Harry Reid, the Democratic giant from Nevada who served as Senate majority and minority leader, died on Tuesday at 82.
The politician’s death was first reported by The Nevada Independent’s Jon Ralston.
Reid died peacefully after a four-year battle with pancreatic, his wife of 62 years, Landra Reid, said in a statement.
“We are so proud of the legacy he leaves behind both on the national stage and his beloved Nevada. Harry was deeply touched to see his decades of service to Nevada honored in recent weeks with the re-naming of Las Vegas’ airport in his honor,” she said.
“Harry was a devout family man and deeply loyal friend,” she continued. “We greatly appreciate the outpouring of support from so many over these past few years. We are especially grateful for the doctors and nurses that cared for him. Please know that meant to the world to him.”
Harry Reid served as Nevada’s senator from 1987 to 2017, leading the Democratic caucus from 2005 up until his retirement. He was the Senate majority leader from 2007 to 2015 and then became minority leader when Republicans gained the majority in the chamber.
“Harry Reid was one of the most amazing individuals I have ever met,” said current Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “He was tough-as-nails strong, but caring and compassionate, and always went out of his way to quietly help people who needed help.
“He was a boxer who came from humble origins, but he never forgot where he came from and used those boxing instincts to fearlessly fight those who were hurting the poor and the middle class,” Schumer continued. “He was my leader, my mentor, one of my dearest friends. He’s gone but he will walk by the sides of many of us in the Senate every single day.”
Despite formally retiring in 2017 and being treated for pancreatic cancer, Reid had remained active in politics, and the political machine he built in Nevada continues to be a significantly influential aspect of U.S. elections.
Ahead of the 2020 primary elections, Reid called on his home state to switch from the complicated caucus system to a presidential primary and advocated for the Western state to become the first in the country to vote.
Despite the fact that he came into politics as a centrist, he mentored aides who went on to become some of the most influential players in progressive politics, including top aides to Sen. Bernie Sanders (Faiz Shakir, Ari Rabin-Havt, Josh Orton) and Elizabeth Warren (Kristen Orthman), as well as Adam Jentlesen, a progressive writer who has pushed for abolishing the filibuster.
In 2003, Reid was one of several high-profile Senate leaders who voted to invade Iraq. He later became an outspoken critic of the war. In 2007, as majority leader, Reid held a rare all-night debate on Iraq — with cots near the Senate chamber — calling out Republicans who were opposed to a timetable for withdrawal.
“I should never have voted for that,” Reid told HuffPost in 2014. “But I accepted what [former Secretary of State] Colin Powell and the others said. But it took me just a matter of a few months to realize it was a bad mistake, and my record speaks for itself. I’ve spoken out against what was going on, not once, not twice, but lots of times. And I’m sorry that I was misled, but I was, and it was a mistake for me to vote for that war.”
Former President Barack Obama, who served in the White House while Reid was Senate majority leader, said that in lieu of a statement, he would release a letter he wrote for Landra Reid to read to her husband in his last days.
“I got the news that the health situation has taken a rough turn, and that it’s hard to talk on the phone. Which, let’s face it, is not that big of a change cause you never liked to talk on the phone anyway!” Obama wrote.
“Here’s what I want you to know. You were a great leader in the Senate, and early on you were more generous to me than I had any right to expect. I wouldn’t have been president had it not been for your encouragement and support, and I wouldn’t have got most of what I got done without your skill and determination.”
“Most of all, you’ve been a good friend. As different as we are, I think we both saw something of ourselves in each other – a couple of outsiders who had defied the odds and knew how to take a punch and cared about the little guy. And you know what, we made for a pretty good team,” Obama continued. “Enjoy your family, and you know are loved by a lot of people, including me.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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