Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said she was struggling to schedule an interim committee meeting on how taxes are distributed among local governments because [Senator Elizabeth] Halseth [R-Enterprise], who was appointed by her caucus to sit on the committee, has not returned calls.
“We’ve had a hard time reaching Ms. Halseth to determine her role,” Kirkpatrick said. “The last thing I’d want is for a Senate Republican not to be represented on the committee.”
While the tax distribution issue — the consolidated tax — is important in the world of local government finances, Halseth’s absence raises a larger question that could have big political ramifications: Will she return to the Legislature in 2013?
If Halseth moves out of her district or resigns ahead of the June 12 primary, it would put her seat on the ballot. Because of redistricting, her seat has a significant Democratic voter registration edge.
If she stays, however, Halseth is in the middle of a four-year term and her seat would not be open until 2014. She was elected in 2010 and became the youngest elected state senator.
And that's what scares Republicans the most. Because Democrats now outnumber Republicans by a significant margin in the new SD 9, and because the district probably voted around 58% Obama 2008 and 53% Reid 2010, this district will be incredibly difficult for Republicans to hold if put to election again this year. So right now, it looks like Republican Caucus Leader Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) will be trying to delay Halseth's removal from the Senate just long enough so that it doesn't go to special election. As long as Halseth resigns after the 2012 filing deadline, Clark County Commissioners may be forced to appoint a Republican replacement for Halseth that lasts until the 2014 election.
But wait, how can he do this?
Well, the main problem here is that Halseth herself won't tell us where she's now living. Apparently she may technically be maintaining a Las Vegas address, but I've heard from multiple sources that Halseth is actually living in Alaska with her new boyfriend. But since her cell phone has been disconnected, her Twitter page and web site are down, and she hasn't responded to any media inquiries, no one knows for sure where she really is and what she's really doing. And as long as Roberson can keep everyone in the dark past March 16, he can be able to hold off a special election this year...
Or can he?
According to state law, if at least 25% of registered voters who voted in the last election (when the office was on the ballot) sign a recall petition, a recall election can happen. So may we see an election anyway, even if Michael Roberson keeps trying to run out the clock?
As we were discussing yesterday, the whole conversation on Legislature elections has changed dramatically in the last 36 hours. Greg Brower now has a real race on his hands up north, while Republicans now worry about a very vulnerable seat opening down south. And if Democrats can find the answer to the question on everyone's mind right now (as well as the title of this blog diary), this seat will indeed open up... And dash Republican hopes of retaking the State Senate.