Sunday, February 19, 2012

#NVLeg: Halseth's Gone & Leslie's Moved On... What's Next?

I'm quite sure I know what you're thinking. Now that Elizabeth Halseth is out, what happens next in Senate District 9 in Southern Nevada? Let me do my best to explain what's to come.

First, we have filing. And from what I've heard, it's too late for anyone currently living outside the new district boundaries to move in and campaign here. SD 9 has now been compacted to just the Southwest Vegas suburbs of Summerlin South (south of Red Rock Country Club), the western edge of Spring Valley, and the Enterprise communities of Mountain's Edge, Rhodes Ranch, and Southern Highlands. Sorry, aspiring carpetbaggers.

And so far, everything I heard Friday afternoon still stands. The new district boundaries will indeed be used in the special election, and the SD 9 special election will follow the same schedule as the other regularly scheduled Legislature elections. This means filing will be open until March 16, then the primary will occur on June 12. And of course, this also means SD 9 will ultimately be decided in the general election on November 6.

And so far, the same schedule looks to be in place for the Senate District 13 special election in Northern Nevada triggered by Sheila Leslie's big move to Senate District 15. The new SD 13 (formerly Washoe Senate 1) contains mostly the urban core of Reno and Sparks, while the new SD 15 (formerly Washoe Senate 3) takes in a large portion of Western Washoe County from White Lake to Sun Valley to Northwest Reno to Mount Rose.

Now that Sheila Leslie will be running in SD 15, Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Debbie Smith (D-Sparks) announced yesterday that she will run to fill the vacancy in SD 13.

“Northern Nevadans need strong representatives they can count on to get the job done,” Smith said in a statement. “While I believe there are some very promising signs that things are beginning to get better in our state, we have a long way to go. I am running for the state Senate to continue fighting for a better education system, a healthier economy, and a more efficient and effective government for Nevada. After spending the past few days talking with family, friends and community members, I feel this is the right decision at the right time.”

Leslie resigned her Senate Distrct 1 seat effective immediately Wednesday and plans to run against state Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, in Senate District 15.

District 1, which encompasses portions of Reno and Sparks, becomes District 13 in this election cycle after redistricting. The district has a solid Democratic edge in registered voters, about 18 percent. Leslie won election by 30 points in 2010, and former state Sen. Bernice Mathews, D-Reno, held the seat for 16 years before term limits ended her legislative career.

Now as the RGJ article quoted above states, not too much is really at stake in SD 13. It's still a heavily Democratic district. And as long as no other strong Democrat emerges to challenge Debbie Smith in the primary, then expect to see Senator Debbie Smith (D-Sparks) making waves in the next legislative session (next year).

No, the real battle will be farther west in SD 15. And down south, SD 9 will join SD 5 (Henderson-Green Valley), SD 6 (Las Vegas-Summerlin), and SD 18 (Northwest Las Vegas) in determining control of the Nevada State Senate. If Republicans win at least 4 of these 5 seats, then they take over the Senate. But if Democrats manage to sweep all 5 of these races, then Nevada Dems will finally reach the magic 2/3 number to secure a veto-proof supermajority and relegate Michael Roberson (and his extreme "tea party" agenda) to the sidelines.

This is why Roberson is so scared now. And this is why the "big bid'ness" establishment will be forking out big checks to the likes of Greg Brower and Steve Kirk (a GOP candidate in SD 5). Again, as we've been saying here for a while (and Jon Ralston has admitted on Twitter), Republican hopes of flipping the Senate have diminished greatly in the last 100 hours. However, they still intend to go all in for the #NVLeg campaign just for the sake of saving enough seats to obstruct any kind of progressive agenda in the 77th session.

So perhaps more so than ever before, the Legislature campaigns of 2012 will really matter. If one wants to fix the broken and outdated tax structure straight out of the 19th century, fully fund public education, improve our state's health care system, rebuild the rest of our state's public infrastructure, and properly invest in the kind of job creation that will benefit our economy for many generations to come, the choice will be crystal clear. And thanks to both redistricting last year and the major developments of the past week, we may actually have a unique and unprecedented opportunity to change the dynamics of Carson City for the better. So remember not to "stop at the top"... Keep going down that ballot and vote for progress.

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