Dini's date with destiny: Stepping down as speaker after record run

CARSON CITY - Veteran lawmaker Joe Dini headed for Las Vegas and a date with destiny Wednesday - he's giving up his gavel after a record eight times as Nevada's Assembly speaker.

His majority floor leader, Assemblyman Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, will take over as speaker. And Assemblywoman Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, will move up to Perkins' leadership slot.

Before boarding his plane, Dini as usual avoided talk about his achievements - and instead expressed concern about the defeat of Assemblywoman Gene Segerblom, D-Boulder City, in Tuesday's balloting.

''She's the grand old lady of the Assembly,'' Dini said of the well-liked Segerblom, a third-generation Nevada lawmaker who was seeking a fifth term. ''It's a shame she got taken out.''

Dini, 71, elected Tuesday to his 18th term in the Assembly, had said months ago it was probably time for younger members of his leadership team to move up. Now, he said, ''I still feel the same.''

Buckley said Dini will be ''our speaker emeritus, and help the Assembly Democratic caucus with his experience and leadership. He knows why so many laws are written the way they're written, he knows their history.''

''And he's able to express all that to us and help us as southern Nevada assumes a leadership position.''

The last time a Las Vegan held the top job in the Assembly was in 1983, when then-Assemblyman Jack Vergiels, D-Las Vegas, was speaker.

With the Democrats' loss of Segerblom, their overwhelming 28-14 voting edge in the lower house dropped to a still-solid 27-15 - a disappointment for Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, who had hoped for several more GOP seats.

''It's unfortunate,'' Hettrick said. ''It shows that the unions can still get their people out to vote (for Democrats) in the south. We had some close, close races, and the Democrats pulled it out in all but one.''

Hettrick said the Assembly Republican caucus will meet Thursday in Las Vegas to talk about leadership during the 2001 session. ''I don't think there will be too many surprises,'' he added.

In the Senate, there was no change. Republicans retained their 12 seats and Democrats kept their nine. Upper-house caucuses by senators on both sides of the political aisle also were scheduled this week, with little change anticipated.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, and Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, were expected to retain their positions.

In addition to no shift in control of the Senate and Assembly, there also are only a few new faces - and leaders said the return of experienced lawmakers will help with the big issue of reapportionment.

The 2001 Legislature must redraw lines for legislative and congressional districts. Those lines will be in place for the next decade. With Republicans still running the Senate and Democrats still in charge of the Assembly, a negotiated reapportionment was assured.

The Assembly Republicans had hoped for a string of victories in key districts, including one in Las Vegas vacated by Democrat Kelly Thomas and another in Sparks that's empty due to the death of Democrat Jan Evans.

But Democrat John Oceguera beat Republican Jack McClary in the race for Thomas' seat; and Republican Keith Primus lost to Democrat Debbie Smith in the race for Evans' seat.

In other key races, Democratic incumbent Kathy McClain of Las Vegas fought off a challenge from Republican Jack Close, trying to make a comeback after losing a state Senate race two years ago.

Republican businesswoman Geny Del Rosario mounted a hard-hitting campaign but couldn't oust Assemblywoman Genie Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas.

Incumbent Assemblywoman Ellen Koivisto, D-Las Vegas, fought off a challenge from GOP businessman Michael Davis; and Assemblyman Roy Neighbors, D-Tonopah, beat Republican challenger Gary Hollis.

In the Senate, Democrat Terrie Stanfill tried hard but was unable to oust veteran GOP Sen. Ray Rawson. And Democrat Ed Beaman lost in his effort to defeat Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon.

While all 42 Assembly seats were up for grabs, only 10 of the 21 Senate seats were on the ballot.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment