(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – Ray Shaffer, a member of the Nevada State Senate for 20 years, died Saturday at age 76. Shaffer, a Democrat from North Las Vegas for most of his years of service, served in the Legislature from 1985 to 2004.
In an unusual move for a politician, Shaffer switched parties in 2002, serving as a Republican in the 2003 session under Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno. Shaffer at the time criticized then-Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, for not making Democrats the majority party in the upper house.
His switch gave Republicans even more sway in the Senate, bringing the majority up to 13 compared to eight Democrats.
The switch did result in one reward – Shaffer was made chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
Shaffer was also noted for being absent at the special session of the Legislature in July 2003 when taxes were raised by $836 million after a weeks-long stalemate. Shaffer was on vacation and did not return to Carson City for the vote.
Shaffer ran for re-election as a Republican in 2004, but lost to Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, in the general election. In yet another twist, Shaffer’s wife, Sharon Shaffer, ran as one of five Democrats in the same race, but lost to Lee in the primary.
Shaffer also ran for state Treasurer as a Democrat in 1990, losing to Republican Bob Seale by a large margin.
Shaffer was born in Wilkes-Barre, Penn., in 1932, earning a civil engineering degree from Youngstown College.
Shaffer served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is survived by his wife Sharon and five children. Funeral arrangements are pending.