UFC Political Update: Harry Reid, Bob Reilly Hang On for Re-Election

The Las Vegas Review Journal summarizes how UFC-supported Harry Reid of Nevada squeaked through: Reid not only overcame the lethally-low approval rating that had…

By: Luke Thomas | 13 years ago
UFC Political Update: Harry Reid, Bob Reilly Hang On for Re-Election
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

The Las Vegas Review Journal summarizes how UFC-supported Harry Reid of Nevada squeaked through:

Reid not only overcame the lethally-low approval rating that had pundits locally and nationally declaring his pursuit of a fifth term hopeless, but also successfully inoculated himself against the fervent Tea Party movement that had found a champion in Republican challenger Sharron Angle.

“Yes, we did,” Reid told a cheering crowd at Aria on the Las Vegas Strip, where Democrats gathered to watch election returns. “Today Nevada chose hope over fear.”

Yet Nevada voters showed little enthusiasm in returning the quintessential incumbent to office.

“Harry Reid always seems to find a way to win,” GOP strategist Greg Ferraro said. “He never wins big and he never wins pretty, and the rumors of his demise are always greatly exaggerated. He always finds a way.”

This time around, Reid’s path to re-election began with a sustained investment in party infrastructure, continued with a varied effort to clear the field of formidable opponents and culminated with the domination of his opponent.

Props to Esquire for publishing a piece yesterday saying the inside the Beltway polling models weren’t accounting for Nevada’s eccentricities.

I doubt the UFC’s efforts helped a ton as what really stood out in favor of Reid was the Latino vote, which pre-election polling projected to be very low. But that’s neither here nor there. The real question is: what does this mean for the UFC? We’ll get to that in a minute.

In less positive news for MMA fans, New York Assemblyman Bob Reilly eeked out a close victory in his re-election bid last night:

Reilly, a Democrat first elected in 2004, defeated Republican Jennifer Whalen. The 109th District Assemblyman has been outspoken in his opposition to the sanctioning of MMA in the Empire State, opposing multiple bills proposing the sport’s legalization in New York. It was a strong night for Reilly’s political kin as well, as Democrats won the majority of New York’s mid-term elections, according to CBS.com.

Let’s take note of what this means for UFC and the sport of MMA and take a look at where we are headed.

1. We remain mostly at status quo. That is, in terms of leadership in key governing bodies, UFC’s allies and enemies remain where they are. Federal MMA legislation isn’t much of a priority and it isn’t clear how the new Congressional make-up changes any potential introduction of legislation. But not so fast…

2. There is already talk in Washington that despite Reid’s victory, Democratic party insiders are predicting Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois will replace Reid as Senate Majority Leader. One of the major advantages of Reid’s placement is the ability to stop bills from reaching the Senate floor as well as general persuasiveness over Democratic party efforts (Reid is still well-liked by insiders). However, that power itself is overstated, particularly if legislation calling for federal regulation of MMA emerged from the House and buried in a more comprehensive bill about a tangential issue. In fact, if anyone is likely to exercise that power, it’s Durbin, not Reid.

3. While much is made of Reilly’s bulwark status in Albany, he isn’t the real stumbling block. It’s Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. He is the epitome of entrenched political power and without his blessing, little is accomplished legislatively. Silver has no formal position on MMA, but is closely associated with Reilly. Overturning Reilly’s view could help sway Silver, but that’s unlikely. The key is turning or removing him. Speaking of removal…

4. The more positive news is that New York Governer-Elect Andrew Cuomo, who received donations from Zuffa for his campaign, appears to be on a collision course with Silver. It’s too early to tell how that could play out, but if Cuomo is successful in getting rid of Silver, that removes arguably the most serious obstacle to overturning MMA prohibition in the state.

5. if the UFC is serious about their New York lobbying efforts, they have to correct the effort’s largest failure to date: the absence of grassroots popularity for MMA legislation from New York citizens. Zuffa’s effort thus far, while noble and not cheap, is basically failed carpetbagging. Reilly is the de facto voice for New York against the Las Vegas-based Zuffa trying to change laws in his state. And if New Yorkers aren’t clamoring for change, can Zuffa really expect Albany to listen? Zuffa, through paid and earned media (among other tactics), must help create and facilitate a constituent-based movement that not only shows a significant number of New Yorkers want change, but also that small businessman and other key constituents are being harmed or forced to take business elsewhere because of the ban. In short, it has got to be a New York thing.

6. There are other players in the overall scope of regulatory efforts, so check out Mike Chiappetta’s round-up.

For me, the federal front will be quiet. On Capitol Hill, the major priorities for the new Congress are likely to be K-12 education, Pell Grant cuts, health care legislation reformation, debt ceiling issues and other non-MMA related tasks. On the state-side, however, is where matters get interesting. I’m curious to see to what extent Zuffa ramps us lobbying in New York. They may elect not to do much, hoping third time’s a charm. I hope they go with a more robust effort. Either way, the election preserves a situation where Zuffa will have to fight. Historically, that’s something they’ve been good at.

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Luke Thomas
Luke Thomas

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