(Chuck Muth) – OK, before getting to my list of the Top 10 Nevada conservatives for 2009, our friend Dave Berns, former host of KNPR’s “State of Nevada” radio program, raised the point about what exactly I consider to be the definition of a conservative.
Good point. And to answer that question, I give you former Reagan press secretary Lyn Nofziger who shared his definition of the term several years ago before he passed away:
“Allowing for differences I would define a conservative, first as one who believes in the Constitution as it is written. That takes care of free speech, freedom of religion, the right to petition the government, the right to keep and bear arms and, in the words of William O. Douglas in one of his saner moments, ‘the right to be let alone.’
“Second, a conservative believes in small, limited government at every level. Along with this he believes strongly in individual responsibility. That is, a person or a family should take care of itself and turn for help to government only when all other means have been exhausted. It also means that society, before government, has a duty to take care of its own. Government should be a resource of last resort.
“Third, a conservative believes taxes should be levied for the purpose of financing the limited responsibilities of government such as providing for the common defense, catching and incarcerating criminals, minting money and filling potholes. Taxes should not be levied for the purpose of redistributing wealth.
“That’s about it.
“I know there are those who say a conservative should be pro-life, which I am, but I’m not sure a person has to be that to qualify as a conservative. Nor am I sure that a person must be opposed to pornography, which I am. In both cases there are questions of individual rights and responsibilities which are arguable.
“One other thing I think a conservative believes is that the parents, not government, are and should be responsible for the upbringing and behavior of their children.”
And with that, here’s my 2009 list of Nevada’s Top 10 conservatives:
#10 – Sen. Harry Reid
Yeah, yeah….I know. Harry Reid is no conservative under ANY definition. However….no one has done more to unite the warring factions of the conservative movement in Nevada than Harry Reid. No one.
#9 – Wayne Allyn Root
I know, W.A.R. isn’t technically a conservative. He’s a libertarian and a Libertarian. Which makes him a Goldwater-type conservative. Indeed, Root wrote a limited-government book this year aptly titled, “Conscience of a Libertarian.” And as Ronald Reagan once said, “the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.”
Anyway, this articulate and principled Las Vegan was the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential nominee in 2008, now has his own radio show, is a regular featured guest on numerous television talking heads shows, pens regular conservative/libertarian columns, is a home-schooling dad and might well be a U.S. Senate candidate in Nevada next year or possibly the next National Chairman of the Libertarian Party.
#8 – Geoffrey Lawrence
For years now, Nevada conservatives have sung the “no new taxes” fight song without ever definitively answering the question, “Well, then what would you cut?” In 2009, Lawrence – a fiscal analyst at the Nevada Policy Research Institute – provided an answer via a comprehensive alternate state budget, the “Freedom Budget,” which came in less than even Gov. Jim Gibbons’ proposed budget.
One may not agree with each and every recommendation in Lawrence’s Freedom Budget, but no one can say any longer that it’s “impossible” to balance Nevada’s budget and fund essential services without raising taxes. It is and was possible – and Lawrence showed legislators the way.
If only they had read the Freedom Budget before passing a billion dollars worth of higher taxes.
#7 – Bruce James
Mirroring Ronald Reagan’s “Grace Commission,” Gov. Jim Gibbons established by executive order the Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission to examine Nevada’s budget and find ways to make it more efficient and less expensive.
James was tapped to head the commission, raised private funds to pay for its research, and led a bipartisan committee which came up with numerous ways to give Nevada taxpayers more bang for their buck. A number of SAGE’s recommendations were adopted by this year’s Legislature, and others will surely make their way into the governor’s 2011 budget.
So solid were SAGE’s recommendations that some legislators and candidates on both sides of the aisle are now proposing that the commission not only be extended for another two years, but actually be funded by the Legislature. Considering how much money James and the SAGE Commission have already saved taxpayers, it’s an expense well worth the price of admission.
#6 – Todd “Taxpayer” Bailey
Prior to the start of the 2009 legislative session, Bailey was a largely unknown citizen activist who knew how to use podcasts and emails for effective grassroots lobbying. His staunch anti-tax missives to legislators during the session, however, hit more than a few raw nerves – leading one unidentified legislator towards the end of the session to threaten Bailey with a lawsuit if he didn’t cease and desist.
Ah, that free speech thing is overrated anyway, right?
Bailey is also a champion of school reform and accountability, making himself a royal pain in the keister to the Washoe County school district. He’s presently a Republican candidate for state Senate District 4, vying to replace term-limited Sen. Randolph Townsend who voted for a billion dollars worth of higher taxes in the ’09 session.
#5 – Assemblyman Ed Goedhart
The high-tech dairy farmer from Amargosa Valley received the top score in Citizen Outreach’s conservative “2009 Ratings of the Legislature,” is chairman of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge Caucus, and new chairman of the conservative Nevada Republican Study Committee.
