Legislators criticize Raggio’s embrace of Reid

CARSON CITY — Two longtime Republican legislators said Friday that it is too early to tell whether state Senate Republicans will replace Bill Raggio as minority leader because of his endorsement of Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.

Whether Raggio returns as state Senate Republican leader in 2011 depends on the outcome of the November election, Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, said, when many conservatives are seeking Republican seats.

Raggio of Reno has come under fire for his announcement Thursday that he supports Reid in his race against Republican Sharron Angle.

“We need to see who gets elected and what are their feelings,” McGinness said.

Assemblyman Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, agreed. He is running for the state Senate seat held by term-limited Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks.

“I can’t say I will support him or that I won’t,” Gustavson said. “I have no idea now who is going to be elected.”

Other conservative Republicans are seeking state Senate seats, including Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, in the Capital Senate District, and Elizabeth Halseth of Las Vegas in District 9.

With Raggio as party leader, most state Senate Republicans in 2003 and 2009 supported tax increases.

Four of the nine state Senate Republicans — Washington, McGinness, Mark Amodei and Barbara Cegavske — voted against the bill last year that temporarily increased state taxes by $781 million.

Earlier last week, Raggio said some taxes must be increased next year to make up a potential $3 billion revenue shortfall. He said the Legislature already has cut the state budget to the bone.

Raggio, 83, has been criticized by other Republicans, including Amodei, now state Republican Party chairman, because of his Reid endorsement.

Raggio has been a state senator since 1972 and has served either as majority leader or minority leader in every legislative session since 1983.

Because of term limits, just three state Senate Republicans — Raggio, McGinness and Dean Rhoads of Tuscarora — are sure of returning to Carson City. They are in the middle of their last terms.

McGinness, normally a Raggio ally, and Gustavson, who often sided with Angle when she was in the Assembly, disapproved of Raggio’s announcement that he backs Reid.

“He should have not said anything rather than make that announcement. He should have kept that opinion to himself,” said McGinness, who would not state whether he would back Raggio.

“I’m not happy with it, but it is not totally unexpected,” said Gustavson about Raggio’s support of Reid. “There has not been good blood between them (Angle and Raggio) for a long time.”

Democrats have a 12-9 advantage in the state Senate, but McGinness said there was an outside chance the GOP could pick up the majority. That would mean at least eight Republican candidates would have to win on Nov. 2.

However, Cegavske could return to a third and final Senate term if she defeats Democrat Tammy Peterson in District 8 in Clark County.

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