Posts Tagged ‘Barbara Vucanovich’

Barbara Vucanovich, First Woman From Nevada To Serve In Congress, Honored At Reno Dinner

By Sean Whaley | 9:20 pm August 18th, 2012

RENO – Friends, family and political colleagues gathered today to honor and pay tribute to the first woman to serve in Congress from Nevada, the now 91-year-old Barbara Vucanovich.

About 250 guests gathered at Rancharrah for the celebratory dinner, which not coincidentally raised a healthy sum for Republican candidates in the November general election.

Two successors in the 2nd Congressional District, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and current Rep. Mark Amodei, joined in honoring Vucanovich, who was working for then-U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt in 1982 when he urged her to run for the newly created seat.

Rep. Mark Amodei, Barbara Vucanovich and Sen. Dean Heller. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

Vucanovich, 61 at the time, rose to the challenge and won the seat, serving for seven terms. She became good friends with President Ronald Reagan and other influential political leaders during her 14 years in office.

Heller, wearing one of Vucanovich’s old campaign buttons, said he first met her when he was visiting Washington, DC, more than 20 years ago. Heller called her office on the spur of the moment and Vucanovich offered to take him to lunch at the Congressional dining hall even though she did not know him.

“To this day, when people come out to Washington, DC, I take every opportunity, every chance that I can, to take them to the Congressional dining room, or the Senate’s dining room, and I tell them every time, the reason I’m doing this was because the first time I came to Washington, DC, Barbara Vucanovich took me to lunch,” he said.

Amodei, who took over representation of the district when Heller was appointed to the Senate in May 2011, said there are two remarkable facts about her service that stand out for him.

“One is, it was never about Barbara, which is a phenomenally rare thing in politics, and the other one was, Barbara Vucanovich served 14 years and came home, and that’s a rare thing that I think is really neat too -  one of the things I respect most about her,” he said.

Vucanovich took the lead on many issues affecting Nevada and helped line up support in the House of Representatives to create the Great Basin National Park in 1986; the only national park created in the contiguous United States during the Reagan administration. She was also instrumental in getting the 55 mile-per-hour speed limit repealed.

Reno Assemblyman Pat Hickey with Barbara Vucanovich. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

In an interview Friday, Vucanovich said she is dismayed at the sorry state of discourse and civility  in Congress, not to mention the inability of Republicans and Democrats to reach agreement on critical issues, including the budget deficit. But Vucanovich said she does not have a magic solution to change the political climate for the better.

“It’s kind of discouraging and it’s not good government,” she said.

Attitudes were different during her tenure, Vucanovich said.

“We would disagree in committee or disagree on various issues but when the day was over we patted each other on the shoulder and said, ‘nice day, how is your family.’ I know a lot of nice Democrats and we get along fine.”

“The president, of course, was Ronald Reagan, and although he had a Democratic Congress and so forth everybody liked him,” Vucanovich said. “And it was fine for me, he was there for six years so we were friends and I felt like it was very comfortable. And he was a friend with (House Speaker) Tip O’Neill. I mean they would have differences but then they would have a drink at night.”

Vucanovich has told her story in a new book, “Barbara F. Vucanovich – From Nevada To Congress, And Back Again.”

When she was elected, Vucanovich was one of only a handful of women serving in the House.

“It was different and there were very few women as I say, only 19 of us, and so we got to know each other,” she said. “A lot of us had differences of course, but we were always friendly to each other and it was a great experience.”

Vucanovich held many key roles during her tenure, including chairwoman of the very powerful Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction; only the second woman ever to chair an appropriations subcommittee at that time.

“If you are a woman running for office in Nevada, Barbara Vucanovich is the first endorsement you seek,” said Randi Thompson, a former legislative candidate.


Audio clips:

Former Rep. Barbara Vucanovich says her then-boss, Sen. Paul Laxalt, encouraged her to run for the seat:

081812Vucanovich1 :12 I did it.”

Vucanovich says she was of 19 women in the House:

081812Vucanovich2 :14 a great experience.”

Vucanovich says she was fortunate to serve during much of Ronald Reagan’s two terms:

081812Vucanovich3 :30 drink at night.”

Sen. Dean Heller says he first met Barbara Vucanovich more than 20 years ago in Washington, DC:

081812Heller :26 me to lunch.”

Rep. Mark Amodei says Vucanovich’s career in Congress was never about her but about her constituents:

081812Amodei :15 most about her.”




