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September 1, 2014

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State Sen. Bill Raggio bagged by his own party

Support for Harry Reid leads to decision among GOP state senators to remove Raggio from leadership post

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Spencer Holladay / Las Vegas Sun

Bill Raggio

Sandoval and Raggio, Seg. 3

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  • Sandoval and Raggio, Seg. 3
  • Sandoval and Raggio, Seg. 4
Sharron Angle

Sharron Angle

Harry Reid

Harry Reid

Chuck Muth

Chuck Muth

Saying it reflects the mood of their constituents, Senate Republicans purged Sen. Bill Raggio of Reno from their leadership in a unanimous vote Thursday, ousting an iconic figure after 30 years in the post — punishment for his support of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Sen. Mike McGinness of Fallon stepped in as leader. He said he did so at the urging of constituents in Pahrump and Churchill County who asked him to do something about Raggio not supporting the party’s U.S. Senate nominee, Sharron Angle.

But sources say McGinness and other Republicans had lingering anger over the 2009 tax increase, which Raggio helped negotiate, and wanted the caucus to become a stronger beachhead against taxes.

Raggio also resigned his seat on the Senate Finance Committee, a sign that his willingness to compromise on taxes to preserve essential state services won’t reflect the philosophy of the new Republican caucus.

“They have their own budget objectives and I don’t want to be an impediment to those,” he said. “I want them to have the leeway to deal with the budget in their own terms.”

Raggio said he decided to withdraw from consideration as leader to preserve unity.

“There are a lot of agitators like Chuck Muth in the world and Tea Partyers who think I committed a mortal sin because I didn’t support Angle,” he said. “I didn’t want that to be part of the process.”

Muth, a conservative activist, wrote an open letter calling for Raggio’s ouster. Muth denied responsibility, saying Raggio “did it to himself.”

Raggio appeared at peace with his decision in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun in the minutes following the caucus vote.

His phone ringing off the hook, Raggio reassured friends that he wasn’t upset with the decision. “This is not a swan song,” he said.

Indeed, some speculate Raggio will hold sway over the budget as lawmakers grapple with a $3 billion gap between current spending and projected tax revenue. He might head a “swing caucus” of Republicans that Democrats would need to pass any budget with new taxes. Raggio would need to recruit two other Republicans to form such a caucus. He has long had the loyalty of Sen. Dean Rhoads of Tuscarora, and played a role in the election of freshman Sen. Ben Kieckhefer of Reno.

Junior members of the Legislature will still look to him for his experience.

“He might get outvoted on some things, but everybody will want to know what he thinks and why,” said one senior lobbyist, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of a leadership fight.

Raggio has been an advocate of a “lean but not mean” state budget, with a social safety net and funding for K-12 and higher education, particularly in Northern Nevada.

With him stepping aside, “he’s signaling that he knows the direction they’re heading, and doesn’t want to take part,” another senior lobbyist said.

Republican Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval said he respected the caucus’s decision and stayed out of it as the ouster took shape. But he too said not to count Raggio out.

“I’m sure he’ll still be involved,” Sandoval said when asked how it would be different not to have Raggio involved in budget negotiations.

McGinness said he began receiving calls from people across the state angry with Raggio’s decision to endorse Reid, whose efforts to rebuild the Democratic Party were instrumental in Democrats taking control of the state Senate in 2008.

McGinness said he was first contacted by a woman in Pahrump and then lobbied by the Churchill County Republican Central Committee.

McGinness expressed his admiration for Raggio’s “dedication to the state” and said Raggio will continue to play an important role.

“He said to me, ‘I don’t want to be a bump on a log,’ ” McGinness said. “I told him, ‘Bill, you are the log.’ ”

Raggio said he doesn’t regret his decision to support Reid, who won with more than 50 percent of the vote Tuesday. “There’s no way I could support her,” he said of Angle, who ran a bitter campaign challenging Raggio in 2008.

Raggio followed with a warning to his colleagues not to allow an ideological “my way or the highway” division in the party.

“This may be a Pyrrhic victory for them,” he said of the GOP agitators. “The desire to splinter the party may come back to haunt them as it has done in the past.”

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  1. The Christian Fundamentalists mean business - they will deal with any American who opposes them in the same manner.

  2. He now knows he has more power behind the scenes instead of being a figurehead of a dying breed. Now the center can make or break passing new legislation.

  3. Its a message for all who would dare to put Nevada or their country ahead of party and ideology.

    The Republicans need more principled people like Bill Raggio.

  4. Raggio is not the victim. He did what he thought was right and knew the potential consequences of his actions. This is what made it an act of principle.

    Reading the comments here, I am not sure if some of the readers understood the potential consequences of Mr. Raggio's actions.

    BTW-those who see this as a uniquely Republican attribute should spend some energy studying politics and history. It was only an example of a politically partisan group acting as partisans. Big deal.

  5. "You have to go play with the other kids now. We don't like you anymore"...

    I agree, turrialba. But, it sure looks petty nonetheless.

  6. So, the first sign that elected Republicans in the Nevada Senate are ready to compromise in order to do the best thing for Nevadans is....to kick out the person in their party who has the most knowledge and experience with the budget.

    And why?

    Because he publicly supported the re-election of the Majority Leader of the United States Senate.

    Talk about an inability to recognize the greater good for the state.

    Hey, Mike? If you really told Bill that He was "...the log", then why force him out? You knew him well enough to know that he wouldn't stay after you ousted him. Foolish, man, foolish.

