A Hispanic voice among new Republican governors

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John Boehner hasn't wasted any time lining up allies for his fight against the White House. On Friday, he sent a letter to Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, asking him to enlist GOP governors to, quote, "advance the will of the American people."

Brian Sandoval is one of those governors. Come January, he'll be the first Hispanic to lead the state of Nevada. Governor-Elect Sandoval joins us from member station KUNR in Reno. Welcome to the program.

Governor-Elect BRIAN SANDOVAL (Republican, Nevada): Thank you for having me.

NEARY: You know, understanding, of course, that you really can only speak for your state, for Nevada, still, what do you think that this group of Republican governors can do at this moment in the nation?

Mr. SANDOVAL: Well, I think it's a common thing. I mean, at least with the candidates that I've spoken to, they all understand all states are having fiscal issues and they understand that it's very competitive amongst the states in terms of attracting new business and the states that are going to be rewarded are the ones that have the fiscal discipline and the ability to balance their budgets without raising taxes and over-regulating businesses.

NEARY: Now, Nevada's looking at a $3 billion deficit over the next two years. How do you balance the budget, meet the state's needs without raising taxes? How do you do that?

Mr. SANDOVAL: I think we can build our budget from a 2007 level. And Ive said very, very pointedly that, you know, we've got to focus on the amount of money we have to spend, not what we'd like to spend.

NEARY: Well, when you look at the budget, where do you see areas that you can cut? What programs are you going to cut?

Mr. SANDOVAL: Well, I'm going to be meeting with the budget director on Monday. And, yes, there's going to be shared sacrifice all over our budget. But, again, what people need to realize in the state of Nevada, the amount of money that we have to spend now is basically the same as it was in 2007. So, I'm going to bring it back to 2007 levels.

NEARY: OK. This is happening, or this need to balance the budget is happening, at the time of great economic need for many people in your state. How do you continue to provide services for those people and balance the budget?

Mr. SANDOVAL: We'll be able to do that, and, you know, I'm very concerned about the folks that are in need. But on the other end of the spectrum, you have business and industry in this state and the worst thing that you can do to struggling Nevada families and businesses is to raise their taxes. So, I want to continue to make Nevada a very attractive place to come in terms of businesses.

In that way, I think we're going to turn our economy around and create revenue in that way.

NEARY: Now, you will be the first Hispanic governor of Nevada and, yet, only a third of Latinos voted for you. That's according to exit polls. Why do you think that is?

Mr. SANDOVAL: Well, first, I'm very proud of my heritage and I've always worked very hard during my career as a public servant. You know, Hispanics during the campaign have the same concerns as everybody else. They want to get to work, they want to have their education improved, they want a governor who's going to be actively engaged in working with their community and all the communities in our state.

NEARY: Do you feel slighted at all by the fact that you didn't get more of the Latino vote?

Mr. SANDOVAL: Not at all, not at all. And, again, people make their choices during the course of a campaign. I'm going to work with the leadership throughout the Hispanic community and work to earn their trust and faith.

NEARY: Of course, you were a federal judge before you ran for office and I understand that your father was not so sure it was a good idea to run for office, to leave the bench and run for office, get into the political mix. What did he tell you?

Mr. SANDOVAL: I love my father and I wouldn't say he disapproved. I don't know if he was sure at the time that that was what he thought was the best decision. And in fact, after I'd made that decision he called and left me a message and basically said, Brian, I heard you made your decision. I guess you know what you're doing. And I called him back and I said, that wasn't quite the endorsement I was looking for, dad.

But, you know, that was one of the greatest moments of the campaign is after Id learned of the election results and it made my speech, he was right behind me and turned around and gave me a big hug and said he was very proud of me. So, that was a great moment.

NEARY: All right. So, maybe he changed his mind in the end, you're saying.

Mr. SANDOVAL: I think so, I think so.

NEARY: Nevada Governor-Elect Brian Sandoval joined us from member station KUNR in Reno.

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