Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010 | 2 a.m.
Election cleanup and the mess it can make.
By now, the dust has settled and we have learned some things that very few people in this state didn’t already know. Times are very difficult and they aren’t getting better in a hurry. Folks are not only angry but they are also scared, and they want someone in leadership to do something about it. They didn’t think many of the Democrats in Washington or the Republican in Nevada’s statehouse were capable of fixing the problem.
So, they made a change. A big change in some respects — the 60-member swing in the House of Representatives comes to mind — and smaller ones in other places — the Senate stayed in Democratic hands. In Nevada, we swapped one Republican governor for another. The new one comes in with high hopes from voters that he can actually lead us someplace other than to yesterday.
We shall see. I say that because we have witnessed a broom sweep that could create the first mess in what could prove to be a very messy next few months in the Silver State. And it promises to put a newly elected Brian Sandoval in a bit of an ideological sticky wicket right out of the box.
It is no secret that Nevada is hurting. It also should come as no surprise that, regardless of what the ideologues may wish were the case, the fact remains that a giant, $3 billion hole in the budget needs to get fixed before June, when the Legislature is expected to leave until 2013. Nevada also needs to expand its business base — find new industries to augment a damaged tourist industry — and stabilize its ability to raise the revenue needed for government to function.
That will not be easy. We will need all the goodwill, talent, experience and political acumen available both from the governor and the legislative leadership to accomplish these essential goals. And we will need all men and women dedicated to Nevada to put the people above party, personal power and private pique.
So what is the first thing state Senate Republicans do, before the results have even been certified? They commit the equivalent of running the most knowledgeable, wisest and politically astute member of their caucus out of town on a rail!
State Sen. Bill Raggio, a title this man has earned over and over again for more years than most people have lived here, was given his walking papers as minority leader last week. Why?
Because, as he has always done in his most successful public career, he put the interests of his state and its voters ahead of his own. He supported the re-election of Democrat Harry Reid over the Republican Party’s right-angled, obtuse offering. Raggio knew what he was doing and he knew the consequences. He knew the ideologues in his party would be after his scalp and, yet, he did what he thought was right.
There was a time in this country when voters respected a public servant who stood up and did what he thought was right, no matter the personal consequences. Indeed, we still teach that value to our children, lest they be trampled by an unknowing mob that is running the wrong way. At least we say we teach such things to our kids.
Raggio did what most other Nevadans did. Together, they made the decision that Reid would best serve the interests of Nevadans.
And for that, an ideological petulance rose up to sweep the man from his leadership post and caused what may yet be another minor disaster, Raggio’s resigning from the Senate Finance Committee. (These are the folks who will be charged with trying to fix our fiscal mess.) If there is one person on that committee who understands budgets and comprehends the needs of the state, it is Raggio. And now the state — not just the Republicans — has lost his talents.
Knowing the good senator as I think I do, he will not actually leave his fellow citizens to wallow in the muck and mire that we have created for ourselves over the past few decades — although no one would blame him if he did. Instead, I believe he will just work his magic from a different place. And therein lies the challenge for our new governor.
There comes a time in the course of human events when leaders must stand up, separate themselves from the crowd and, well, lead!
Sandoval will get his chance very shortly when he is faced with the prospect of leading this state backward — finishing the gutting of education, higher and lower, and all kinds of social services (at a time when the need is the greatest) that Jim Gibbons started during his less-than-worthless reign as the state’s chief executive — or forward — toward a future of stable revenue, glowing educational prospects and growing businesses with jobs aplenty.
If Sandoval makes the right choice, he will turn to people like Raggio for his common sense, his knowledge and his vast experience to help him lead that charge. And that means he will turn away from the very people in his Republican Party who have punished him for acting in the highest tradition of independent Nevada.
You see the dilemma?
There could have been a case made that a changing of the guard was appropriate. There could have been a case made, and perhaps agreed to, that fresh ideas and energy were necessary to help the state move forward. Raggio would probably not have argued with either case. But there can never be a case made for the blatantly childish punishment that has been meted out against a man of such credit in this state, who merely stood up for what he believed was the right thing to do.
And now that it is done, I hope Nevada is not the poorer for that decision. It will be up to a Gov. Sandoval to assure us that is not the case.
Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.