When Republicans Collide

Nevada Republicans have a lot in common with their national counterparts. Across the country, Republicans have been arguing about how and why they didn’t win the White House or Senate; who or what group is to blame; and whether the party needs an ideological or individual cleansing, especially of the Tea Party.

In Nevada, Republicans have been split. The state party has been a mess, especially when compared with the Democratic organizations. Ron Paul supporters have thrown every wrench into the works they could think of. Gov. Brian Sandoval presumably wants to make peace and build a well-oiled machine. But he also wants to be moderate enough for Democrats to have even less of a chance than they do now of unseating him in 2014, and attractive enough to the national party for his plans for 2016.

Now comes another fight the GOP doesn’t need but has managed to create. Some see it as a new fight. Actually, it’s part of the older fights.

Michael Roberson, a Henderson Republican and state senate minority leader, chose the three Republicans to serve on the finance committee: himself, Ben Kieckhefer of Washoe County and Pete Goicoechea of central Nevada. He said he sought to balance the state’s three regions.

Let’s start there. More than 70 percent of Nevada’s population lives in the region that Roberson professes to represent on the committee. Kieckhefer has over 20 percent and Goicoechea’s constituency is barely large enough to start a one-table bridge club. That’s an interesting definition of balance, and it bodes ill for southern Nevadans who would like to make sure they get out of the state at least as much money as they put into it.

More crucially, Roberson didn’t get the memo that Republicans now believe in diversity. He didn’t choose an African American or Hispanic Republican, since his caucus has none, which speaks volumes anyway. But he also booted the state senate’s lone Republican woman, Barbara Cegavske.

But 14 Republican women sent him a letter and proved that hell hath no fury, etc., etc. They assailed a “gender gap,” not only on the committee, but in who the caucus endorsed last year in primaries. The signers included Sue Lowden, whose Senate race against Harry Reid in 2010 suggested that she would either send a letter or hit Roberson over the head with a chicken, and the past and present leaders of several Republican women’s groups.

Cegavske told the Las Vegas Sun she asked them not to send the letter, that “I can handle my own situation.” That leads to an important point about the history of women and the women’s movement: protective legislation, ranging from limits in the hours that pregnant women can work to our higher education system passing sexist policies to “save” them from predatory male faculty, sometimes hurts women’s rights more than it helps. Nor does Cegavske have a reputation for hiding her opinions or being unable to defend herself. Whether Roberson meant to be misogynistic is debatable, since Cegavske long has sought to be the leader, or a thorn in the side of whoever is leader.

Cegavske is further to the right than the three Republican men in question, which isn’t saying much. They ended up willing to go along with keeping in place the taxes that Sandoval wanted to get rid of for much of the 2011 legislative session until he found that he needed to plug a hole in his budget, decided to back the taxes and thus became known as moderate. Moderation increasingly is defined as what used to be conservative, if not right-wing, and liberal is now what once was considered moderate Republican. Cegavske’s ideology is the bigger issue than her chromosome.

It brings to mind a photo that appeared in the Review-Journal two decades ago. State senate Republicans were proudly meeting after regaining control. Bill Raggio sat at a table with several colleagues. Lowden, then a newly elected state senator, was standing at a table, pouring coffee. Back then, Raggio was considered conservative and, at the end of his life, many in his old party dismissed him as Republican in Name Only. Things change, and things stay the same.