Published Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011 | 10:59 a.m.
Updated Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011 | 11:23 a.m.
Citing health concerns, Northern Nevada's iconic state Sen. Bill Raggio said today he will retire this month. The announcement comes just two months after he was ousted from the leadership position he had held for two decades.
“I had hoped to complete the remainder of my 10th elected term, but my physical mobility simply does not allow me to function fully, and therefore it is time for me to step aside for someone who can give the position a 100 percent effort," Raggio said in a prepared statement.
For several sessions, Raggio's retirement had long been rumored as his political might began to wane in the wake of his support for several tax increases. Shortly after the election, his caucus ousted him as leader, ostensibly because of his endorsement of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid against Republican Sharron Angle. He also stepped down from the powerful Finance Committee, but had been expected to maintain a powerful negotiating position on budget issues and has been a key figure in calling for a tax increase to save state services from further cuts.
Raggio has held elected office for more than half a century.
“I am extremely honored and privileged to have been allowed to serve in public office for more than 56 years. To the citizens of Washoe County, I extend my sincere gratitude for your support for so many years," he said.
In his first interview since the announcement, Raggio said he "never felt better."
He has been trying to recuperate from a severed Achilles tendon.
"I can't give it the full 100 percent," he said. "If I can't do that, it's time to step aside. About 38 years in the Senate, 18 or more in the district attorney's office -- it's been a long ride."
He said he'll "still be interested" in the 2011 Legislature, but said the party's rightward shift and his caucus' decision to replace him as leader were "not real factors in my decision."
His retirement, effective Jan. 15, will leave the seat open until the Washoe County Commission appoints a replacement.
He wouldn't share names of who he'd like to replace him, but said he wants someone "who shares my kind of values, who will work across party lines and isn't a radical."
He said he has not talked to Gov. Brian Sandoval yet, but has a call into him.
"This is going to be a very difficult session. It's going to be contentious," he said. "I’m still waiting to see the collegiality I think is necessary, the compromise necessary to get through these problems."
Raggio had talked to Sandoval about running for governor before the Republican decided to leave the federal bench. Sandoval landed a job at Jones Vargas, where Raggio is a partner, and had an office next to Raggio's.
But Raggio has called for compromise and working across party lines, while Sandoval has maintained that he will balance the budget without additional taxes or fees.
Raggio said, "I’m optimistic (Sandoval) can be a great governor if he will work with others and be flexible, we can solve the problems of state. If he will not work with others, and will be rigid, we’ll have impasses that won’t solve problems."