this month to announce a solar project that will create 1,000 new jobs for the state, Rory was conspicuously absent. A few hours later, President Barack Obama held a rally and fund-raiser for the majority leader. Where was Rory? Greeting supporters 450 miles away in the Washoe Valley.

Harry Reid is doing his part to help convince voters that his son—who trails Republican Brian Sandoval by more than 20 points—is running for the governor's office without his help. "He is my son, I care a great deal about him," he said after a rare joint appearance at the state Democratic convention last month. "He will be a great governor, but he has to run his own campaign." Dan Hart, a Nevada-based Democratic consultant, says the name game isn't about politics. "It's more of a search to define himself than a repudiation of his dad," he says.

That's not to say the younger Reid hasn't benefited from his father's strong alliances with the casino industry. Rory enjoys the exclusive support of MGM Resorts International (MGM), the state's largest casino operator: Its political action committee gave him $45,000. He had nearly five times as much cash as his opponent at the end of May. Republicans scoff that the money won't be enough to make Rory's rebranding successful. "When Harry says Rory's on his own, do you really think people of average intelligence are going for that?" asks Mark Amodei, the state's Republican Party chairman.

The bottom line: Harry Reid's son is distancing himself from his unpopular father, yet he remains far behind in the Nevada gubernatorial race.

Lerer is a reporter for Bloomberg News.

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