Most people know Harry Reid as the quiet Democrat in charge of the Senate. Some consider him boring, but they couldn’t be more wrong.The Harry Reid story is a long one. He’s had a remarkable career on his way from miner’s son to Senate Majority Leader.
The Senate Majority leader emerged as a liberal favourite during the 2012 campaign with his dogged attacks on Mitt Romney. Now, as Congress tackles the fiscal cliff, Reid is once again at the centre of the national political landscape.
Here’s a look at the career that made Reid one of the most important — and fascinating — people in Washington.
Reid was born in the small town of Searchlight, Nev., to Harry and Inez Reid. His father was a hard rock miner. His mother did laundry for the 13 brothels in town. Harry learned to swim in the pool at a bordello.
Searchlight didn't have a high school at that time, so Reid boarded in Henderson, Nev., to go to school.
As an adolescent, Reid was a feisty, amateur boxer.
'I was raised where you settled your differences physically,' he told the Las Vegas Review Journal. 'I still have a little of that in me and I'm fighting that all the time. I don't want to be mean to people.'
Reid became familiar with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints when he was in high school in Henderson.
He went on to attend Utah State University. After his sophomore year, he eloped with his wife Landra, his high school sweetheart, because her Jewish parents did not want her to marry someone outside the faith. They were married in a Mormon chapel, and by the time Reid graduated, both he and his wife had been baptized as Latter-day Saints.
The couple moved to Washington, and Reid worked his way through George Washington University Law School by working nights as a Capitol Police Officer.
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal
Reid was elected to the Nevada State Assembly at age 28 in 1968, and at age 30 was elected the youngest lieutenant governor in Nevada history.
After serving as Lieutenant Governor, Reid took time off to practice law in the state.
Reid's career-defining position was his stint as Chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, one of the most powerful officials in the state.
As chairman, Reid had a reputation as a hardline reformer, taking on the unsavory parties that controlled Nevada's gambling industry.
Here's an anecdote, from Slate:
A man named Jack Gordon, who later married LaToya Jackson, tried to give Reid a $12,000 bribe. Reid let the FBI videotape Gordon offering him the bribe, and then, according to a Las Vegas Review-Journal account, he 'put his hands around Gordon's neck and said, 'You son of a bitch, you tried to bribe me.'
In 'Casino,' Dick Smother's character 'Senator' is loosely based on Reid. Several of the key scenes involving the state cracking down on mob influence in Nevada gaming are based on actual events from Reid's tenure.
The scene in which Sam Rothstein is denied a licence by the Nevada Gaming Commission is based on a December 1978 hearing when Harry Reid was the commission's chairman; some of Reid's statements are used in Smothers' dialogue. The scene was shot in an actual courtroom in the Clark County Courthouse, which was later closed in 2005.
In 1981, someone wired Reid's car into a crude car bomb by wiring the spark plug to the gas tank. Reid was informed by police that the bomb had malfunctioned because the tip of the spark plug had broken off.
The bomb was believed to have been wired by one of the enemies Reid made as Chairman -- his former bodyguard Gary Bates thought it was either Jack Gordon or mobster Frank Rosenthal.
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal
When Nevada picked up a second seat in the House of Representatives after the 1980 census, Reid ran and was elected in 1982.
Reid would go on to serve for two terms, from 1983 to 1987.
Source: Reid official bio.
In 1986, Democratic incumbent Paul Laxalt retired, leaving an open Senate seat for Nevada.
Reid scored the Democratic nomination and won his first Senate election by beating Jim Santini, a former congressman who had switched from the Democratic party to the Republican party.
In 1992, he coasted to re-election.
Source: Reid Official Bio
Reid was elected in 1999 to serve as Assistant Democratic Leader, the party's Whip. Tom Daschle, the top Senate Democrat at the time, would go on to serve as the minority leader during the early years of the Bush Administration.
Reid's Senate career has a number of highlights: He once filibustered for nine hours by himself, reading from the history book he wrote about his hometown, Searchlight.
When Daschle lost his re-election bid in 2004 to Republican John Thune, Reid was elected Senate Minority Leader by his colleagues.
In 2006, Democrats gained control of the Senate, and made Reid the majority leader.
The passage of the healthcare bill ushered in the Republican wave of 2010. Reid was up for election that year, and as one of the leaders involved in pushing the bill through Congress, he was targeted by Tea Party favourite Sharron Angle.
The race was tight, but Reid scraped by with a win.
In 2010, Reid had to apologise to Barack Obama for racially tinged remarks made during the latter's presidential campaign
In 2010, the book 'Game Change' claimed that Reid had made racially-tinged remarks during the 2008 Democratic primary campaign.
Reid predicted that Obama could become the first black president because he had 'no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one' and was light-skinned.
Reid and Obama quickly reconciled after an apology from Reid.
Source: New York Times
During the campaign, Reid criticised Republican nominee Mitt Romney over the Republican nominee's unwillingness to release his tax returns by claiming that he had heard from a 'credible source' that Romney had failed to pay any federal income taxes for several years.
Later in the campaign, Reid claimed that Romney 'sullied' Mormonism by 'hiding from' the religion.
Reid was a passenger in a four car motorcade when the caravan got into a six-car accident on October 26. The top Democrat was wearing a seat belt and walked away from the crash.
He suffered rib and hip contusions, and other members of the caravan suffered minor injuries.
He was briefly hospitalized but quickly released.
Reid is a huge baseball fan and, like Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, backs the Washington Nationals.
Other hobbies include running, reading, and going to the movies with his wife Landra.
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