CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Former state Sen. Bill Raggio, the
prominent Reno Republican who was the longest-serving state senator in Nevada history when he retired in January 2011, has died at age 85.
He was first elected in 1972 and served in the senate for 38 years, including 28 years as Republican caucus leader.
"If there was a Mount Rushmore of Nevada politics, Bill Raggio's image would forever be carved there," Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a Friday statement. "One of the great lights in the world of Nevada politics has gone out."
Raggio, who had become increasingly vocal against the hardline, no-tax stance of the conservative right, was shunned by some members of his party after endorsing Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid in the 2010 election against tea party candidate Sharron Angle. Raggio was replaced in his role of senate minority leader by Sen. Mike McGinness, of Fallon.
Greg Brower, a former assemblyman and U.S. attorney, was appointed to fill his seat in Washoe Senate District 3.
In announcing his retirement before the 2011 legislative session, the moderate Republican cited health reasons and slowing physical mobility for his resignation.
"I had hoped to complete the remainder of my 10th elected term, but my physical mobility simply does not allow me to function fully, and therefore it is time for me to step aside for someone who can give the position a 100 percent effort," he said in a statement.
At the time, Sandoval called Raggio the "father figure" in the Legislature.
With Nevada's population heavily concentrated around Las Vegas, Raggio had been a guard dog for northern interests.
Before joining the Senate, he served 12 years as Washoe County district attorney, and six years before that has an assistant DA.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said he was deeply saddened by Raggio's death.
"I have known Bill for decades, he has been a mentor to me. He always fought for Nevada and his invaluable contributions and service to our state will live on," Reid said in a statement. "His important voice will be missed."
Raggio received his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1948. Over his career, he received several honors recognizing his contributions to higher education and the University: Distinguished Service Award, awarded by the University of Nevada, Reno Alumni Association in 1997, Outstanding Alumnus, awarded by the University of Nevada, Reno in 1999, Jake Lawlor Award, awarded by the University of Nevada Athletic Foundation in 1999, President’s Medal, awarded by UNLV in 2000, “Hero of Education” Award, awarded by the University of Nevada, Reno Faculty Senate and Nevada Faculty Alliance in 2011, Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, awarded by the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011.
A permanent display devoted to Sen. Raggio is located on the first floor of the University’s William J. Raggio Building. The 118,000-square-foot building is home to the College of Education. It opened for classes in fall 1997 and was renamed in recognition of Sen. Raggio’s significant contributions to education in 2003. Within the building is the Raggio Research Center which promotes research and programs to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.