Harry Reid was born in Searchlight, Nevada on December 2, 1939. He grew up in a shack with no hot water, telephone, or indoor toilet. The town of Searchlight did not have a high school, so Reid stayed with relatives in Henderson, Nevada, 40 miles away from his hometown, to attend Henderson’s Basic High School. Future Nevada governor Mike O’Callaghan was a teacher at Basic High School during this time and coached Reid’s boxing team.
After graduating from Basic High School Reid attended Southern Utah University before transferring to Utah State University. He graduated from Utah State University doubled majoring in history and political science and minored in economics. While working for the United States Capitol Police Reid attended George Washington University Law School, earning his J.D.
After law school, Reid returned to his home state of Nevada and served as Henderson City Attorney. Then, in 1968, Reid was elected to the Nevada Assembly. In 1970 O’Callaghan, Reid’s former high school boxing coach selected Reid as his running mate in Nevada’s gubernatorial election. After winning the race, Reid served as Lieutenant Governor of Nevada from 1971 until 1974.
In 1974 Reid ran for a seat in the Senate but lost by less than 700 votes to former Nevada Governor Paul Laxalt. Then, in 1975, Reid ran for mayor of Las Vegas but took another loss – this time to Bill Briare.
Reid went on to serve as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission from 1977 to 1981. During his time as chairman, Reid was offered a $12,000 bribe from entertainment manager (and future husband of LaToya Jackson) Jack Gordon to approve of new, carnival-like, casino games. Reid reported the bribe to the FBI and agreed to help the feds bust Gordon.
During a meeting in Reid’s office, Gordon handed Reid the bribe money, at which point FBI agents burst in the office to arrest him. Reid grabbed Gordon’s neck, attempting to strangle him, shouting, “You son of a bitch, you tried to bribe me!” Agents quickly pulled Reid off of Gordon and placed Gordon under arrest. In 1979 Gordon was convicted and sentenced to six months in prison. In 1981, Reid’s wife, Landra Gould, found a bomb attached to their car. Although it was never able to be proven, it is suspected that this bomb was Gordon’s attempt at revenge on Reid for setting him up to be arrested.
In 1982 Reid was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served two terms, from 1983-1987. Come 1986, Reid was able to win retiring Senator Paul Laxalt’s seat in the U.S. Senate. Reid was re-elected term after term and went on to hold several leadership positions within the Senate. From 1995 to 2005 Reid served as the Senate’s Democratic Whip (minority whip from 1999-2001 and 2003-2005, the majority whip from 2001-2003). He served as chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee from 2001-2003. In 2006 Reid became Senate Majority Leader, a position he held until 2015 when Republicans won majority control of the Senate. Reid is currently serving in the Senate as Minority Leader.
In terms of his political views, Reid lands on the liberal side of the spectrum. In 2006 Reid and Hilary Clinton pushed for the “Prevention First Amendment,” a bill that would help fund access to contraception. In 2007 Reid fought for Senate ethics reform, passing a bill which barred senators from borrowing corporate jets and accepting gifts from lobbyists, as well as requiring them to disclose the names of the sponsors and authors of their bills.
In 2010 Reid helped push the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which came to be known as “ObamaCare,” through the Senate. The Act brought an overhaul of the American health care system, including an insurance mandate for every American.
Although Reid has agreed with the beliefs of his Mormon faith that “marriage should be between a man and a woman,” Reid had a change of heart, and spoke out in favor of same-sex marriage in 2012, saying, “My personal belief is that marriage is between a man and a woman. But, in a civil society, I believe that people should be able to marry whomever they want, and it’s no business of mine if two men or two women want to get married.”
In 2013 Reid pushed for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights by voting in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which would prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Reid even revealed that his niece is a lesbian, in an effort to support the passing of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Reid is in favor of immigration reform, and a supporter of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act).
Although Reid is a strong supporter of ethics and civil rights, he isn’t without his fair share of controversy. In 2005 he pushed for the building of a bridge over the Colorado River, connecting Nevada and Arizona, which would increase the value of his 160 acres of Nevada land that was near the proposed bridge site. That wasn’t the only time that Reid has been accused of acting in his own best interests. In 2006 it was discovered that Reid used over $3000 of campaign funds to buy Christmas gifts for the staff of his residential condo building.
In another instance, Reid introduced legislation and pushed for the business interests of Harvey Whittemore, who was Reid’s son’s client, Reid’s close friend, and Reid’s campaign supporter. With Reid’s support, Whittemore was able to move forward with his $30 billion golf development, Coyote Springs, despite criticism from environmental groups.
In the midst of the Obama campaign, Reid had commented, in a private conversation, that the county was ready for a black candidate, especially a black candidate who was “light-skinned” and “with no Negro dialect” such as Obama. Reid later apologized for these comments.
In 2012 Reid accused presidential candidate Mitt Romney of not paying any federal income taxes for 10 years, although he refused to name his source of the information. This accusation proved to be unfounded, as Romney’s financial information, including 23 years of tax returns, had been vetted during his vice presidential run in 2008.
Harry Reid is seen as an industry leader in the world of gaming entertainment. The gaming and tourism industries are at the backbone of Nevada’s economy. Throughout Reid’s career, he has supported the communities, and the hundreds of thousands of men and women, who rely on the gaming industry. In 2001 Reid was honored as one of “America’s Gaming Greats” and inducted into the American Gaming Association’s “Gaming Hall of Fame.” Upon receiving the award Reid said, “I’ve been proud to help educate America about the contributions gaming entertainment makes to Nevada and across the country.”
But when it comes to the online gambling, Reid supports it being banned at the federal level. Reid has been working hard to push legislation to do just that. The Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), backed by Republican Senator Jason Chaffetz, essentially attempts to nullify the 2011 Department of Justice legal opinion that the 1961 Wire Act only prohibits online sports betting. It was this court decision which gave individual states the freedom to decide whether or not to allow online gaming within their borders.
“I think the proliferation of gambling on the Internet is not good for our country,” Reid said in an interview. “I think it is an invitation to crime. I think it is hard to control for crime when you’ve got brick-and-mortar places, let alone something up in the sky someplace, and it is very bad for children.”
Although Reid supports an exemption for online poker, given the decision of whether to support a bill that doesn’t exempt poker, Reid would likely still support the bill. “Unless we can get something done with poker, I’m going to look closely — I haven’t made up my mind — but I’m going to look closely into banning it totally,” Reid said. “I’m going to take a hard look at it. It would be something I would certainly consider strongly.”
Reid has announced that he will not run for re-election in 2016. He will retire, at age 77, in January 2017 when his current Senate term ends. But before leaving his seat at the Senate, Reid is expected to make his best push for legislation to ban online gaming – with or without the poker exemption.