Vucanovich Says Amodei and Brower “Think They Are Kind of Untouchable” and Endorses Lippold in NV-2

By Elizabeth Crum | 12:46 pm May 18th, 2011

She knows all the players and had not planned to endorse anyone.

Considered by many to the the unofficial matriarch of the Republican Party in Nevada, former Rep. Barbara Vucanovich today said she changed her mind and sent a check to former U.S.S. Cole Commander and congressional candidate Kirk Lippold after hearing him speak at a Republican Women’s Club meeting last week.

“I sat next to him at lunch and then he did a presentation and answered questions,” said Vucanovich. “Afterwards, we sat and talked for a bit. I was impressed.”

After Lippold received the check, he called and asked Vucanovich for her endorsement. She readily agreed.

When queried about her choice not to endorse state GOP Chairman Mark Amodei or state Senator Greg Brower, both of whom she knows quite well, Vucanovich quipped, “They didn’t ask.”

Vucanovich said she has not heard from either Amodei or Brower in quite some time and added, “Maybe this isn’t a good word to use, but they think they are kind of untouchable.”

Vucanovich was no doubt echoing the voices of many grassroots, anti-establishment and/or Tea Party Republicans who are likely to reject Amodei and Brower in favor of a candidate they think will better represent their conservative values in Washington D.C.

Is Lippold that man?

“Yes,” said Vucanovich. “I think he is.”

As for her endorsement of former Tea Party darling Sharron Angle in last year’s U.S. Senate contest against Harry Reid, Vucanovich said she only agreed to endorse Angle after the candidate “backed down and cleaned up a little bit” on some issues and because it was “a completely different race.”

(Glancing back at a post, I was reminded who persuaded Vucanovich to sit down with Angle in the first place: Senator John Ensign.)


Harry Reid & John Ensign: All Good Things Must Come to an End

By Elizabeth Crum | 11:09 am July 8th, 2010

Ralston said in an early morning Flash that it’s likely the end of a beautiful friendship, and I quite agree.

And it’s all because of Sharron Angle.

You know how our good Senators Harry Reid and John Ensign have that decade-long gentleman’s agreement (aka non-aggression pact)(<— the photo there is worth the click-thru) not to go after one another?

This is surely the beginning of the end of that beautiful friendship.

You read that right, Dear Readers.

After calling Angle’s positions too “rigid” and declining to endorse her in June, Barbara Vucanovich, the godmother of the Nevada GOP, received a phone call from Senator Ensign. He proceeded to persuade her to meet with Angle to give her some feedback (i.e. that Angle ought to soften up her views).  As Vucanovich told Ralston:

“John said, ‘You need to tell her that. We need to defeat Harry Reid,’” Vucanovich told me…

Read the rest of Ralston’s story (good stuff, including some rather pointed remarks by our former senator about Angle), but the thrust of my post here is this:

No way, no how, is Harry Reid going to let this one slide.  I predict gloves off, Dear Readers.  Whether later this year when that ethics investigation heats up (wait for it in September/October) or when Ensign is running in 2012 (should he survive that long, which I doubt), there is going to be payback.  And how.

As an aside, all primary season we talked about whether Republican candidates in Nevada would or would not want the scandal-tainted John Ensign to “help” them (which might hurt them) during the general election.  Sharron Angle last year said she didn’t really relish the idea of assistance from Ensign, but then softened her position (she seems to be getting good at that) in a recent interview.

In this case, Angle got Ensign’s help whether she wanted it or not, and – ironically – it’s probably going to cost Ensign a lot more than it costs her.

“Legendary Conservative Leaders” Endorse Gibbons in Final Hours

By Elizabeth Crum | 5:48 am June 8th, 2010

Team Gibbons, in what will presumably be the last day of their earnest but sad little campaign, this morning listed their two recent Tea Party group endorsements – Action is Brewing and Grassroots Nevada – and announced that the governor is also now endorsed by former U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Vucanovich and former state Senator Bob Beers.

The press release calls the two former elected officials “legendary Conservative leaders of Nevada.”

Both Beers and Vucanovich are well-respected in their circles, but calling them “legendary” is a bit of a stretch.

Governor Gibbons, on the other hand, is famous throughout the land and tonight – barring a miracle – will become even famouser as the first sitting governor in state history to lose a primary election.

It’s nice of these two old friends to stand by his side here at the end.  So many others, seeing the dark clouds rolling in, long since departed for other sunny, Sandy beaches of promise.