Marcia de Braga
At a glance:
Born: April 14, 1937, Los Angeles, California
Five-term Nevada Assemblywoman Marcia de Braga was born to Elden and Zona Smith April 14, 1937 in Los Angeles. After her first marriage's dissolution, Zona moved her daughters to Salt Lake City and then to “her roots” in Idaho. Bernell Murdock married Zona in 1948 and he adopted Marcia. The couple studied education at Ricks College and then brought the family to Churchill County where they taught at the two-room Stillwater schoolhouse.
Members of the Bahai faith, “our parents taught us the values of tolerance, acceptance, equality for all and compassion”, Marcia wrote in her autobiography.
She graduated from Churchill County High School. At age 17 she married her best friend, Lyle de Braga, on February 11, 1955 and moved to a Stillwater District ranch. She was able to enjoy the birds and wildlife that frequented the marsh and wetlands and belonged to the Stillwater ornithology organization.
Adopting her husband's ranching lifestyle, she loved children: her own, their friends and others. In Focus, the Churchill County Museum publication, described her family life: “Settled in their nest, they began a family. Their first child was Lael de Braga (Casey); Francis Gail was born too early, too small, and passed away Christmas Day. A few years later Jaime de Braga (Dellera) came along. Next to join the clan was Joe de Braga and finally Mitzi de Braga (Corkill).” (Married names are in parenthesis.)
On weekends, she might switch hats to go to rodeos, 4-H activities or other school and sports activities. She and her husband co-founded the Silver State International Rodeo for youth who failed to qualify for the National High School Rodeo. She was also State High School Rodeo secretary for 21 years.
As her children matured, Marcia broadened her horizons, first as a newspaper columnist for the Lahontan Valley News. In ”Solemn Column”, a weekly humorous depiction of a rural Nevada family's life, she amused and eulogized them to her readers. She loved history and wrote “Dig No Graves – a Churchill County History -1964” where readers could see her political satire gift. She loved to read her political poetry especially at Democratic gatherings such as the Jefferson-Jackson dinners. As a remembrance for her family, she wrote an autobiography emphasizing important events.
She realized the importance of local level politics and began organizing other campaigns either as a campaign manager or assistant. She spoke on Democratic issues at small or large local gatherings at friends' homes or at larger local county conventions. One of her last forays in this area was as Northern Nevada rural campaign manager for Jack Carter, son of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who challenged Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) in 2005.
Marcia entered the state political arena in 1991 when she became a District 35 Democratic candidate and won a Nevada Assembly seat. She became the voice of the “cow counties” both on radio and on the campaign trail as she did her homework on agriculture, mining and other pertinent issues while chairperson of the Assembly's Committee of Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining. During her 10 years in the Assembly, she sponsored many bills to help rural Nevada. Yet de Braga reached across the aisle to push for legislation to benefit her district. Sen. Mike McGuiness (R-Fallon) and she sponsored a bill requiring sky diving businesses to obtain business licenses in the 1999 session.
Bipartisan oriented on a statewide level, she and Sen. Dean Rhoads (R-NV) instituted land use summits to gather mining companies' and mining associations' information. Assembly Bill 380 passed in the 1999 session after much opposition from federal lobbyists and legislators including Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). The bill affirmed previous Nevada's interpretation of the priority date of water rights, clarified surface water rights and set specific ways to prove water rights were not abandoned. It settled decades of infighting among various Truckee River water user groups.
Joe Dini, 1999 Nevada Assembly speaker, commented that “de Braga was not afraid to stand up for what she thought was right.”
She received the 2001 National Good Housekeeping 'Women in Government' award as a “Nimble Negotiator”. Other awards from organizations on national, state and local levels would follow.
In 2001 she co-sponsored AB 267 to place a Sarah Winnemucca statue in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. Nevada Women's History Project members requested she sponsor legislation and they raised funds for the sculpture. She also presented bills preventing state government from “borrowing” employees retirement funds and protecting children from parents who abused each other.
In 2001 she proposed a bill allocating $500,000 for environmental and biological testing in Fallon to seek the causes of the children's leukemia cancer. The bill was approved by an Assembly committee prior to U.S. Senate cluster hearings on April 13, 2001. Our U.S. Senate delegation plus Sen. Hilary Clinton (D-NY) held a U.S. Environmental and Public Works hearing. The group discussed the need for a non-fee Nevada cancer registry and agreed to seek federal funding for research. Although she was defeated in the 2001 election, she still fought for “her kids” behind the political scenes. Leukemia had sickened 17 Fallon children and killed three.
Thanks to her persistence, in November 2002 the late Gov. Kenny Guinn announced that nearly $7 million in state loans and grants were approved to help Fallon meet federal arsenic and tungsten level water supply standards by building a water treatment plant. Later in 2003, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) and Sen. Reid announced a $100,000 distribution in federal funds to supply children with bottled water until the treatment plant was completed.
On March 27, 2010, Sen. Reid announced more research is needed to find possible environmental causes and effects of tungsten exposure. “Marcia de Braga and the parents just wouldn't give up,” Reid said. “They wouldn't back down in their efforts to help these children. Marcia wouldn't quit pushing.”
Researched and written by Carol Clanton. Posted to Web site November 2010.