Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Calling BS on "Newspaper" #NVLeg Prediction

Yesterday, a certain "newspaper" posted this article on the race for the Legislature this year... And the Carson City reporter at the "newspaper" actually managed to repost an entire Senate Republican Caucus press release predict a 12-9 Republican majority in the State Senate next year, as well as expanded Republican numbers in the Assembly. And how, one might ask, did Ed Vogel reach this conclusion? Basically, he gave every marginal seat to the Republicans!

I mean, come on, how ridiculous is that? The only way that happens is if somehow 2012 is another huge "Republican wave election". And as we've been chronicling here for some time, that just isn't likely to happen. If even Rasmussen's latest poll shows President Obama winning Nevada over Mitt Romney by a comfortable margin, then we won't be seeing another "Republican wave election" this fall. And if Nevada Republicans continue to spend more time infighting than organizing, then I have a hard time seeing how some magic "momentum" successfully counteracts the actual organizing that Nevada Democrats are doing on the ground this year.

Not even Ralston was buying that "newspaper analysis" last night.



So what does the real picture look like? Let me help. Since the last time we did race ratings was in October, we were probably overdue for an update anyway. But considering the crazy @ss spin we saw in a certain "newspaper" yesterday, it's definitely time to update the state of the race. And unlike that certain "newspaper", we're not just copying a press release.

Today, we're covering the Senate. (And I'm just listing the competitive races below because the safe seats are all the same as October's initial analysis.) Tomorrow, we'll be looking at competitive Assembly races.

Clark County

SD 5
Henderson- Green Valley/Silverado Ranch


Estimated US-Pres 2008
56% Obama (D)
42% McCain (R)

Estimated NV-Sen 2010
54% Harry Reid (D)
41% Sharron Angle (R)

Estimated NV-Gov 2010
50% Brian Sandoval (R)
45% Rory Reid (D)

Race Rating: Tossup

I still live in this district, so I at least like to think that I know more about what's actually happening in this district than what most media pundits think they know. Basically, SD 5 was reworked in redistricting to become mostly a Green Valley/Silverado Ranch district with just some of Old Henderson remaining. Overall, it transforms the district from what had been considered Republican leaning turf into a more Democratic friendly district.

Still, Nevada Democrats can't take anything for granted here. Former Henderson City Council Member Steve Kirk has been endorsed by the Senate Republican Caucus, and he still has a base of support here. However, he can't take anything for granted here either, as local doctor Annette Teijero is also running in the Republican primary and seems to be emerging as the "tea party" favorite here. While Kirk seems to be leading in the "money race", Teijero and Democratic candidate (and former State Senator) Joyce Woodhouse are getting a head start in the always important field game.

This seat may again come down to the wire, and this seat may again be "bombed" with intense campaign spending, but this time strong Democratic performance at the "top of the ticket" is almost certain to be the key that sends Joyce Woodhouse back to Carson City. While Kirk's early fundraising advantage has me placing this seat in "Tossup" territory for now, I honestly don't think this will be as easy of a Republican pickup as Michael Roberson and most media pundits had originally expected this district to be. (In fact, I won't be surprised if they don't pick up this seat at all.)

SD 6
Las Vegas- Summerlin/Northwest


Estimated US-Pres 2008
55% Obama (D)
43% McCain (R)

Estimated NV-Sen 2010
53% Harry Reid (D)
43% Sharron Angle (R)

Estimated NV-Gov 2010
52% Brian Sandoval (R)
44% Rory Reid (D)

Race Rating: Tossup

If any seat is the ideal example of the high stakes of this year's Legislature elections, it's probably this one. Democrats were already starting to get nervous about this seat when incumbent Senator Allison Copening (D-Las Vegas) faced heat over HOA related legislation she introduced last session. But when Copening announced her retirement in January, the race really opened up. Republicans had already recruited Mark Hutchison, the lawyer who accepted Jim Gibbons' offer to represent Nevada in the anti-health care reform law suit now being argued in the US Supreme Court. However, Democrats had the good fortune of finding 2010 SD 9 candidate Benny Yerushalmi (who only lost to Elizabeth Halseth by about 5%) willing to run in the new SD 6. Thomas Welsh is also running in the Democratic Primary, but so far Yerushalmi looks favored to win that primary.

Most likely, the general election will be the big fight here. And already, Yerushalmi vs. Hutchison vies to be the among the key marquee fights for #NVLeg this year. While the new SD 6 is more Democratic than its previous incarnation, it's still a close enough district to leave Benny Yerushlami and Nevada Democrats hardly any room for error. And considering the big money likely heading Hutchison's way, Yerushalmi will definitely need a stronger field presence this time than he did in 2010 to actually seal the deal this year.

SD 9
Enterprise- Rhodes Ranch, Mountain's Edge, Southern Highlands


Estimated US-Pres 2008
58% Obama (D)
40% McCain (R)

Estimated NV-Sen 2010
54% Harry Reid (D)
41% Sharron Angle (R)

Estimated NV-Gov 2010
50% Brian Sandoval (R)
46% Rory Reid (D)

Race Rating: Leans Democratic

Of all the critical Senate seats up this year, this one looks to deliver the biggest change. For one, it wasn't even supposed to be up this year... But a surprise resignation by Elizabeth Halseth (R-Enterprise) changed that assumption, and that really changed the whole dynamic of the race for the Legislature. What had been a tough hill for Democrats to climb to hold onto the Senate is now becoming a tough hill for Republicans to climb (yes, really, Ed Vogel & R-J pundits) to flip it.

