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Raggio challenged on term limits

CARSON CITY — Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, the dean of the Legislature, on Thursday became the latest of a growing number of Nevada politicians whose right to run for another term has been challenged.

Retired Reno labor union member George Bethurum filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court in which he maintains Raggio, R-Reno, is prohibited from running for re-election.

Under a term limits constitutional amendment, approved by voters in 1994 and 1996, candidates for legislative and other offices cannot serve more than 12 years in the same office.

Raggio, 81, has been a state senator since 1973.

But three months before the amendment received final approval in 1996, then-Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa announced it would not become effective until the election in 1998.

The amendment, placed on the ballot through petitions gathered by Las Vegas political consultant Sig Rogich, did not include a startup date for term limits.

Under Del Papa’s ruling, 11 Assembly members and four senators with more than 12 years in office were able to file for re-election this year.

Nonetheless, Republican Assembly candidate Kevin Child filed a lawsuit two weeks ago that challenges the right of his opponent, Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, from seeking another term. Buckley first was elected in 1994.

The Supreme Court is scheduled Tuesday to hear Child’s challenge that the term limits amendment prevents Buckley from serving another term.

On the same day, the court will hear a challenge from Secretary of State Ross Miller that Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury, Board of Regents members Thalia Dondero and Howard Rosenberg and others cannot seek new terms because of term limits.

Justices announced Wednesday that they will hold a July 14 hearing on the constitutionality of the term limits amendment.

In the lawsuit, Bethurum said he was challenging Raggio’s candidacy only because of the term limits amendment.

“Lest there be any doubt on this score, the present challenge is not a reflection on the quality of Mr. Raggio’s service, solely its duration,” said the lawsuit, filed by Henderson lawyer Charles Rainey. “The voters have spoken and term limits ares are now an inexorable fact of political life in Nevada.”

Bethurum lives in Raggio’s district. He is not running for the senator’s seat.

Raggio faces a primary race from former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, R-Reno.

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