Rep. Gibbons, Democratic foe make friends at school assembly

RENO, Nev. - An elementary teacher who ran for Congress as a class project with just a $7,000 bankroll welcomed an unlikely guest to her school Wednesday - the Republican congressman who trounced her.

''I think it's something we all ought to do, try to bring some civility back to campaigning,'' Rep. Jim Gibbons said in accepting the unusual invitation from his political foe.

Gibbons shook hands and embraced Democrat Tierney Cahill to the cheers of more than 400 students at Sarah Winnemucca Elementary.

''This has been the ultimate history lesson,'' said Cahill, 33, a divorced mother of three who teaches sixth grade.

''You can't learn this kind of a thing in a textbook,'' she said.

Gibbons easily won re-election Tuesday night to his third term in Nevada's 2nd District with 64 percent of the vote to Cahill's 30 percent.

''I was a huge underdog. I feel I did pretty darn well,'' Cahill said.

''I was shooting for 35 percent, but I knew that was really high. So when I broke 30, I nearly fainted.''

Cahill explained last week at a rally with Al Gore's daughter, Kristin, that she got tired of hearing adults telling their children to go out and get involved in politics and community affairs.

''It came down to putting your money where your mouth is. Or in my case, your time. There's not much money,'' she said.

Just $7,000, to be exact, compared to Gibbons' $500,000 campaign warchest.

''No TV ads, no billboards, no radio. Nothing,'' Cahill said Wednesday. ''Just yard signs and T-shirts and a lot of foot time.''

Gibbons, accompanied by his wife, state Assemblywoman Dawn Gibbons, said it was the first time he'd been invited to spend part of the day after an election with his former opponent.

''It is something that is unusual,'' he said. ''But I think it speaks highly of her.

''You have to admit it was a rather unique, novel way to approach running for office,'' he said.

Cahill, a graduate of Reno High School who also has taught at Bishop Manogue High School in Reno, presented Gibbons with a ''talking stick'' - a 2-foot long tribal stick decorated with feathers and beads.

''You have great character. I want you to go to Washington and speak on behalf of all Nevadans,'' she told the congressman.

Cahill credited a girl in her sixth-grade class with providing the impetus for the campaign when they were studying the roots of democracy in ancient Greece and Rome last fall.

''She said, 'You know, it might have been fine for the Greeks, but you can't run for office in this country unless you are a millionaire or you know a lot of them.'''

Cahill disagreed, insisting each student can grow up to do whatever he or she wants and ''anyone can run for office.''

''I should have thought what she would say next. I didn't,'' she recalls.

Her students urged her at first to run for president. But she wasn't the constitutionally required 35 years old. She considered the U.S. Senate race.

''But there were a lot of people running for that. I wanted it to be something big. So I decided - not to pick on Mr. Gibbons - to run for Congress,'' Cahill said.

''We didn't lose. The process won. It proved that anybody can run for office.''


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