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Gov. Sisolak touts Nevada’s diverse leaders as he takes oath

January 8, 2019
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Governor-elect Steve Sisolak, center, laughs during his inauguration address on the steps of the Nevada State Capitol in Carson City, Nev., Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Tom R. Smedes)

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak offered a glimpse of his progressive agenda Monday in an emotional inaugural address celebrating the diversity of the state’s new leadership, including the first U.S. legislature where women make up the majority.

The first Democratic governor in Nevada in two decades said his priorities will include creating high-paying jobs, improving education and protecting health care. And within 90 minutes of taking the oath of office, the former Clark County commissioner signed an executive order creating a task force to combat sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

In addition to entering office “alongside the first female-majority state legislature in American history,” Sisolak said Nevada’s other historic milestones include electing Attorney General Aaron Ford as the first African-American to hold a statewide executive office and Kate Marshall as the first Latina lieutenant governor.

“The truth is the people of the Silver State have always blazed new trails, seeing potential where others saw a great big basin of rock, mountains and tumbleweeds,” he said.

His voice cracked and he appeared to fight back tears on multiple occasions during his inaugural address on the steps of the Capitol in Carson City.

The first was when he told his daughters, Ashley and Carley, what a privilege it is to be their father. He also had to compose himself when he recounted the mass shooting Oct. 1, 2017, at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip and the incredible outpouring of support that followed.

He recalled a woman who showed up at a first-responders tent with a plate of cookies because that was all she had to give. He remembered thousands of people lining up to donate blood at 6 a.m. the next day, undeterred by the fact that they would be waiting for eight hours.

“We were broken 1 October, but I’ve never been more proud to be a Nevadan than I was that day,” Sisolak said. “This state, battle-born in the fires of the Civil War, has always been a model of a fierce belief in the power of unity.”

Other emotional moments included his memories on the campaign trail of a teacher buying breakfast bars so her students wouldn’t go hungry and an elderly couple who split their medication in half because they can’t afford two full prescriptions.

“I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve,” he told reporters following the speech.

Sisolak, 65, defeated Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt, grandson of former Gov. and Sen. Paul Laxalt, in November to become the state’s 30th governor. In Monday’s speech, he pledged to work with the Democratic-controlled Legislature and Republicans alike to create new jobs.

“Not any jobs either — good-paying jobs. Jobs that can support a family,” he said. “First things first: we’ve got to get our education system back on track — because we know that’s the bedrock of a thriving economy.”

Sisolak said health care is one of the state’s biggest financial burdens.

“I’m committed to cracking down on the rising cost of prescription drugs, blocking any effort to roll back protections for pre-existing conditions, protecting access to women’s health care and defending a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions,” he said. “Health care isn’t political. It’s personal.”

Sisolak opened his speech praising his predecessor, Republican Brian Sandoval, who sat on the stage with three other former Nevada governors — Republican Robert List and Democrats Richard Bryan and Bob Miller.

“Thank you for prioritizing our kids’ education and our families’ health and for always putting people over partisanship,” he said. “As governor, I pledge to follow the example you’ve set — to find common ground, reach consensus, make a difference in people’s lives and keep moving the state forward.”

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Associated Press writer Michelle L. Price contributed to this report from Las Vegas.

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This story has been corrected to show the Las Vegas mass shooting was in 2017.

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