By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Gov. Jim Gibbons said today the political pundits and pollsters may be in for a surprise when the votes are counted in the GOP governor’s race on primary election day June 8.
In an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, Gibbons said he does not believe that the polls showing him trailing challenger Brian Sandoval by double-digits accurately reflect the real mood of those Republicans who will vote in the primary.
Gibbons said in his travels around the state, he has observed pent up frustrations in voters over the growing national debt and other concerns, and that they are motivated to go to the polls.
Gibbons said he is not the establishment candidate despite being the incumbent, and that voters will support his campaign for another term as governor.
“I think what you are seeing is an underlying discontent with the voters that is going to show up on election day,” he said.
While he is trailing Sandoval by wide margins in recent polls, Gibbons pointed to 1994 when John Ensign was running for Congress in District 1 against incumbent Democrat James Bilbray. Now in the U.S. Senate, Ensign was trailing badly throughout the 1994 campaign but ended up winning by 1,400 votes.
“They are going to make an effort to go out and vote in this election in numbers like we haven’t seen since 1994,” Gibbons said.
The turnabout in the Bilbray race came, however, after a last-minute scandal emerged suggesting one of his aides was going to benefit financially from lands legislation Bilbray was sponsoring.
Gibbons said if he wins another term, the challenges he and the Legislature will face in 2011 will be enormous. The best current estimate is that there will be a $3.4 billion gap between revenues and current spending levels, he said.
But Gibbons said the answer to the dilemma is not raising taxes, which would only delay a recovery that is now beginning to be reflected in state revenue reports.
Gibbons said he has embarked on a program of zero-based budgeting in preparation for the session, identifying as the top priorities those programs and services the state is legally and constitutionally required to provide.
After that comes the remainder of the programs, listed in priority order. The most important programs will be preserved but many others will see cuts, he said.
The end result will be a smaller government in Nevada, Gibbons said. The state will not be able to do all that it has done for residents in the past, he said.
Layoffs of state employees are likely, but Gibbons said he has no figure on what number of jobs will have to be cut.
Gibbons said he will also seek to consolidate programs to reduce administrative costs, and undertake a review of the dozens of boards and commissions to see if some can be eliminated.
Gibbons said that should he not be re-elected as governor, that he does not intend to seek public office again.
Gibbons said he will celebrate on Tuesday win or lose because a loss will give him the freedom he has had to give up over the past 3.5 years.
“I don’t look at this election as being the termination of any part of my life,” he said. “It is the door opening for a new era, a new opportunity.”