KENNY GUINN: Nevada’s political leaders remember popular governor |

KENNY GUINN: Nevada’s political leaders remember popular governor

“He had such a magnetic personality. Kenny Guinn was built like an athlete. He was handsome like a movie star. And he left the school district after a number of years and became a bank president. He became a big utility president at a major utility in Nevada. Then he became president of a university. I think he worked for $1 a year. He did it to be nice.

“Somebody said to him, “What you should do is run for governor.” It was a slam dunk. He was a very moderate Republican. He was elected governor twice very easily. He did an extremely good job as governor.

“I feel so bad about this. I talked to him a week or so ago about my campaign and his wonderful, beautiful, charming wife Dema. I just feel so sad that Kenny is not with us anymore. I join all Nevada in mourning the loss of truly a great man, one of Nevada’s outstanding governors, a friend of mine who I’ll always feel very strongly about.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

From a statement on the floor of the U.S. Senate


“Kenny Guinn was a proud Nevadan and his leadership of Nevada and many contributions to the Silver State will be remembered for years to come.”

Gov. Jim Gibbons


“Gov. Guinn was a great man and a great Nevadan. He led the Clark County School District with dedication as superintendent for more than a decade. He helped build Nevada’s economy as a leader in the private sector for nearly 20 years before he was elected governor.

“Thousands of Nevada high school students have received college educations because of the Gov. Guinn Millennium Scholarship Program. Many more will receive those scholarships in years to come, and that will be his legacy.

“Gov. Guinn stewarded Nevada through some of its most difficult budget times, and he did so with authority, but also with compassion. Anyone who knew Kenny Guinn recognized that about him. He saw public service as his way of improving the lives of others, to give others the opportunities he had. He never lost sight of that.

“This is a very sad day for Nevada. Our hearts go out to former first lady Dema Guinn, and we can only let Gov. Guinn’s family know how much we appreciated him, and how much we will miss Kenny Guinn.”

Steven Horsford

Senate Majority Leader,

D-Las Vegas


“He epitomized public service at its best – as an educator, as an elected official and as a citizen. I was privileged to know him from our days as grade school children in Exeter, Calif., and later as we each adopted Nevada as our home. He will be remembered as an energetic straight-shooter, a strong and honest leader and as a great governor.”

Former Gov. Robert List 


“I had the privilege of serving with Gov. Guinn as his attorney general and I was honored to have called him friend. His service to our state will be remembered by all Nevadans and, especially, the many Nevada children who enrolled in college as a result of his Millennium Scholarship program. Kathleen and I extend our deepest sympathies to Dema and her family during this very difficult time.”

Brian Sandoval

Republican candidate for governor


“He was a lifelong teacher and carried that work ethic and genuine caring with him throughout his career. We have lost a friend, a mentor, and one of our hardest working advocates for the people of Nevada. His legacy lives on through countless initiatives, including the Millennium Scholarship program, which has impacted the lives of thousands of Nevada students.”

Rory Reid

Democratic candidate for governor


“Gov. Guinn was a friend, a model, and an inspiration to me and many others who knew him through the years.

“Gov. Guinn was generous with his time and advice. Over the past few years he reached out to give suggestions on policy and ideas on how we could make progress for Nevada. He never stopped caring about this state and the people in it.

“He was sometimes criticized by the left as too conservative and scolded by the right as too liberal. I think that means he probably got things just right.”

John Oceguera

Nevada Assembly Majority Leader, D-Las Vegas


“I am absolutely heartbroken over this tragic loss. I have known Kenny Guinn since he was superintendent of the Clark County School District, where he did an extraordinary job for our community. He was a dynamic force in Nevada politics and our state’s business circles for as many decades as I can remember, and he had an extraordinary influence on me. He was a good man and he will be deeply missed.”

