CARSON CITY — Former Nevada Assemblyman John Marvel, a conservative Republican from Battle Mountain who defended farmers and ranchers for more than a quarter century but also drew their ire for crossing party lines to break a budget impasse, has died at the age of 86.
Marvel served in the Legislature for 26 years, including time as minority leader and chairman of the Ways and Means committee, until his retirement in 2005. He had suffered from several health problems over the past six years, including lung disease, before his death Saturday at a hospital in Carson City, his son, John E. Marvel, confirmed Monday.
“He was in the hospital the last two months. Doctors were always telling us they were going keep him alive so we could say goodbye,” said Marvel’s son, who serves on the state Tax Commission.
“We’d show up, and he’d be doing crossword puzzles,” the son said. “He was a tough ol’ bugger.”
On April 7, he would have celebrated his 62nd wedding anniversary with his wife, Wilburta, who lives in Carson City and was able to visit her husband last week, their son said.
“They got to say how much they loved each other,” he said.
First elected in 1979, Marvel represented mostly Humboldt and Lander counties for years before his district was stretched west to Washoe County to include part of Sparks after 2000 redistricting. In 2003, he was among a handful of Republicans who crossed party lines to break a seven-week budget impasse and approve an $836 million tax increase.
His vote was criticized by his political base, but he said it was necessary to help protect rural schools from extreme budget cuts. And he explained that he was in a better position to withstand the heat at the polls than other, more junior, Republicans who didn’t feel they had enough political cover to support the deal.
“I don’t mind taking the heat,” Marvel said at the time. “I thought I was helping some of the freshmen out. I can still sleep at night. Nobody likes criticism, but it is part of the game when you are in politics.”
Gov. Brian Sandoval served in the Legislature with Marvel.
“John Marvel was a friend and mentor to me,” the governor said in a statement. “A son of Battle Mountain, John was a fierce advocate for rural issues and a leader in the Legislature. Nevada is stronger because of John’s service and I extend my condolences to John’s wife, Willie, and his children.”
In addition to John E. Marvel and his widow, Marvel is survived by his daughters, Sharon Marvel and Michelle Marvel.
Plans are pending for a memorial service that probably will be held in Carson City, his son said.