Paul Laxalt, the conservative Republican who rose to political power becoming Nevada's 22nd Governor and later a U.S. Senator, has died.
Laxalt, born and raised in Carson City, was the son of Basque immigrants.
After serving in World War Two, Laxalt earned his law degree from the University of Denver and began his political career as district attorney of former Ormsby County -- now Carson City -- in 1954.
He then won his first statewide race for lieutenant governor in 1962, but lost a U.S. Senate bid in 1964 by a scant 84 votes. Only two years later, Laxalt bounced back by winning the governor's race.
As Nevada governor, Laxalt was credited with repairing damaged ties between state and federal governments over Nevada's gambling industry. He also helped to launch the state's community college system, medical school and Lake Tahoe preservation efforts.
After his one-term as governor, from 1967-1971, Laxalt returned to politics by winning a U.S. Senate seat in 1974 -- serving two terms. It was during that time that Laxalt became one of President Ronald Reagan's closest and most trusted friends, serving as his national campaign chairman, as well as the general chairman of the Republican Party.
According to a public relations firm, Laxalt died at a healthcare facility in northern Virginia, yesterday -- He was 96.
After Laxalt's death was announced, current Nevada politicians expressed their condolences via email and social media.
Below is a statement from Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.
“There are no words to adequately express my utter devastation and sadness at the loss of my friend and mentor Paul Laxalt. I learned of Senator Laxalt’s passing while traveling back to Nevada from a trade mission to South Africa and, as many Nevadans have felt tonight, I know our Silver State will never be the same.
“Paul Laxalt was many things – a statesman, a gentleman and a class act – above all, he was a champion for his beloved Nevada and our country. From his work on Lake Tahoe conservation efforts with then-California Governor Ronald Reagan to his forward-thinking efforts to ensure that Nevada set the gold standard in gaming regulation, Senator Laxalt set the bar high by which many have measured leadership. The son of Basque immigrants, Senator Laxalt never forgot his roots and may have been happiest at his sheep camp at Marlette Lake more than anywhere else.
“From my days interning in the Senator’s Washington, D.C. office to the friendship he generously offered me every day thereafter, I was blessed to learn from a man that has had such a profound effect on my life. Senator Laxalt was an optimist and a man who treated everyone with dignity and respect.
“From his proud service during World War II to his days as Ormsby County District Attorney, Governor and Senator, Paul Laxalt embodied service above self. I will deeply miss him. My thoughts and prayers are with Carol and his family in this most difficult time.”
Democratic U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto released the following statement on the passing of Senator Paul Laxalt.
“Today, Nevada has lost a proud son and dedicated public servant. Paul Laxalt, the son of a Basque sheepherder, was a man of determination, honor, and principle. He fought for his values and for Nevada, his home and the state he loved. The constant that ran through the 96 years of his life was a commitment to service. He fought for our country in the U.S. Army in the Pacific as a young man, went on to law school and served as a District Attorney fighting for Nevadans. And as our Lieutenant Governor, Governor, and Nevada’s United States Senator, he set an example. The influence Senator Laxalt had in Washington extended across both sides of the aisle, he worked to find consensus. Members of Congress from both California and Nevada will come together at Lake Tahoe tomorrow, a place he fought hard to preserve. I’m committed to honoring that legacy and the example Senator Laxalt set. Paul and I extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Carol, his children, and grandchildren.”
Attorney General Adam Laxalt, Paul Laxalt's grandson and a Republican nominee for Governor of Nevada had this to say:
“My grandfather was the rare man in the arena that never lost sight of who he was or where he came from. It is said that our lives are best remembered not by our achievements but by how we treated others. In the course of my life, thousands of people have taken the time to tell me that they knew my grandfather. Without exception, they have used words like decent, genuine, honest, humble and kind. He was indeed all of those things. To those closest to me, my grandfather was both a light and a compass: a testament to what a man should be. To me, my grandfather was the ultimate role model, and much of what I know about being an American, a citizen and a leader, I learned from him.” “He was the embodiment of the American dream, a pillar of the greatest generation, and he represented all that is best in American politics. The son of Basque immigrants and a son of Nevada, he became Nevada’s governor, a United States Senator and among the closest confidants of one of the most consequential Presidents in American history—Ronald Reagan. He rose to the world stage, but somehow he carried it all lightly. He changed Washington, but Washington never seemed to change him. I will be forever grateful for our time together, and I will miss him terribly.”
U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) also issued a statement on the passing of Paul Laxalt, a mentor, friend, and great public servant.
“With a public-service career spanning four decades, Paul epitomized the very best Nevada had to offer by putting service above self. He served as a friend and confidante to numerous Nevadans as his wealth of knowledge steered many of us to seek his valued advice and insight. His down-to-earth, kind demeanor was befitting of his campaign slogan of choice, “One of Us.” Paul was a son of Nevada and indeed one of us. My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Paul as we mourn his passing.”