U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced on Friday that he would retire after five terms as a senator. He has spent months denying retirement rumors, especially after he suffered serious injuries in an exercising accident on New Year’s Day.
Reid, 75, has a political career that spans well over four decades. He was first elected to state office in 1970 as Nevada lieutenant governor. After a single term, he ran for the United States Senate in 1974, trying to capitalize on President Richard Nixon’s resignation. He narrowly lost to former Governor Paul Laxalt by just 624 votes. The ambitious young politician ran for mayor of Las Vegas in 1975, losing by just six percentage points to William Briare.
He was then appointed to the powerful Gaming Commission in 1977, got elected to congress in 1982 in a new congressional district 1982, and was re-election in 1984 by a double-digit margin despite the fact that Ronald Reagan carried the state with a staggering 66 percent of the vote.
He decided to run for the U.S. Senate again in 1986, after Senator Laxalt announced his retirement. Reid ran as a pro-life, pro-gun moderate and defeated fellow congressman Jim Santini by a five-point margin. In his first term, he was one of the just 14 Democrats who voted against the immigration reform bill in 1990 and was the one of 10 Democrats who voted for the 1991 Gulf War Resolution.
After winning re-election by a landslide in 1992, Senator Reid took a liberal turn. He pushed hard for the pro-environmentalist Nevada Wilderness Protection Act, voted against NAFTA, and voted for the anti-gun Brady Bill. This caused popular Republican congressman John Ensign to challenge Reid in 1998. He ended up defeating Ensign by just 401 votes, mostly by attacking President Clinton over Yucca Mountain and bragging about how he brought billions of federal dollars to the state as a member of the Appropriations Committee.
After the election, he became Senate Democratic Whip and used his power to win re-election in 2004 by a landslide. That year, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle lost re-election in South Dakota, allowing Reid to take his place. As Senate Democratic Leader, Reid filibustered several of Bush’s judicial nominees. He voted against Samuel Alito, but decided not to filibuster after a “nuclear option” threat by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN). He became very bitter, calling President Bush such names as “King George” as well as a “loser” and a “liar.” He said Bush “will go down as the worst president this country has ever had.”
In the lead up to his fourth re-election and sixth overall senate campaign – he increasingly became a polarizing figure. He made controversial statements such as “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, OK. Do I need to say more?” The nation’s third most popular conservative talk show host, Mark Levin, called Harry Reid the “Donald Sterling of the Senate” because Reid claimed that Obama only got elected because he is “light-skinned” with “no negro dialect unless he wanted to have one.”
Reid became extremely unpopular, even in his home state of Nevada. However, he got what Nevada political writer Jon Ralson dubbed as “a once-in-a-lifetime gift named Sharron Angle.” The two-term Assemblywoman made several verbal gaffes. She proposed “phasing out” social security, calling people on unemployed as “spoiled,” saying rape victims should turn “lemons into lemonade,” suggesting “people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies,” and telling Latinos that they look “a little more Asian” to her. Despite Senator Reid’s 55 percent disapproval rating in Nevada, he won re-election to a fifth term by five percentage points.
Angle was a miracle for Reid and the Democratic Party. Prior to the election, RealClearPolitics claimed that “If Harry Reid were a cat, he’d be on his 15th life.” In that case, he is probably on his 20th life by now.
Following the election, Reid’s political career went down hill again. He flip flopped on abortion, 2nd Amendment rights, traditional marriage, and most notably the “nuclear option.” The United States Senate became chronically dysfunctional because of the lack of amendments Reid allowed to the floor. This past November, Democrats lost a net nine seats, losing control of the senate, effectively making Reid the Senate Minority Leader.
Ralston wrote in Politico Magazine that popular Republican governor, Brian Sandoval was the “man keeping Reid up at night.” Sandoval, a Latino, had an approval rating consistently north of 60 percent and eventually won re-election by an epic landslide – garnering nearly 70 percent of the vote in a state Obama won twice. GOP operatives wanted Sandoval to challenge Reid, saying he was the “perfect candidate.”
On that possibility, Reid said:
“Personally, I don’t know if Sandoval is going to run against me or not. I don’t know, and I really don’t care. He’s a supernice guy, and I’m not sure he would want to do that. But that’s up to him. I mean I’ve run up against a lot of people, and I’m not wanting to be worrying about who I’m going to be running against.”
Additionally, former U.S. Attorney Joe diGenova told Breitbart last Friday that Reid could face ethics problems because “[t]here is no doubt in my mind that an independent Department of Justice or an independent U.S. Attorney would open a preliminary criminal investigation into Harry Reid’s intervention into the expediting of EB-5 visas and would in addition convene a grand jury.”
Days before Reid’s announcement, the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General released a report concluding that “Reid pressured a compliant DHS official to overide normal departmental procedures.”
Of course, Senator Reid insists that his retirement had nothing to do with anything mentioned above. He explained in the video posted on Twitter:
“The decision I made has absolutely nothing to do with my injury, and it has nothing to do with my being majority leader, and it certainly has nothing to do with my ability to be reelected, because the path to reelection is much easier than it probably has been any time that I’ve run for reelection.”