Son of a peanut farmer hits the campaign trail |

Son of a peanut farmer hits the campaign trail

The Associated Press. Former President Jimmy Carter, left, is seen with his son, Jack Carter, during a campaign kickoff in Henderson on Monday.

CARSON CITY – Saying the Bush administration and Congress have moved away from true American values, Jack Carter on Monday asked Nevada to elect him to the U.S. Senate in November.

“I believe our government has moved away from our core values,” he told a crowd approaching 500 people drawn to the Legislative grounds in part by the appearance of Carter’s father, Jimmy, the first ex-president to visit Carson City in 70 years.

Carter, 58, a Las Vegas investment consultant, said Bush has appointed political cronies to important posts such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and has “pulled a cloak of secrecy” over many of its actions. He said they have encouraged industry lobbyists to write laws that affect all Americans.

Carter described the war in Iraq as “one faulty judgment after another.”

He said the Medicare drug plan is an example of a law written “by and for the drug companies.”

“And our response to Katrina was a disgrace,” he said.

“Where has good government gone?”

Carter, a Democrat, painted Republican incumbent John Ensign as part of the problem, asking: “Does he bring an independent and inquiring mind to these issues?”

He said Ensign has voted with the Bush administration agenda 96 percent of the time.

“The singular difference between my opponent and me is he works for the Bush administration, and I want to work for Nevada,” he said.

Carter was joined on the podium by his father; mother Rosalynn; and wife Elizabeth, and their children.

“Americans share a special common core of values that make us different from everybody else in the world,” he said. “At our heart is liberty and personal freedoms.”

“The Constitution is the foundation on which our government stands,” he said.

Former-President Carter said key traits that will make his son a good senator are that he studies the issues and knows what he is talking about.

“Second, he’ll never lie to you. And third, he’ll never give up.”

He said he intends to return to Nevada to help his son campaign this year. The Carter family formally launched the campaign in Las Vegas earlier in the day.

Since October, Jack Carter has been on a three-month “listening tour” of the state, gauging support and fundraising. He brought in $241,600 during that period, lent himself $25,000, and reported $223,600 cash on-hand at the end of the year.

Ensign, who is seeking a second term, enjoys a healthy lead in early polls and fundraising. He ended the year with $2.37 million cash on-hand and has raised $3.7 million in the election cycle to date. He spent $4.8 million to beat Democrat Ed Bernstein in 2000.

Carter, who shares his father’s Southern drawl, described himself as the son of a Georgia peanut farmer who’s familiar with “small-town living and hard work.” In 1968, he enlisted in the Navy and served in Vietnam. In 1970, he was discharged from the military after he admitted using drugs.

Carter said he’s not concerned that the administrative discharge will affect his election chances.

“I am who I am. I like who I am,” he said.

Carter has a degree in physics from Georgia Tech University and law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law. He was in his late 20s when his father won the presidency in 1976, and he never lived in the White House.

After a short stint working as a lawyer in Georgia, he became an investment consultant specializing in hedge funds. He and his wife have four children from previous marriages.

Carter, a Baptist, declined to label himself as a moderate or a liberal. He said he would not take a position on a state petition to legalize small amounts of marijuana.

He said he supports a woman’s right to have an abortion.

“I’m a personal-freedoms person. I don’t want the government to come in and tell my child or whoever it is that they can’t have an abortion,” he said. “I’m pro-choice as far as a woman choosing, but I’m against abortion.”

Carter is the only Democrat in the race, although Las Vegas’ flamboyant Mayor Oscar Goodman has discussed the possibility of a bid with Senate leaders, including U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. Goodman said last week he had not decided if he would run.

“Oscar’s going to do what he wants to do. It’s not going to affect what I do,” Carter said.

Reid and Democratic Congresswoman Shelley Berkley sent letters in support of Carter’s candidacy. Reid called Carter a “a pioneer in the investment industry,” and joked that the Carters have been Nevadans all their lives, but “they just figured it out a few years ago.”

Carter, who said he and his wife have lived in Las Vegas since 2002, acknowledged that his recent arrival might be his greatest hurdle in the race.

“I have not lived here for 30 years. I don’t have 30 years’ worth of relationships,” he said. “I have to go around and introduce myself to everybody.”

– The Associated Press contributed to this report

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