Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kenny Guinn: End of an Era?

Even in death, Former Governor Kenny Guinn has brought people together.

"Kenny Guinn had a record of public and private service unequaled in our state. Long before he himself sought public office, Guinn was the go-to guy to head up various independent committees for both Republican and Democratic governors in Nevada. He was the superintendent of the school district, a successful CEO in the business world, and of course, a former Governor of Nevada, a true public servant," said former U.S. Senator and Nevada Governor Richard Bryan. [...]

In a statement, Nevada Congressman Dean Heller said, "I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Governor Guinn. I had the privilege of serving with Kenny while Secretary of State and was proud to have called him my friend. His service to Nevada and his legacy will be remembered by all who worked with him. My thoughts and prayers go to Dema and her family during this very difficult time."

Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus said, "Nevada has lost a true public servant who devoted himself to the people of the Silver State. I was honored to serve in the state legislature during Governor Guinn's time in office. As a former Clark County Superintendent, Governor Guinn was a respected leader in the efforts to improve Nevada's system of education, and through our shared commitment to Nevada's students and teachers we became friends as well as colleagues."

So will we ever see a truly "post-partisan" leader like Kenny Guinn ever again? Honestly, I don't know.

In many ways, Kenny Guinn represented the best of Nevada's not-so-distant political past. Back then it didn't matter so much if one was a Democrat or a Republican, since everyone was a Nevadan first and foremost. This really shone through with Guinn when he made tough decisions, decisions that a number of conservative Republicans did not like. Guinn pushed for the Millennium Scholarships that enabled many thousands of deserving Nevada students to attend college, regardless of family wealth. He pushed for tax increases, what could have been first steps toward a fairer tax structure, when many in his own party were just saying "no". And yes, he even pushed for better schools and a better social safety net to look after all Nevadans, even the working poor. These days, we don't hear very many Republicans speaking like this.

Sure, Kenny Guinn was not perfect. For gawd's sake, he chaired the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign! And sometimes, I wondered if he couldn't see the coming "Tea Party" storm... Or if he did, and just gave up toward the end. And of course, we can't forget how he was elected in the first place... It was that damned "casino-mining-industrial complex" (you know, the same one that usually prevents our state from enacting the progressive tax reforms we so badly need) that hand-picked Guinn for Governor.

But you know what? No one is perfect. And damn it, even as a Republican, Kenny Guinn was quite the damned good Governor our state needed.

And really, I just wonder if we'll ever see someone like this in Nevada politics ever again. The Nevada Republican Party has made an effort of late to push out just about anyone who veers even the slightest bit off the teabagger party line of pure rhetorical "no new taxes hocus pocus" bullshit. And let's face it, we Democrats have our own problems as we often wrestle with ourselves and each other over "the soul of our party". Honestly, is there room in either party for a passionate and compassionate, but still pragmatic and practical, problem solver like Kenny Guinn? Would he pass muster with today's Tea Party, Inc., or today's progressive dirty fucking hippies?

What's to become of Nevada politics beyond Kenny Guinn?

And by the way, I do see the bizarrely tragicomic irony of this happening during Netroots Nation weekend. And for all you hoping for some good #NN10 morsels from me, I'm sorry to disappoint. It's hard enough just to keep an eye on the Senate race now, let alone focus on whatever training and discussion sessions happening at The Rio. Hopefully tomorrow, I can jump back into there.

But tonight, I just needed to stop for a moment and think about what just happened. Really, what just happened?

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