Raggio steps down as Senate minority leader | NevadaAppeal.com

Raggio steps down as Senate minority leader

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

A new and more conservative Republican lineup in Nevada’s Senate has decided to replace their longtime leader Bill Raggio with Fallon’s Mike McGinness.

The decision was announced Thursday after a lengthy meeting at the Jones-Vargas law firm where Raggio is a partner. It 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 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 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 (Churchill County) central committee actually passed a resolution asking Raggio to step down.”

The state Republican Central Committee and several other county committees also called for his removal.

“It was kind of a groundswell,” said McGinness.

Raggio, 84, said he was “very comfortable” with his decision to back out of leadership.

McGinness said 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 Finance 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 winning Republicans that raising 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, 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 makeup of Senate committees. He said Horsford wants to reduce the size of some committees and adjust the membership of others so that, in some cases, only two of seven seats are Republican even though the Senate is just 11-10 Democrat.

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” and that Raggio’s ouster 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 again.