Commentary - April 21, 2017 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar
Nevada Newsmakers

It was a happy occasion when state Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award Thursday night at the Nevada Newsmakers Outreach Dinner in Carson City.

Former Assemblyman Tom Grady, R-Yerington, and the former mayor of Yerington, gave the best speech of the night, talking about Pete G. He told the crowd at the Carson Nugget about Goicoechea's many qualities that make him one of the longest-serving elected officials in Nevada.

If someone came up to Pete and asked for his help, Pete would ask when that person needed, not if he was a Democrat or a Republican, Grady said. That's how you stay successful (and elected) in Nevada politics for more than 30 years.

I came into the Nevada Legislature as a reporter the same year Goicoechea did as an assemblyman, 2002, 15 years ago. Before that, Goicoechea had already built quite a reputation in rural Nevada as a can-do elected official by serving 16 years on the Eureka County Commission.

Being a third-generation Nevada rancher helped him understand the issues.

That's why the Lifetime Achievement award was so deserving.

Much was made of Goicoechea's driving habits. He's got the biggest -- if not one of the biggest -- state senate district in the nation. It goes from Owyhee in the North to Primm in the south. That distance means something to a longtime Nevadan. That's about 530 miles to everyone else.

Pete said he could drive from the bottom to the top of his district in 9 hours.

No wonder his wife, Glady, won't even drive with him to Carson City for the Legislature, Grady said. Pete goes too fast for her. Glady comes up the next day.

The Nevada Highway Patrol probably gives Sen. Goicoechea some leeway on the speed limit. He's been told to keep it under 85 mph, so he has his cruise control set at 83.

I was almost ticketed for going 80 once in Goicoechea's district. But I got out of it by telling the patrolman I was trying to keep up with Gov. Jim Gibbons, who was way ahead, speeding away in his government-provided SUV.

Knowing Goicoechea for 15 years, the thing I could say about Pete G. is that he's the kind of guy who would help pull your vehicle out of a ditch if you called him.

Even Democratic Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, who was also honored, praised Sen. Pete G. in his short speech. Ford can be so gracious. It is one of the qualities that has helped his rise in politics.

I also enjoyed former Speaker Barbara Buckley's video speech about current Speaker Jason Frierson. I did not realize he had to overcome so much while growing up in Compton, Calif.

I picked up Frierson's story in the late 1980s, when he was the lead running back for Chris Ault's powerful football program at the University of Nevada. As a former Wolf Pack "practice player," I understood how good Frierson had to be to earn that position in the program.

It always pleases me to see someone from the Wolf Pack family do well. Maybe Frierson could funnel some state money to upgrade Mackay Stadium, since UNLV will get to play in the Raiders' $2 billion stadium in a few years.

It seemed significant that Ford and Attorney General Adam Laxalt were there together. If Ford runs for governor in 2018, he'll most likely meet Laxalt in the general election. Laxalt was given the Public Service Award at the dinner.

I also saw Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, there.

He's been mentioned as a possible candidate for lieutenant governor, kinda like a Laxalt-Roberson GOP ticket.

In a way, it is sad to see someone like Roberson, who has such a command, moxie and understanding of the legislative process, leave the Legislature and move to an officially "part-time" position as lieutenant governor.

But being lieutenant is what you make it. It will be interesting to see how this possible Laxalt-Roberson team plans to divide up responsibilities of the executive branch.

Nevada Truckers poo-bah, Paul Enos, in introducing Laxalt, joked I have drunk tweeted since my retirement from the RGJ. Yes I did. Sorry, Gov. John Kasich, you didn't deserve it.

Tom Grady and I go way back. He used to officiate high school football games in Nevada when I played at Manogue High, 1967-70. He threw my brother, Marty Hagar, out of a game once. He told me years later, "He deserved it."