Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the passing of his friend, Senator Bill Raggio. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Last week Nevada lost a great statesman and I lost a great friend and mentor.
William Raggio, the longest-serving state senator in Nevada history, died last week while traveling in Australia. He was 85.
My heart is with his wife Dale, children Leslie and Tracy, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
I hope it is some small comfort to know that all of Nevada mourns the loss of this great man along with them.
Senator Raggio was a second-generation Nevadan, born and raised in Reno. State Senator Randolph Townsend, also of Reno, called Bill “part of the fabric of the city.”
Bill lived to serve.
In addition to four decades in the Nevada legislature, he volunteered to serve in the Armed Forces during World War II. He enlisted in the Navy at 17, but the war ended before he graduated from officer training school.
When he finished his service he attended the University of Nevada, Reno then went on to law school in California.
But he continued his services as a U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy reservist.
And he dedicated 18 years to the Washoe County District Attorney’s office, including three terms as D.A., before becoming a state legislator.
He rooted out corruption wherever it lived – and for Bill there was no place more corrupt than Joe Conforte’s illegal brothel, the Triangle River Ranch.
Bill’s feud with Joe Conforte was Nevada legend. But Bill got the last word.
Conforte spent 22 months in prison for trying to bribe Bill. And in 1965 Bill had Conforte’s brothel burned to the ground for being a public nuisance.
It wasn’t until 1972 that Bill first brought his integrity and dedication to the State House.
And for the next 38 years, hardly a piece of legislation passed the Nevada legislature that didn’t have his fingerprints on it.
He worked to pass thousands of laws. And he was an expert in process.
Nobody knew how to craft a budget better than Bill Raggio did.
Bill was a Republican who believed government should be “lean but not mean.”
He was never afraid to work with Democratic members, even though he was Republican Leader.
And he argued that the Republican Party would embrace its more radical elements at its peril. He urged the party to reshape itself for a new century, or risk losing touch completely.
So it’s no surprise to see the outpouring of grief at his passing from Democrats and Republicans alike.
“No one has ever loved this state more or has a more passionate desire to make things better for the people who live here,” said the Democratic Assembly Speaker John Ocegera.
“If there was a Mount Rushmore of Nevada politics, Bill Raggio’s image would forever be carved there. The Nevada family has lost a great patriarch,” said Republican Governor Brian Sandoval.
I will enter pages of praise for this worthy man into the record today. The comments I’ve just read are only a few of hundreds.
Bill Raggio believed in doing what was right for Nevada, even when it wasn’t necessarily right for his political party.
I admired him and respected him even when – and perhaps especially when – I disagreed with him.
Upon his retirement last year, Bill told a local reporter this: “Nobody is irreplaceable. You will see.”
It seems, once again, Bill and I disagree. No one could replace him.
The mark he left on Nevada politics could never be erased. But his powerful political voice and his true, personal friendship will be missed.
Senator Raggio was an effective legislator and leader in part because of his willingness to cooperate with those with whom he disagreed.
It would serve this Chamber well to emulate his bipartisan approach.
We have a great deal to accomplish this work period.
We need to consider postal reform legislation and a pressing cyber security bill.
And we have to clear a backlog of judicial nominees that threatens the effectiveness of our court system.
But first we must complete one of the most important tasks facing this Congress: strengthening our economy by rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
Today we will resume progress on a transportation jobs bill that will put 2 million Americans back to work rebuilding roads, bridges and train tracks.
The House is also considering transportation legislation. I was glad to see House Republican Leaders move away from the extreme proposal it was considering last month.
I hope the House will adopt the Senate approach and advance bipartisan legislation instead.
Too much rests on our success to let this jobs measure be bogged down by partisanship.
President Eisenhower, a Republican, was the original champion of national infrastructure investment half a century ago.
He once said “Only strength can cooperate. Weakness can only beg.”
He was right that it takes strength to work together. But working together also makes us strong.
I look forward to working together with colleagues on both sides as we complete transportation legislation that will make our economy strong as well.