I won’t soon forget the last time Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce came in for a Review-Journal editorial board endorsement.
Pierce met with me and former editorial writer and columnist Vin Suprynowicz. Few questions were asked. Pierce knew she had about as much chance of being endorsed by the R-J as I have winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. She was there to do something she loved to do: make a statement.
Over the course of a wonderful half-hour, Pierce proceeded to tell us precisely what was wrong with the R-J‘s editorial philosophy, and how its time as a source of influence over Nevada politics was at an end. Post-recession, people were gradually realizing that the conservative meme of the editorial page — and the parsimonious approach to state government in Nevada — wasn’t working anymore.
She was having a great time. And, truth be told, so was I.
Pierce lost her third battle with cancer early Thursday morning. She was 59. And she will be missed.
Born in 1954 in Milton, Mass., a Boston suburb, to a father who was an Episcopal priest and a mother who was an elementary school teacher, she was schooled in the civil rights movement and learned political activism at an early age. She lived in San Francisco for nearly two decades, working in the food service industry before coming to Las Vegas in 1988. She worked for the Culinary Union Local 226 and the United Labor Agency of Nevada. She was first elected to the Assembly in 2002.
She was one of the few Nevada Assembly members who was unafraid of taxes. In fact, she regularly introduced a measure to impose a business tax in Nevada. It was ignored in the 2013 session — Pierce’s last, because of term limits — the same way it always was. But that never stopped her or even slowed her down: If Pierce believed in it, she’d stand up for it.
She delighted in reminding the ignorant who talked about bloated government that Nevada actually has the smallest state government — based on employees per capita — than any other state or the District of Columbia. And she especially relished committee meetings in which she could question advocates of the status quo.
After business lobbyists testified on a tax plan at a hearing during the 2013 session, Pierce lept into a classic tirade. Businesses have done nothing for years but say “no,” Pierce told him, peering over the top of her glasses in her trademark gaze. No matter what tax has been proposed, the answer from business is always the same. And on Election Day 2014, after voters approve The Education Initiative (the 2 percent margins tax on business), you will be sitting there like Karl Rove on Election Day 2012 (after President Barack Obama‘s re-election victory) wondering what happened.
Pierce won’t be around to see if her prediction came true, and all of Nevada is poorer for her absence.