What really made Halseth's resignation a huge blow for Michael Roberson's hopes of becoming Majority Leader was that SD 9 changed radically in redistricting. What had been a more GOP friendly exurban Western Clark County district is now an ethnically diverse and increasingly Democratic leaning Southwest Vegas Valley district. And like SD 5, all it takes is strong Democratic turnout and good "top of the ticket" Democratic performance to flip this seat.

And by landing a top notch candidate in Justin Jones, Nevada Democrats are serious about picking up this seat this time. "Angry Professor" Fred Conquest is also running on the Democratic side, but it (again) doesn't look like he's running a serious campaign (seriously, his web site still features his failed 2010 Gubernatorial run). I honestly don't think Justin Jones should have a problem getting through the Democratic Primary. And with former Joe Heck & Dean Heller spokesperson Mari St. Martin and "tea party" favorite Brent Jones running on the Republican side, I'm liking Justin Jones' chances in the general election. While Democrats still can't take this seat for granted, I am thinking this is the Senate seat most likely to change hands this year.

SD 18 (Open)
Las Vegas- Northwest/Centennial Hills


Estimated US-Pres 2008
50% Obama (D)
48% McCain (R)

Estimated NV-Sen 2010
50% Sharron Angle (R)
45% Harry Reid (D)

Estimated NV-Gov 2010
57% Brian Sandoval (R)
38% Rory Reid (D)

Race Rating: Tossup

Early on, it looked like the most competition we'd see here would be in the Republican Primary... But that all changed when Kelli Ross announced her candidacy here. Not only does she look like a formidable candidate in her own right, but her husband (Las Vegas City Council Member Steve Ross) will probably help her connect with folks in ways that many Democrats typically can't in this Northwest Las Vegas district.

However, Democrats shouldn't get too giddy about picking up this new seat (created mostly from remains of the old SD 9 and SD 12, and moved here from rural Nevada) just yet. Assembly Member Scott Hammond (R-Las Vegas) doesn't quite have the same "fire breathing" reputation as the guy he replaced, so running against him may not be a cake walk. However Hammond isn't getting a cake walk in the Republican Primary, since fellow Assembly Member Richard MacArthur (R-Las Vegas) is also running, and MacArthur DOES have a "fire breathing" reputation that's endearing to the local "tea party" set here. Meanwhile in the Democratic Primary, Kelli Ross is being challenged from the left by former PTA President Donna Schlemmer.

This may very well be one of those races that's competitive from beginning to end. And perhaps more so than any of the other marginal Senate seats, this one may really hinge on what happens in the primary. Hammond seems to be the less doctrinaire conservative Republican, while Ross looks to be the more moderate Democrat. So of course, their general election asset may turn out to be the key primary liability.


Washoe County

SD 15
Reno- Northwest


Estimated US-Pres 2008
57% Obama (D)
40% McCain (R)

Estimated NV-Sen 2010
54% Harry Reid (D)
40% Sharron Angle (R)

Estimated NV-Gov 2010
57% Brian Sandoval (R)
37% Rory Reid (D)

Race Rating: Tossup

This most definitely promises to be the big #NVLeg marquee race of the north. And the stakes here are incredibly high. Two seasoned legislators are running against each other, and the winner of this race may very well be "the majority maker". This explains why the competition is already turning fierce up north.

As we can see in the above video, Senator Greg Brower (R-Reno) is trying to flip-flop his way to the middle of the road after pivoting quite far to the "tea party" right in last year's NV-02 special election. Meanwhile, Sheila Leslie (D-Reno) had to make a big move of her own, albeit a physical one to a smaller house after her kids moved out of the old house, to run in the new SD 15. And unlike the old Washoe Senate 3 district where Bill Raggio served for nearly four decades, the new SD 15 has only a tiny (about 2%) GOP registration advantage... Yet recent election results show the district to be trending Democratic, which is why Greg Brower and Michael Roberson haven't been resting easily ever since Sheila Leslie's big move.

This may very well be the most expensive #NVLeg race in history once all is said and done. Republicans must win this seat again to have a chance at getting any kind of Senate majority. But if Sheila Leslie wins SD 15 for Democrats, then Democrats are virtually assured of keeping the Senate as well as keeping alive hopes of a possible 2/3 veto-proof supermajority.

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So this is what's at stake with Senate elections this year. If Republicans win at least four out of the five marginal seats listed above, Roberson becomes Majority Leader. On the other hand, all Democrats have to do is win at least two out of these five races to keep the majority (and I think Dems already have a head start here with SD 9 now on the table). Yet if 2012 turns out to be a great year for Nevada Democrats, President Obama manages to win the state handily again, and Democrats manage to pull a spectacular feat of winning all five competitive Senate races, then Democrats finally achieve that 2/3 veto-proof supermajority that's been enticing them for quite some time.

So what's really possible? Let me conclude by ranking the seats in order of likelihood of changing parties:

1. SD 9 (R to D)
2. SD 15 (R to D)
3. SD 6 (D to R)
4. SD 5 (D to R)
5. SD 18 (R to D)

Right now, I'd stop the flipping somewhere between #2 and #3. Yes, I know, I should be more decisive here! OK, so let's be generous and keep the flipping going all the way to #3. This means Hutchison turns SD 6 from Blue to Red while Leslie turns SD 15 from Red to Blue and (Justin) Jones turns SD 9 from Red to Blue. And this means Woodhouse keeps SD 5 Blue while Hammond or MacArthur keeps SD 18 Red. So in the end, I guess the "newspaper" actually did get the final Senate numbers correct... They just got the parties mixed up. (They say Republicans get a 12-9 majority. I say the current state of play suggests a 12-9 Democratic majority.)

Got to love that "newspaper". ;-)

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