Each year Citizen Outreach recognizes several outstanding conservatives for their efforts on behalf of the limited-government movement. This year’s recipients will be honored at this week’s “First Friday Happy Hour” event at Bahama Breeze in Las Vegas from 5:00-7:00 pm.
And the winners are…
2013 Conservative of the Year: Geoff Lawrence
Geoff is an economist and deputy director of policy at the Nevada Policy Research Institute. He is a frequent commentator on public policy in print, radio and television news and over the past year has provided the intellectual case for fiscal conservatives and libertarians for low taxes, school choice, and less government regulation, especially in energy policy.
Geoff also, quite literally, wrote a book, “Solutions 2013,” of free-market solutions to Nevada’s challenges.
During the 2013 legislative session, Geoff spent many weeks in Carson City away from his wife, Jenna, who was pregnant with their first child. He worked closely with legislators and conservative activists and testified in support of limited, accountable government – standing up to some of the biggest special interests in the state capital in the process, from the teachers’ union to Nicolas Cage to Warren Buffet.
Shortly after the session, Geoff and Jenna joined the ranks of conservatives all across the country who will be bringing up the next generation of limited-government Americans. Their son’s name is Carson Hayek Lawrence (who’s already had his photo taken with Sen. Rand Paul!).
Geoff’s work and accomplishments make him a very deserving recipient of this year’s “Conservative of the Year” award.
Courage Under Fire Award: Amanda Collins
In 2007, Amanda Collins was brutally raped in a parking garage on the campus of UNR by the same man who raped and murdered another young Reno woman, Brianna Dennison, a few weeks later. Although Collins was a properly licensed holder of a concealed-carry permit, Nevada law prohibited her from carrying her weapon with her on campus, which she might have been able to use to prevent the attack.
If you haven’t heard her story in her own words, click here
In 2011, the Nevada Legislature considered a “campus carry” bill that would allow concealed-carry permit holders to carry their weapons on Nevada’s public college campuses. Collins courageously testified in support of the bill, recounting the violent attack and her terrifying ordeal. The bill passed in the state Senate but was killed in the state Assembly without a vote.
In the 2013 legislative session, the bill was brought up again. Despite her strong desire to move on with her life, Collins again relived and recounted the nightmare of her experience to legislators, urging them to end the policy of gun-free zones on college campuses. But once again, the Legislature told her no.
“All the women who get raped on our campuses; their blood is on his hands,” a tearful Collins said after Assembly Judiciary Chairman Jason Frierson killed the bill by refusing to even call for a vote on it in his committee.
Collins is now married and gave birth to her second child just a couple weeks after the session. But she intends to continue the fight to allow properly licensed concealed-carry permit holders to exercise their Second Amendment rights of self-protection on college campuses when the Legislature reconvenes again in 2015.
We can’t possibly think of a more deserving recipient of this year’s conservative “Courage Under Fire” award.
Unsung Hero Award: Linda Barnett
At 20 years of age and without a political bone in her body, Linda Barnett was sent on a job interview by an employment agency for a secretarial position with a high-ranking staffer on the McGovern campaign in 1972. Despite being able to take dictation and type 120-words-per-minute, Barnett didn’t get the job; she was told she was just “too young.”
On her way out, Barnett noticed a lot of phones in the California headquarters were going unanswered, so she came back and just…started working. As a volunteer. That kind of “take charge” initiative didn’t go unnoticed. Before she knew it, Barnett was hired by the campaign and placed in charge of making the travel arrangements for the entire California delegation to attend the Miami convention.
After the campaign, a series of employment opportunities landed Barnett on the 1976 Libertarian Party presidential campaign – the polar opposite, philosophically, from the McGovern campaign four years earlier. Afterwards, Barnett became a top lieutenant to Ed Crane – founder of the libertarian Cato Institute think tank – and her limited-government, constitutional beliefs were solidified.
Eventually, Barnett’s business interests took her to Carson City, where she was general manager for the Hampton Inn & Suites for several years before taking on a consulting position with the company. But political action remains in her blood.
In 2012, the Carson City library district pushed for a sales tax hike to fund a new library. Rather than wait for orders from above, Barnett once again just dove in and took the bull by the horns. She organized and led a petition drive to place the tax hike on the ballot, and then led the successful effort to kill it last November…all without fame, acclaim or glory.
As such, Linda Barnett is our conservative “Unsung Hero” award recipient for 2013.
Grassroots Organization of the Year: Nevada Firearms Coalition
Conservatives in Nevada have long lacked the financial resources and sheer manpower of the state’s liberal organizations, especially Big Labor. But a new group of gun rights advocates emerged during the 2013 legislative session and proved to be every bit the “David” to the gun-grabbers New York-based “Goliath.”
For years Nevada has had to share its National Rifle Association lobbyist with California, but this year the newly-formed Nevada Firearms Coalition raised enough money to add a full-time lobbyist of its own to fight legislative efforts to curtail gun rights in Nevada. And what a baptism by fire it was!
Fueled by the shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook, the anti-gun forces descended upon Carson City en masse, including millions of dollars worth of political action funded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and media events featuring Mark Kelly, husband of former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, who had been shot at a separate incident in Tucson a couple years ago.
Under the guidance and leadership of Don Turner and Randy Mackie, the Nevada Firearms Coalition kept gun rights supporters informed via regular emails, and activated its growing legion of advocates to show up at hearings, testify, make phone calls and send emails to both legislators and the media.
In the end, due in no small part to the efforts of the Nevada Firearms Coalition, a flawed “background check” bill was killed, along with other measures to increase taxes and fees on gun owners. Not bad for a badly under-matched and under-funded start-up organization!
As such, the Nevada Firearms Coalition is our conservative “Grassroots Organization of the Year” for 2013.
Rathead in a Coke Bottle Award: Sen. “Moderate Mike” Roberson
As Grover Norquist, father of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, explains it, no one thinks twice about buying a Coca Cola. But should one person ever find a rathead at the bottom of their Coke, not only would they not finish that bottle, but they’d think twice about ever buying a Coke again…and tell all of their friends!
That one rathead could destroy an entire brand.
The GOP brand has been anti-tax hikes since the Reagan era. As such, Grover maintains that Republicans who vote to raise taxes are the political equivalent of a “rathead in a Coke bottle.”
In 2010, Michael Roberson ran for the state Senate as a conservative. He not only signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge that year, but he did so on April 15 at a tea party rally! He then went on to complete his first session in the Legislature without voting to raise taxes or extending the $620 million worth of “temporary” tax hikes from 2009 popularly known as the “sunsets.”
But a radical transformation – fueled by both ego and hunger for power – took place in March 2012, when Roberson completely reversed himself and publicly broke his signed Tax Pledge by announcing his support for Gov. Brian Sandoval’s decision to once again extend the $620 million tax hike “sunsets” in 2013.
Worse, Roberson showed up at the 2013 legislative session and immediately proceeded to not only back the re-imposition of the $620 million “temporary” tax hikes, but proposed a new $600 million tax hike on the state’s mining industry…with the proceeds going down the public education rathole!
For his support of $1.4 billion-plus in tax hikes this year, Nevada Republican State Sen. “Moderate Mike” Roberson is our hands-down winner of this year’s “Rathead in a Coke Bottle” award.
“Accepting the award for Sen. Roberson will be…”