    Lets see. The Republicans have left Bill Raggio outside of the Republican tent during the most important budget negitiations in the state's history while a brand new governor who stated publicly on several occasions that he respects Raggio very much is devising a new budget while Raggio says he will still be involved even though he's not part of the budget committee anymore.

    Hey, Mike? See your problem? You just gave Bill Raggio the cover he needed to do what he feels is right and bipartisan while you and your 8 other Republicans get to look like teabagging fools who won't let the last election go. Repeat after me, "We will not raise anyone's taxes. We will not...." that's your idea of leadership for the next session?

    And you did this to get re-elected? What happens when your baggin' constituents turn on you because they realize that your refusal to work with the Dems didn't improve the economy?

    Not smart, Mike, not smart. But you're the leader now, so you must have allllll the answers. Good Luck, Bro.

  7. The brownshirts are in charge and no ideological impure thoughts are allowed.

  8. Kieckhefer won't have his seat long if the first thing he does is vote for a tax increase. Taxpayer Baily split the anti-tax vote with Cobb who was barely beaten by Kieckhefer.

    Look, before raising taxes we need to exhaust all other alternatives that will make our state provide services at a lower cost: http://prgibbons.blogspot.com/2010/11/ev...

    and if you want new taxes, tax and regulate marijuana - it wouldn't even be a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge as far as I'm aware.

  9. "The brownshirts are in charge and no ideological impure thoughts are allowed."

    If you go over to the NY Times the readers over there are calling the "Blue Dog" dems that want Pelosi axed as minority leader impure.

    These "brownshirt" and "nazi" comments are truly offensive and I wonder if the people that write such things understand exactly what they are saying. The political dialogue on this page isn't about kicking a door down and dragging people off to concentration camps in the middle of the night folks.

    This maybe a generational thing, but comparing your neighbors to the horrific regime from the mid-twentieth century demonstrates a lack of understanding of who and what the Nazi were and are, and a lack of respect for differing views.

    I realize that there has been a lot of name-calling on this page and elsewhere of late, but there is a big difference between calling someone a "socialist" (France and Italy are packed with them). You had better know what you are talking about before you make these sort of statements. Most of the comments which contain these statements appear to me to not have a clue of what they are saying.

  10. I'm sure the lefties here that are horrified by what the Republicans have done to Raggio are big supporters of Joe Lieberman.

  11. "Republicans now control more state houses since 1928 and we are upon a re-districting cycle. Boy...have you koolaid drinkers have screwed yourself over. "

    I'll take that as an implicit admission that corrupt republicans are going to redistrict based not on fairness, but on their own self-interest.

    Putting the republican party's needs ahead of the needs of Americans? Sgt James F Nance Jr is giddy to do so!

  12. to taylorjw: re: the Taliban and Timothy McVeigh. Both were created by the U.S. Department of Defense.

  13. ksand99 said: "I'll take that as an implicit admission that corrupt republicans are going to redistrict based not on fairness, but on their own self-interest."

    ksand, I'm sure you know better than to imply that Democrats have never done the same.

    I think the practice is wrong, period.

    But if you want to criticize both parties, take a look at what California did with, wait for it, bi-partisan gerrymandering: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of...

    Now THAT is taking care of party interests!

  14. "I am sure that Democrats have been "fair" and not re-district in their own self-interest....how old are you...like 5? You need to cut back on the koolaid and grow up a little bit."

    I support redistricting via independent boards, not the corrupt process you celebrate. If anyone needs maturity, it's you and your banal bleatings.

  15. Ditto to you, boftx. I implied nothing of the sort. Sgt James F Nance Jr Rock was celebrating corruption and I called him out on it. No corruption should be cheered, it should be criticized.

  16. Sgt James F Nance Jr Rock, we've seen voters approve independent boards for redistricting to fight gerrymandering. It's a fair process unencumbered by the type of corruption that you so openly cheer.

    It's sad you can't even agree that gerrymandering is a corrupt, disgusting practice, James. Have some integrity.

  17. "Hold the phone there dippy, you might have been in the Navy, but this boy was in the Army. We did not have soap on a rope..." - LarryVegas

    Sorry Larry, given the title of this column there are just too many bad jokes in there. :)

  18. The "born agains" were in the Carter Camp. The Republicans peeled them off for political reasons. Ensign, Gibbons, Gingrich, Gibbons, Rush Limbaugh? They are in tune with "family values?"

    Just like they peeled off the Southern white voters. Barry Goldwater was against the Civil Rights Bill.

  19. Mred,

    Senator Barry Goldwater was in favor of the Civil Rights bill but was forced to vote against it later because it rapidly expanded Federal government power. Goldwater was against racial segregation, was for civil rights and was even a supporter of gays in the military.

  20. here is something you don't know. In the North Johnson ran attack ads trying to link Barry Goldwater to the Ku Klux Klan.

    But in the South, Johnson ran ads showing a more accurate picture of Goldwater's view on Civil Rights - that Goldwater supported it. He supported the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the Civil Rights Act of 1960 and was a supporter of a Constitutional Amendment to ban the poll tax (a tax that was used to bar blacks from voting).

    Goldwater helped start the Arizona NAACP and pushed to desegregate the Arizona National Guard.

  21. Mred,

    I'll bet money the reason why any report would find privatization of prisons hasn't saved money is because we have a criminal code that is thousands of pages long...

    Example, you can't smoke fake pot anymore - its a crime in many areas. NYC its a crime to put too much salt or sugar on food...