Friday, February 24, 2012

Farewell, Mr. Raggio.

Wow. Just wow. I wasn't ready for this.

Bill Raggio, a former Washoe County District Attorney who became the longest-serving state senator in Nevada history, as died.

Raggio was 85 and died at 10 p.m. Pacific time of a respiratory illlness. He was in Sydney, Australia at the time.

“With the death of Sen. Bill Raggio, one of the great lights in the world of Nevada politics has gone out,” said Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.

A Reno native, Raggio served 16 years as Washoe County District Attorney. He was elected to the state senate in 1972 and served there until resigning for health reasons in 2010.

He developed a reputation as a master of the legislative process, a tough negotiator and a champion for education and Norther Nevada interests.

I still can't believe Bill Raggio is gone. It seems like he's been a part of Nevada politics forever. He was a stalwart conservative and unshakable Republican. He ran against legendary US Senator Howard Cannon (D) in 1970, and he tried to succeed Harry Reid as Lieutenant Governor and win that seat for the Republicans in 1974.

Yet when it came to governance, he knew how to bend to prevent the government from breaking. And no one who was familiar with Raggio in the 1970s would have guessed that he'd endorse Harry Reid for US Senate in 2010. While Raggio was a stalwart conservative and unshakable Republican, he nonetheless considered himself a Nevadan, and particularly a Renoite and Northern Nevadan, first. He ultimately wanted to do what was best for the state, so this prominent conservative lawmaker was considered "moderate" in later years simply because he was willing to compromise to get the job done. Sadly, he was even attacked by the "tea party" loons in his own party because he was willing to compromise to get the job done.

I remember what we discussed here early last year, when Raggio decided he couldn't take any more of what he was seeing in Carson City.

So I guess he really couldn't stomach another session in Carson City. He is getting older, he does have health issues, and the tension there clearly has been wearing on him...

But obviously, there's more to this story. While conservative, Raggio was never seen as ideologically "pure" by the teabaggers. He did support tax increases when it meant more money for Northern Nevada. He sparred often with tea-nut icons like Sharron Angle and Jim Gibbons. And of course, he endorsed Harry Reid last year.

Oh, and he committed "heresy" yet again when he stated the obvious on this year's budget.

So what happens next? We'll have to see. Bill Raggio has forgotten more Nevada history and Nevada politics than the teabaggers will ever know.

It really wasn't that long ago when Raggio and then Governor Kenny Guinn (R) were actually discussing serious policy solutions on thorny matters like taxes and public education. Now, all we hear from the G-O-TEA are empty platitudes and Grover Norquist pledges. Even though it shouldn't have shocked us, many were nonetheless shocked when Raggio was ousted as Senate Republican Caucus leader right after the 2010 election (when the GOP gained a seat under his leadership!). But even after that happened, Raggio's shadow still loomed prominently in the halls of the Legislature's building. Without a doubt, Raggio made an impact on Nevada government that can't easily be rivaled.

And Raggio's legacy isn't limited to Carson City.

Yes, he was really Frank Sinatra's attorney. Wow.

Without a doubt, Bill Raggio was one of those colorful characters and storied politicians that one can only find in Nevada. Sure, I didn't always agree with what he did. But when it came to protecting Nevada's best interest, and especially when it came to fighting for Northern Nevada, Bill Raggio could always be counted on. He will be sorely missed.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog Andrew!!! From Raggio to Roberson, its sad to see what the Republican party in Nevada has become.