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Kenny Guinn, the Republican in name only

Kenny Guinn
Photo: Jeff Gale/Las Vegas Sun

What is a Republican these days? In a year defined by the self-validating anger of the Tea Party (we’re mad, so we must be right!); in which Sharron Angle tells us government is the problem, so elect me to the government; in which Jim Gibbons will leave office as the worst governor in the state’s modern history—in a year like that, the meaning of “Republican” might be the political question.

One defining trait among Republicans is that they see themselves as tough enough to make hard choices. But they always say it in the context of cutting services—that is, as a willingness to make peoples’ lives measurably worse in the name of a small-government, low-tax ideology.

Which brings us to the late Kenny Guinn. His tenure as governor will be remembered, in part, for his $836 million tax increase in 2003. It earned him the hostility of his own party; many derided him as a “Republican in name only.” But he defined himself as a man—and a Republican—willing to make a different kind of hard choice, a tough decision to preserve instead of cut. A Republican unafraid of compromise for the public good. Which made him the sort of GOP’er in ruefully short supply today.


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