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I'll support Raggio – if...
by David Farside
Oct 13, 2008 | 923 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Over the years I have occasionally crossed political swords with Sen. Bill Raggio. That said, I will still consider supporting him in his last bid for re-election to the Nevada State Senate – but not for all the reasons listed in his endorsement from the Reno Gazette-Journal.

In its endorsement of Raggio, the RGJ made some good points but in some cases they didn’t make a lot of sense.

As an example, they said, “Raggio was a tough lawmaker who supports his Republican party but would not slavishly follow a party line. He refuses to be restricted by a list of parochial agendas forwarded by his party.”

They sum up their endorsement by saying “Raggio puts the interest of the state before those of his party and region.”

I guess I have been missing the point for years. I thought we elected a senator from our district and region to specifically represent the parochial agenda of the local constituents.

Can you imagine in the days when the West was won if a state senator, elected to represent the farmers’ right to protect their crops with fences, voted to support the cattleman's claim to the open range, claiming it was for the good of the state?

Raggio will be facing a 22-year-old Democrat, Jade Zahreddine. Jade graduated from McQueen high in 2004. Raggio, born in 1926, graduated from Reno High while the paint was still wet on its classroom walls.

Raggio has an interesting background. He was Washoe County’s district attorney from 1959 to 1971 and had well-known skirmishes with brothel owner Joe Conforte. At one time, Conforte unsuccessfully coached an underage girl on how to lure Raggio into a “sex trap.” Thanks to Conforte, Raggio built his reputation as a competent attorney and skilled politician on the back of the Mustang Ranch.

Raggio gained national attention for his role in helping the FBI investigate the Frank Sinatra Jr. kidnapping. On Dec. 8, 1963, Frank Jr. was taken from his room at South Lake Tahoe’s Harrah’s Lodge where he was appearing with the Tommy Dorsey orchestra.

Frank Sr. flew to Reno. He was met by Raggio and they set up their headquarters in a three-room suite at the Mapes Hotel. As the hours went on, the pragmatic Raggio told reporters “the longer it goes on, the worse it looks.” Frank Jr. was released on Dec. 12 , the day before “Old Blue Eyes” celebrated his 48th birthday.

Raggio rode his popularity to the Legislature in Carson City. He used his political skills to become the Senate Majority Leader, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and never had to be elected governor to be the most powerful elected politician in the state.

Over the years he has unified the northern Nevada delegation and used his influence to protect the north from the legislative power rising from the south.

Raggio, over the years, managed to secure needed funding for higher education in the north especially the University of Nevada, Reno campus and Truckee Meadows Community College. In our academic community, there are buildings and parkways named in his honor and maybe justifiably so. Although, I always thought naming a road or building to honor a politician was ridiculous. After all, they’re just doing what we elected them to do.

It’s been noted that Raggio helped establish a school accountability bill in the 1990s. For good or bad, he was ahead of the curve on the “No Child Left Behind” federal bill.

His opponent, Zahreddine, said Raggio should have more to show for all the years he was in office. He said, “At what point do you stop making excuses for why we’re 47th in the nation for education funding or 49th in the nation for high school graduates?” and that’s a good question. He also wants a state income tax on earnings more than $150,000 annually.

One of the criticisms of Raggio is that his funding of higher education was at the expense of K-12 teachers’ salaries and new schools in Washoe County. My personal criticism is his continued refusal to allow the people of Nevada to vote on a statewide lottery to fund K-12 education and teachers’ salaries.

Regarding the budget, Raggio said, “There will be no new revenue,” meaning no increase in taxes. He wants to examine Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley’s, D-Las Vegas, plan to reassess abatement taxes and exemptions. I hope he remembers that when the push is on for a statewide property tax that he favors.

Another criticism of Raggio, deserved or not, is his favoritism towards gaming. We have the lowest gaming tax in the country and neither Reno or Sparks have a room tax for education. Some blame it on Raggio.

So why would I consider supporting Raggio? The RGJ was right when they pointed out this is a time when we need experience and leadership in Carson City. It is not the time for on-the-job training for either a Democrat or Republican.

Maybe as a lame duck legislator Raggio will show the experience of his 81 years and use it to balance the budget, to find new sources of revenue that will be fair and equitable to the parochial needs of his constituents in Washoe County while doing what’s best for the state. And he can do that.

I will support Raggio if he will first initiate legislation to provide a 1 percent room tax in Washoe County for education; second, establish a schematic to increase the annual gaming tax over the current base – in good years the tax is increased and in bad years the tax can be reduced to its current base; and, above all, if he supports a bill draft resolution requesting the people’s right to vote on a statewide lottery for education. And he can do that, too, if he really wants to.

David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist. The polemics of his articles can be discussed at His Web site is
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