Gibbons’ Nevada district most populated in U.S.
RENO, Nev. (AP) – With tens of millions of acres of Nevada to represent, Rep. Jim Gibbons and his staff sometimes think they have to work harder than some of their colleagues in Congress.
Now they have some U.S. Census Bureau numbers to back them up:
Gibbons’ congressional district is the most populated in the nation.
While each district nationally is supposed to have an average of about 600,000 people, Nevada’s 2nd District has grown to nearly 1.1 million since the last census.
That’s a 76 percent increase since 600,876 were counted in 1990 in his district that covers all of Nevada, save most of Las Vegas. It works out to be about 110,000 square miles – 99.8 percent of the state.
The third-term congressman’s constituency is larger than the entire population of Rhode Island, which has two congressmen in the House of Representatives.
”In such a large district, it’s very challenging to be everywhere all the time,” Gibbons said.
”Some districts I’ve been in comprise about 14 square blocks downtown in an urban area. I’m astonished at how small they are,” he said.
Nevada will add a third House seat under redistricting in 2002 as a result of the 2000 census showing statewide growth of 66 percent over the past decade. New districts will average about 660,000 constituents.
But Gibbons doubts it will change his routine, flying back and forth from Washington to his home in Reno every weekend Congress is in session, with few exceptions for weekend votes and House Intelligence Committee meetings.
He typically catches a Thursday night flight out of Washington, then returns on Sunday.
”It is part of my lifestyle,” Gibbons said in a recent telephone interview from his car as an aide rushed him off to Dulles International Airport for a flight with a connection through Dallas.
”I’ve got another nine hours tonight before I walk into my house,” said the father of three who is married to State Assemblywoman Dawn Gibbons, R-Reno.
”But it’s a necessary part of representing the people of Nevada in such a big district. Sometimes it drives my staff crazy.”
The frequent-flying congressman divides a month of weekends into regional fourths, spending one each in Las Vegas, Laughlin, Pahrump or Mesquite; one in the I-80 corridor from Lovelock to Wendover; one in the U.S. Highway 50 corridor from Beatty to Ely; and one near home in the Reno-Carson City-Lake Tahoe area.
The good news is he gets to see parts of the Silver State many Nevadans don’t know exist.
”I have seen some places in Nevada that are stunning and beautiful,” he said.
The bad news is, 2nd District Nevadans are essentially shorted in their representation in Congress. Gibbons represents practically two people for every one person represented by a member from a state with little growth since 1990. He gets no extra staff or money to do the job.
”It stretches our office staff extremely thin to do the work that other offices are able to do for a smaller group of people,” Gibbons said.
”The number of problems that arise with constituents dealing with the federal government is almost double that of any other member.”
Gibbons’ travels take him over mountain passes and across the scorching desert floor, with temperatures from 120 degrees to minus 20.
”I drive at least 20,000 miles a year not counting flights between Reno-Vegas and Reno-Elko,” Gibbons said.
”I have had every experience in the world you can have driving round the state of Nevada,” he said.
He remembers once lending a helping hand to a stranded law officer in central Nevada.
”We were driving between Eureka and Duckwater and there was a sheriff’s deputy who had a flat tire and no spare. So we gave him a ride into Duckwater,” he said.
He figures he flies more than 100,000 miles a year on the 5,000-mile roundtrips. The former pilot flies coach, but tries to reserve a seat in an emergency exit aisle ”because it gives you a little more leg room.
”I like a window seat so I can look out at the country. I see something new every time I fly back and forth.”
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