Heller pays tribute to Laxalt on Senate floor
August 16, 2018
Nevada U.S. Sen. Dean Heller paid tribute to Paul Laxalt, a former Nevada governor and U.S. senator, during a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
Laxalt died Aug. 6.
"Senator Laxalt was a hero and mentor to me and many others who grew up in Carson City," Heller said during his speech, adding, "Senator Laxalt set a high bar for all us kids who went to Carson High School, but also showed us all the possibilities of what could be achieved as Nevadans.”
A transcription of Heller's full remarks is below:
Madame President, I come to the floor today to pay tribute and honor to one of the great Nevadans of our lifetime – Senator Paul Laxalt.
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Last week, Senator Laxalt passed away at the age of 96 having forever changed the State of Nevada and this country.
The state motto in Nevada is "all for our country" and Senator Laxalt exemplified that principle every day by giving his all through public service for every Nevadan.
Paul Dominique Laxalt was born in August 2, 1922, and grew up in my hometown of Carson City, Nevada. His parents had both immigrated from the Basque region in Europe and brought their values and traditions to Northern Nevada.
Every day, Basque influence like chorizo, lamb, and sweetbreads are still staples of life in Northern Nevada.
As the son of a Basque sheepherder, Paul made his mark early in life by attending Carson City High School, playing on the 1938 state championship basketball team, and as a student body president – which is significant, and I'll share in a few minutes.
Paul would go on to serve his country in the U.S. Army as a medic during World War II and saw action in the Philippines.
After the war, like many Americans, Paul started a family and married Jackalyn Ross in 1946 and had six children: Gail, Sheila, Michelle, Kevin, Kathleen and John Paul.
Paul began his career in public service when he served as district attorney for what was then Ormsby County, Nevada. He then won his first statewide race, serving as Lieutenant Governor from '63 to 1967.
During his term, Paul made the decision to run for the U.S. Senate in 1964 and challenged Howard Cannon.
In one of the closest races in Nevada history, Paul lost his bid for the Senate by just 48 votes.
A result like that can break a lesser man, but Paul picked himself up and won the Nevada governorship just a few years later.
Under Governor Laxalt, Nevada began growing and turning into the state that we know today. He helped establish the community college system and the first medical school in Nevada.
Under his guidance, Nevada's gaming industry was transformed, and his vison for our state's future is now enjoyed by millions of tourists each year who visit Nevada for our world-class attractions, our services, and our entertainment.
It was during that time that Paul started to become friends with another famous governor in neighboring California — Ronald Reagan.
Together, they worked to protect and preserve Lake Tahoe for future generations.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency – the TRPA – is the premier bi-state compact to save the Lake, and will celebrate in 2020 its 50th year.
After his work as Governor, Paul decided the time was right to make another run for the U.S. Senate. This time he won and he served the State of Nevada from 1974 to 1987.
As a United States Senator, he continued his faithful dedication to his friend Ronald Reagan and served as his presidential campaign chairman in 1976, 1980, and 1984. He also served as General Chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1983 to 1987.
Senator Laxalt was famously called "the first friend" of President Reagan. Together, they helped each other set our country down a new path of prosperity and freedom.
Senator Laxalt was a hero and mentor to me and many others who grew up in Carson City.
Like Paul, my mother, my children and I also went to Carson High School. I played on the basketball team and my daughter Emmy was the student body president, following in Sen. Laxalt's shoes.
Before my daughter Emmy took office, she reached out to previous Carson High School student body presidents to ask for their advice.
Senator Laxalt was gracious and told her the following: "When I was elected as student body president, Franklin Roosevelt was the President of the United States. With World War II looming on the horizon, my fellow classmates and I had no idea how dramatically our lives would be altered in the next few years. Of course, the school itself was much different. I doubt that there were more than 30 students in my entire class. Until my senior year, all classes — K through 12 — were in the same building!"
He then said: "I'm not entirely comfortable offering advice, particularly to someone who knows more than me! I would just tell you to have fun and enjoy every single day, remember those who elected you and always do what you — Emmy Heller — think is right."
I know Emmy has never forgotten that advice.
Senator Laxalt set a high bar for all of us kids who went to Carson High School, but also showed us all the possibilities of what could be achieved as Nevadans.
When I was sworn in as a freshman member in the House of Representatives, Senator Laxalt was there for me on day one.
I'll never forget his support, and his advice – always stay close to family, friends, and your constituents. They will never leave you astray.
Having been a presidential campaign advisor to President Reagan, President Bush, and Senator Dole, Senator Laxalt's advice carried great weight, and I knew I needed to listen to every piece of advice that he was willing to give me.
Senator Laxalt also had a profound impact on many of my colleagues here in the Senate.
It didn't matter if you were a Democrat or Republican, Senator Laxalt would be your friend.
If fact, on my very first day as a Senator, I remember my colleague Senator Leahy telling me about all of his work and fond memories of his friend Senator Laxalt.
Senator Laxalt showed all of us what true friendship is.
His character and warmth that he shared with all of us will never be forgotten.
I extend my deepest condolences to Senator Laxalt's wife Carol and to their entire family.
Madam President, I will miss my friend Senator Laxalt. His colleagues here in the Senate will miss their friend. And the people of Nevada will miss their friend.
Madam President, thank you. I yield the floor.