Abby Johnson: Chris G: far-reaching as aspen, formidable as oak | NevadaAppeal.com

Abby Johnson: Chris G: far-reaching as aspen, formidable as oak

Abby Johnson

Last week I learned aspen trees are the largest living organism on the planet because the trees are connected. In fact, a giant aspen grove in Central Utah spans 106 acres.

When I was a child, we played a guessing game. "If this person were a tree, what kind of tree would he/she be?"

"An ancient battered oak with rough bark and strong branches that provide shelter and shade."

"Winston Churchill?"

"Yes!"

But this isn't about the leaders of yesteryear. With the primary election for governor on June 12 and Nevada's future at stake, Democrats and Republicans have choices to make. As a Democrat I'm choosing Chris Giunchigliani — or Chris G as she's known and shown on the ballot.

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Chris G is from Clark County. She's a county commissioner who previously served with distinction in the Nevada Legislature. And she's a teacher who represented teachers at the Legislature before she was an elected official.

These facts alone don't explain her passion for public service or her desire to serve the entire state, not just Clark County. She has visited nearly every school in Nevada and is comfortable in the smallest of rural communities as well as the big cities. She's a people person.

She's also an unapologetic progressive who knows education reform is the key to Nevada's prosperity and future. She understands the connections between kids in crisis and the need for mental health services for all Nevadans.

As a "budget hawk" on the powerful Assembly Ways and Means Committee she developed a deep understanding of state government budgets and costs — where the money comes from and where it's needed. She has worked in a bipartisan fashion to solve problems and meet needs.

When she represented Clark County on the Southern Nevada Water Authority board of directors, she courageously bucked the tide and voted against the ambitious and costly water pipeline project to import water from rural Nevada. And she opposed the $750 million tax giveaway to build a stadium for the aptly named Raiders football team. She's not afraid to take an unpopular position when it's the right thing to do.

Chris G reminds me of an aspen tree. At first glance, by itself, the tree is slender and sways in the wind. The tree doesn't appear to be formidable like the oak. But understand the aspen tree is part of a grove of aspens, connected and interdependent. Appreciate that, like the aspen, Chris G's network is far-reaching and her political base has nourished the grassroots.

Chris G is still in touch with her working class roots and considers how proposals will affect mom and pop businesses. She's got spunk and smarts. She has said she'll work to sustain and improve the humane and practical social services agenda of Gov. Sandoval. She supports "things that actually build communities across the state." And she'll have education as her top priority. Chris has been on the front lines of Nevada's education system and knows what needs to change, especially the state's abysmal ranking of 50th in education, an economic development deal-killer.

Yes, she's not a typical candidate for governor. She's an avowed progressive; not handpicked by the power brokers and shadow politicians; a woman; a widow. And she's Italian. She brings intelligence, energy, experience, compassion and a strong work ethic — the qualities of an effective leader. She'll make a great governor for all of Nevada. But first, the primary election.

Early voting begins this Saturday at the Carson City Courthouse. The primary election is June 12. I'm looking forward to using the new voting equipment to cast my ballot for Chris Giunchigliani for governor of Nevada.

Abby Johnson is a resident of Carson City, and a part-time resident of Baker, Nev. She consults on community development and nuclear waste issues. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her clients or the Nevada Appeal.