Veteran State Senator Not Running Again

Nevada Legislature 2003
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Joe Neal, the first black in the Nevada state Senate and a veteran of a record 32 years in the upper house, said Wednesday he won't seek re-election this year.

Instead, Neal, 68, said he's considering a possible run for a Clark County Commission seat, so he could keep active politically and "still be a thorn in somebody's side for a few years."

But as far as the Senate goes, Neal said, "You know the Kenny Rogers song: Sometimes you have to hold 'em, sometimes you have to fold 'em, sometimes you just walk away. I'm walking away."

Neal for years has been an outspoken critic of Nevada's gambling industry because of his belief the resorts haven't been paying their fair share of taxes. He also championed civil rights legislation and has been a leader in anti-death penalty efforts.

Neal says his biggest legislative accomplishment was his 1981 bill on fire-safety retrofitting following major casino fires in Las Vegas. He said that legislation made the clubs safer - and also saved them a lot of money in insurance premium payments.

His 32 years in the Senate is equaled only by the service of Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno. Both were elected in 1972. Neal also made two unsuccessful bids for governor.

Neal said he's disappointed that the "humanistic approach to governance" that he favors seems to be fading away. "It's all about money and big corporations that come in and set the agenda," he added.

However, Neal said his exit from state politics "will leave a void and hopefully someone will fill it. There are some good people in the Legislature, particularly in the Assembly."

While Neal said he's confident he could get re-elected if he chose to run for the Senate again, he said that he promised four years ago, in filing for re-election, that he wouldn't seek another term after that. He won a tight re-election campaign in the 2000 Democratic primary. There were no republicans in the race for the heavily Democratic district seat.

Neal's announcement followed word Tuesday from state university regent Linda Howard that she will run for Neal's seat.

Howard, 48, was elected to the regents' board in 2000. She has discussed running for the state Senate in the past, but only if Neal declined to seek re-election.

State Board of Education member Theresa Malone and former Station Casinos marketing director Cedric Crear also will be on the ballot.