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Steven Horsford’s the real thing

You could tell this wasn’t going to be a typical political announcement as soon as you saw the sign taped to the door of the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas.

“Steven Horsford,” it said, “Democrat for Congress.”

In an age where many Democrats try to hide their political affiliations and speak in terms that won’t offend the average Tea Party member, proud Democrats are increasingly hard to find. Just ask Democrats in Northern Nevada, who were just subjected to Treasurer Kate Marshall’s congressional campaign.

On Thursday, however, things were different. Yes, the scene was familiar. U2’s oft-employed “Beautiful Day” was playing as the crowd came in and the media set up cameras and lights. But that ended once Horsford — introduced by his wife, Sonya — took the stage.

First, Horsford didn’t just talk about creating jobs. He told the crowd how he’s done it, for 10 years at the helm of the Culinary Academy. The nonprofit — set up by the Culinary union and Strip casinos — has trained thousands of people for positions in the resort industry. Nearly 100 people got jobs just the other day, Horsford said.

“This is an enterprise that provides hope each and every day,” he said.

Second, Horsford eschewed tepid rhetoric and got down to business diagnosing a key problem in modern politics: “There’s a faction of Tea Party conservatives who are so focused on seeing our president fail they’re willing to let all of us lose,” he said. “And that’s a disgrace.”

It sure is.

Horsford had a tough upbringing, working multiple jobs to take care of his siblings after his father was murdered. He’s seen the business end of tough neighborhoods and poverty. “I have been there, too,” he reminded his audience. “And that’s why I will never stop fighting for Nevada’s working families.”

The fight metaphor is probably the most overworked in politics, but Horsford can back that up, too. Nobody during the 2011 Legislature was more vocal in opposing Gov. Brian Sandoval’s original budget. Horsford declared it dead on arrival, and as majority leader and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, he had the ability to keep it from coming to a vote.

And, true to his word, the budget that passed was not the budget Sandoval originally proposed. The fact that a state Supreme Court decision hollowed out a goodly portion of the governor’s spending plan and changed some reluctant Republicans’ minds doesn’t deter Horsford for taking some credit. It was his rhetoric that laid the groundwork for the ultimate budget compromise, he says. (We’ll never know what would have happened without the court, but it’s likely no budget would have passed and a standoff led by Horsford would have ensued.)

The fighting is far from over, however, a fact that Horsford knows all too well. “I will fight with everything in my being to protect Medicare and Social Security,” he declared to raucous applause.

And while some in politics lament the present state of America, Horsford says he’s optimistic. “I believe America can still do big things,” he said. “I believe in an America that’s always getting better.”

Listening to Horsford’s speech, you couldn’t escape the conclusion that in a world full of would-be politicians, he’s the battle-tested real deal. Once he was done, the music came back on, only U2 was quickly interrupted, replaced with Marvin Gaye and Tammie Terrell’s “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing.”

Indeed, there’s really not.


Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/SteveSebelius or reach him at (702) 387-5276 or ssebelius@reviewjournal.com.

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