Rep. Shelley Berkley



“I am both shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden passing of a true Nevadan, former Gov. Kenny Guinn. It’s nearly impossible for me to put into words what this one man has meant to me and the people of Nevada.  Kenny was greatly admired and respected across Nevada from the rurals of the East to the metropolitan abundance of the South. 

“Kenny was to me a great role model and someone who I worked very closely with – in fact, he has been an inspiration to me through the years beginning with the time that he was the Superintendent of the Clark County School District and he signed my high school diploma. 

“He and Dema served Nevada well as our first family, and they have continued their tireless devotion to philanthropic efforts, such as education, in recent years.  My thoughts and prayers are with Dema and their children and all the people across the state who are mourning the loss of a great Nevadan.”

Sen. John Ensign



“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.”

Rep. Dean Heller



“I thought so much of him and worked with him very closely, probably closer than with any other governor. Gov. Guinn was a great leader for Nevada, particularly during an extremely trying time (after 9/11). He helped our state through one of its darkest hours.”

Bill Raggio

Senate Minority Leader,



“There is so much you can say about Gov. Guinn, about his commitment to education as a school superintendent, his creation of the Millennium Scholarship and other accomplishments during his tenure as governor. But what so many of us will remember about him is his genuine caring for people, regardless of their political party or where they were from. Gov. Guinn would sit down and talk to a person or group of people any time, any place.

“I’ll never forget the time when he left a room full of people waiting for him so he could walk my son through the Governor’s Mansion.  A young child’s smile was worth more than making political supporters happy.

“When you had disagreements – and we did – you knew that he listened to what you had to say and gave it credence. … That’s the kind of governor he was – never partisan – and always concerned about Nevadans.  His grace and the respect he showed to everyone are qualities that are too often absent these days.”

Barbara Buckley

Assembly Speaker,

D-Las Vegas


“Ted and Sharron Angle are enormously saddened to learn about the sudden loss of former Gov. Kenny Guinn. The news is extremely heartbreaking and marks a very sad day for Nevada. Ted and Sharron are keeping Gov. Guinn’s wife Dema and their two sons in their prayers.”

Jerry Stacy

spokesman for U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle, Republican


“Today, Nevada lost a highly respected and admired public servant. The party mourns the loss of one of its great leaders and Nevadans are mourning the passing of one of its great governors. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Guinn family, and our condolences are offered in this time of loss.”

Mark Amodei

Nevada Republican Party Chairman


“He was the finest man I’ve ever known – the most giving, most warm, most generous person I’ve ever known. For the people that worked with him, we loved and admired him so much we would do anything in the world for him because we knew he would do anything in the world for us.”

Steve George

Guinn’s former press secretary


“Obviously, I was shocked to hear the terrible news about my long-time friend, Kenny Guinn. The news hit me like a kick to the gut.

“We were friends for the better part of four decades.

I think what attracted us to one another is that we had similar backgrounds. My father was a sheepherder who plied his trade in the mountains and deserts of Nevada. Kenny’s father worked tirelessly in the farmlands of Central California.  

“His parents, like mine, devoted themselves completely to providing their children with lives that would open up opportunities that simply did not exist for them.  

“With that kind of upbringing, Kenny went on to become a great success in life as well as a loving father and husband and a deeply loyal friend. He was a devoted educator, skillful school superintendent, highly successful bank and utility executive, selfless and dedicated president of a university and, finally, a highly popular governor. 

“For years, I had attempted to have him seek office, but he repeatedly told me that he and Dema weren’t ready.  Eventually, after raising his family and achieving financial independence, he won a resounding victory in 1998.

“Like any governor, he faced adversity and controversy, but his people skills, substantive knowledge – aided by his business acumen – and down-to-earth approach to governing allowed him to leave office probably more popular than when he was sworn in as governor.

“Carol and I are praying for Kenny and Dema and the rest of his great family on this sad, shocking day. At least we can briefly overcome our grief to say that Kenny truly did live a wonderful life.”     

Paul Laxalt

Former Governor and U.S. Senator