45°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce of Las Vegas dies of cancer

Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, known for her fearless efforts to raise taxes when others were afraid of even uttering the T-word, died early Thursday after a recurring battle with cancer. She was 59.

The Las Vegas Democrat, whose condition worsened toward the end of the 2013 Legislature, received a loud and long standing ovation from her colleagues when she showed up on the Assembly floor to vote on key bills toward the end of the session in June.

“Peggy was more than just a colleague,” said Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas. “She was my friend and will be missed by everyone in our caucus and by her constituents who she served well. There was no one who cared more, fought more on behalf of all Nevadans when it came to speaking truth to power.”

Her longtime companion, Jon Sasser, said funeral arrangements are pending, but the plan is to have a funeral in Las Vegas on Oct. 19.

He and two of Pierce’s sisters were at her bedside in her home in Las Vegas when she died about 4:15 a.m.

She had been diagnosed with cancer three times over the past 10 years.

Sasser said Pierce, a native of Milton, Mass., moved to Las Vegas about 30 years ago with hopes of becoming a singer. She took jobs as a food server at banquets to finance her singing career. When those dreams passed, she became active in the Culinary Union Local 226. In recent years, she worked for the United Labor Agency of Nevada.

She first ran for the Assembly District 3 seat in 2002 and served the maximum six terms in the seat. In 2012, she defeated her opponent by a 2-to-1 margin.

Pierce never thought herself as an extremist, but just someone who wanted to take Nevada from being near the bottom in education and quality of life toward the middle ranking among states, according to Sasser. In the 2011 session alone, she introduced five bills to raise taxes — none which passed.

In an interview that year, she cited statistics that showed the number of public employees per 10,000 residents was about two-thirds of what it had been in 1978. She said Nevada would need to hire 44,000 more employees just to keep pace.

“How did this happen?” she asked. “We were the fastest growth state for most of that time. We’d hold a Legislature and conservatives would scream ‘We can’t expand government.’ Then we would go home and, when we came back, Nevada would have added 50,000 to 75,000 more people. And conservatives again would scream ‘We can’t expand government.’”

In her private life, Sasser said Pierce loved hiking and dancing, watching TV shows and keeping up with the news.

He said her passion for improving Nevada education was so great that she would have been out campaigning this summer for people to support the 2 percent business margins tax plan advocated by the Nevada State Education Association. The proposal will be on the November 2014 ballot.

“I think her message to people would be that our only chance to get Nevada needs is to vote for the teachers’ initiative,” Sasser said.

Her seat in the Legislature does not need to be filled before the 2014 election unless the Legislature is called into special session, according to Rick Combs, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau. In that event, the Clark County Commission would select someone from the same political party who lives in her district.

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., called Pierce’s passing “very sad news for Nevada.”

“Peggy was a fighter for everyone who needed one.” he said. “She will be deeply missed and I send my condolences to her colleagues and her family.”

Tributes for Pierce were given even by Republicans. Gov. Brian Sandoval called Pierce a longtime advocate for the people of Nevada.

“I admired Peggy’s tenacity and commitment to those she represented and she will be missed,” he said. ” Kathleen and I extend our thoughts and prayers to Peggy’s family and friends.”

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
RJ Politics Podcast with Deval Patrick - VIDEO
2020 Presidential Candidate Deval Patrick joins hosts Rory Appleton and Steve Sebelius on the RJ Politics Podcast.
Tom Steyer on Donald Trump and the economy - Video
Tom Steyer joins the RJ Politics podcast to talk about his campaign presence in Nevada and how he plans to take Trump on when talking about the economy. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas City Council Votes On Homeless Ordinance - Video
The Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday will discuss expanding on a controversial camping and sleeping ban aimed at deterring the homeless from bivouacking on city streets to include hours when public sidewalks are being cleaned.
Biden meets with Vegas Latino community - VIDEO
Presidential candidate Joe Biden met with members of the Latino community at Rancho High School. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Henderson, other Nevada cities consent to refugee resettlement - VIDEO
Henderson will continue to welcome refugees for resettlement, according to a December letter from Mayor Debra March. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg Speaks At Black Empowerment Event - Video
Pete Buttigieg speaks at a black empowerment event to talk about his Douglass plan.
Joe Biden at the national hospitality workers union.
Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to members of the national hospitality workers union during UNITE HERE's town hall on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019 at Culinary Union Hall in Las Vegas. @bizutesfaye
Elizabeth Warren at Culinary Union
Elizabeth Warren speaks at a Culinary Union town hall in Las Vegas on Dec. 9, 2019.
Secretary of Education visits Henderson school
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited students at Pinecrest Academy in Henderson to talk about college planning on Dec. 4, 2019. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump dropped from Terry Fator’s show on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Fator has edited out one prominent figure: President Donald Trump, a focal point of Fator’s regular stage show and also Christmas show over the past 3½ years. The Trump puppet, with his pop-up hairpiece, has been sidelined from both shows until further notice. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Accused murder mastermind Frank LaPena is granted a pardon - VIDEO
A onetime Las Vegas casino bell captain who spent 25 years in prison as the accused mastermind in a notorious 1974 contract murder won his last legal battle for freedom Wednesday when the state Pardons Board granted him a conditional pardon restoring all his civil rights. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Middle: Nonpartisan voters and the 2020 election
How will the growing segment of nonpartisan or independent voters — those who have not registered with either political party, or who have left partisan politics behind — vote in 2020?
THE LATEST