Las Vegas Sun

November 29, 2023

Guinn wanted public to know of cancer

If Gov. Kenny Guinn were any one of the 1,399 other Nevada men who will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, chances are he wouldn't have held a press conference to talk about it.

But Guinn, who is running for his second term, acknowledged that his responsibility to the citizens of Nevada overruled any desire for privacy.

"We didn't want someone to hear it from the back door," Guinn said. "We wanted to tell people directly."

Guinn's predecessor, Bob Miller, said Thursday he knows firsthand the difficulty of dealing with something as private as prostate cancer while living in the fish bowl of public office. In 1996 then-Gov. Miller also learned he had prostate cancer and broke the news at a press conference.

"When you're in public service, the reality is you don't deal with these issues in private, the way other people do," Miller said. "Most people sit down with their families and decide who, if anyone, you want to tell. Governors don't have that luxury."

Miller said he spoke with Guinn Thursday to offer his full support. As Nevada's chief executive, Guinn will likely face closer scrutiny than most other prostate cancer patients.

"Certainly, when everyone's aware of your situation, it's going to raise questions about your ability to perform your job," Miller said. "Gov. Guinn's emotional state is excellent, from all reports his prognosis is very good, and I have no doubt he'll be able to make the important decisions for the state."

Miller, who opted for surgery was back at full strength a few weeks after that.

Former Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones successfully battled breast cancer in 1998 while running for governor.

Susan McCue, former campaign manager for Jones and now chief of staff to Sen. Harry Reid, said Jones was nothing short of "inspirational."

Jones continued her rigorous campaign schedule even while undergoing chemotherapy, McCue said.

"Her attitude was that nothing was going to slow her down," McCue said. "It sounds like Gov. Guinn is taking the same positive approach."

Jones was vacationing and could not be reached.

Other politicians have rebounded from serious illnesses and continued to lead. State Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, has survived both skin cancer and bypass surgery while in office. Sen. Bob Dole was a presidential candidate in 1996 at age 73, years after successful prostate cancer surgery.

By volunteering information about his illness, Guinn has lessened any potential negative impact, said Ted Jelen, chairman of the political science department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

"It always helps to be straightforward," Jelen said. "People respect forthrightness and honesty."

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