Raggio out as state Senate GOP leader | NevadaAppeal.com

Raggio out as state Senate GOP leader

Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, applauds during a ceremony to celebrate the legislative staff in the Senate Chambers on Monday.
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A new and more conservative Republican line-up in Nevada’s Senate has decided to replace their long time leader Bill Raggio with Fallon’s Mike McGinness.

The move ends a record 28 year reign as the Republican caucus leader in the Senate – including 10 sessions as majority leader.

Raggio confirmed the change saying he voluntarily stepped out of the way for the good of the caucus. He also said he asked to be taken off the Senate Finance Committee, which he also chaired for 10 sessions.

“I asked not to be on finance,” he said. “I was not taken off. I think these folks have budget proposals and I think it best they have a free hand for their own input on it.”

Asked whether he was stepping out of the way of a train wreck, he declined to characterize his decision that way but did say 2011 will be “the most difficult session with few solutions and, from what I’ve seen, no real plan yet.”

The move to depose Raggio developed force after he came out against the election of Republican Sharron Angle and said he was reluctantly endorsing Harry Reid. McGinness said last week he was disappointed with that endorsement.

McGinness confirmed that was “what pushed it over the edge.”

“It wasn’t like I started hearing from fellow Senators. I started hearing from constituents. My own central committee actually passed a resolution asking Raggio to step down. It was kind of a groundswell.”

Raggio said he was “very comfortable” with his decision to back out of the leadership position. He declined, however, to comment on whether, seeing the writing on the wall, planned the move to ensure his replacement was McGinness instead of the other veteran Republican in the caucus, Barbara Cegavske of Las Vegas. In that scenario, James Settelmeyer, newly elected in the Capital Senatorial District, may have been the key vote. If Raggio couldn’t get Settelmeyer’s support, he wouldn’t have the numbers to stay head of the caucus.

McGinness also declined comment on that, saying simply that the vote to make him minority leader was unanimous.

“I wasn’t really excited about doing this but I figured if it wasn’t me it would be somebody else and I trust myself more,” he said.

McGinness said he asked Raggio to stay on the Fiinance Committee, “because nobody knows it better than he does.”

“Maybe we can still change his mind before we make the committee assignments,” he said.

“A lot of these folks have indicated things in their campaigning,” Raggio said referring to repeated statements by Republicans who won Senate seats that higher taxes isn’t an option. “I don’t want to be an impediment to their process of getting a budget together.”

Raggio, in the past, has angered some more conservative members of the caucus by supporting tax increases. He has also said several times this campaign cycle he doesn’t believe a $3 billion shortfall can be covered just with cuts and that local governments have already taken significant hits from the state.

“They’re talking about shifting things from state to local governments,” Raggio said. “Somebody’s going to have to pay when you do that. Then they’re talking about real deep cuts. When those deep cuts start hitting people we’ll see if it’s doable.”

McGinness said he asked Raggio to stay on finance.

Raggio, who last week reached his 84th birthday, said his health isn’t the issue. He recently had back surgery as well as treatments to repair a damaged Achilles tendon.

McGinness, a Fallon radio station manager, has been in the Nevada Senate since the 1993 session. Before that, he served two terms in the Assembly.

He has served most of that time on the Taxation Committee including five sessions as chairman.

McGinness said his first task as minority leader will be to talk with Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, about the make-up of Senate committees. He said Horsford wants to reduce the size of some committees adjust their membership so that, in some cases, only two of seven seats are Republican even though the Senate is just 11-10 Democrat.

“There are some places where our Senators won’t even have morning assignments,” he said.

When Raggio completes this term and retires in two years, he will have served 40 years in the state Senate, longer than anyone in Nevada history.

Reid said his election is proof Nevadans voted “to reject extremism.”

He said the move to oust Raggio shows that his colleagues “clearly missed that message and are not listening to their constituents.”

He described Raggio as “a true champion of the people of Nevada.”

Meanwhile, the other three leadership positions in the Nevada Legislature will be as expected. Horsford was named Senate Majority Leader by his caucus; John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, Assembly Speaker replacing Barbara Buckley and Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, Assembly

Minority Leader replacing Heidi Gansert of Reno, who didn’t run for another term..