Goedhart also championed three of the most significant conservative bills in the ’09 session – one on school choice, one on tax restraint and another on spending caps. As a member of a super-minority, the bills went nowhere in the Legislature, but are potent campaign issues for the 2010 elections.
Goedhart also sounded a warning bell early in the ’09 session, urging his colleagues not to use the federal stimulus money to fund ongoing services and programs since that money was not likely to be around for the next biennium, creating an even bigger budget hole next session than the one this past session. Of course, his colleagues ignored Goedhart’s prophetic warning and the state reportedly now faces somewhere in the neighborhood of a two-and-a-half billion budget hole.
#4 – Rep. Dean Heller
Who knew? During all his years as Secretary of State, Heller was generally perceived as a populist elected official, not a movement conservative. But after being elected to Congress in 2006, Heller’s “inner Reagan” emerged and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more consistently conservative and principled voting record in all of Washington, DC.
In addition, Heller landed a seat on the all-important House Ways and Means Committee and has led the conservative fight in Congress against a number of bad Democrat bills, including TARP and Harry Reid’s “Screw Nevada II” health care reform proposal.
The longer Heller stays in the House, the further up the leadership food chain he’s likely to climb, but should Sen. John Ensign be forced to resign down the road over his trouser malfunction scandal, Heller is the odds-on favorite to be tapped to replace him.
#3 – Talk Radio Hosts (tie)
Alan Stock (KXNT – Las Vegas), Heidi Harris (KDWN – Las Vegas), Bill Manders (KKOH – Reno) and Casey Hendrickson & Heather Kydd (KXNT – Las Vegas) serve as the daily HQ home office for conservative news and opinion on national, state and local issues.
Unless you’ve ever hosted your own radio talk show, you have no idea how much work goes into research and show prep in order to produce both an informative and entertaining conservative program for 2-3 hours each and every weekday – day in and day out. These folks may make it look easy, but trust me, the job requires intelligence, hard work and a lot of energy.
Kids, don’t try this at home.
#2 – Gov. Jim Gibbons
Set aside the personal problems and the revolving door staff changes for the first two and a half years of his administration – which, I know, is kinda like saying, “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how’d you like the play?” – but you still have to admit that no elected official has been a stronger fiscal hawk when it comes to taxes and spending in Nevada.
And no one has been on message more consistently than Jim Gibbons: Government must live within its means and tighten its belt just like Nevada’s families during this recession; no new taxes.
Although the governor’s tax stand has been ridiculed by many and criticized by most, the plain simple reality is that if you don’t take higher taxes off the table in budget talks, higher taxes will ALWAYS be the default result rather than spending cuts.
It’s only because of Jim Gibbons’ single-minded intransigence on the tax issue – save one fall from grace over that room tax earlier this year – legislators were forced to accept spending cuts they NEVER would have even remotely considered otherwise.
If Gov. Gibbons, as now seems likely, fails to win a second term, it won’t be because of his fiscal conservatism and his no new taxes pledge. In fact, those two positions are about the only reason the governor still has a shot, albeit a longshot, at winning the Republican nomination again in June.
Say whatever else you will about Jim Gibbons, but he’s been a fiscal conservative mensch during an economic collapse which would have buckled most other politicians.
#1 – Janine Hansen
It’s hard to know where to start in outlining everything that Janine has done for the conservative movement over almost four decades of political activism, but here’s why Janine gets my nod for the 2009 Conservative of the Year:
Nobody, and I mean nobody, did a better job covering and lobbying the Legislature this year for conservatives. Nobody. And she did it as a citizen volunteer, not a high-priced lobbyist.
If you were a conservative interested in not only knowing what the Legislature was up to on an almost-daily basis, all you had to do was subscribe to Janine’s free email updates. Not only did she explain what bills were coming forward, why they were good or bad, and who to call or email to urge “yes” or “no” votes, but Janine explained the complexities of the legislative process to us in a way that the average citizen and taxpayer could understand.
Oh, and did I mention that she did this by driving to and from Carson City each week from ELKO?
For those who might not know Janine and her full story, here’s a Reader’s Digest version of just a few highlights: She’s been a major pro-life leader since the Roe v. Wade decision, a citizen lobbyist since 1971, president of the Nevada Eagle Forum since 1974, executive director of the Independent American Party, legislative candidate, ballot initiative champion, radio talk show host, and leader of the anti-ERA movement.
In her “spare” time, Janine is a wife, mother of four and grandmother of eight (with number nine on the way).
Indeed, Conservative of the Year hardly seems sufficient; a Lifetime Achievement Award would be more appropriate. Nevertheless, the fact is Nevada conservatives were darned lucky to have this principled citizen activist fighting in their corner again this year – and the very least we could do is say……thank you, Janine!
Happy Conservative New Year, everyone!!