History after all: Nevada to be first state with majority female Legislature

By: - December 18, 2018 3:12 pm

For months, media around the nation and even internationally published stories about the prospect of Nevada becoming the first state in the U.S. to have a majority female Legislature.

It didn’t happen in the November election.

But after the post-election shuffling, and after appointments were made to fill vacancies of people who were elected to other offices, or resigned to seek another one, the prospect became an impending reality Tuesday.

Nevada became the first state to have a majority female Legislature after the Clark County Board of Commissioners appointed two Democratic women to fill recently vacated Assembly seats.

Commissioners voted unanimously for both Rochelle Nguyen, a Las Vegas attorney, and Beatrice Duran, a grievance specialist with the Culinary Union, based on recommendations from the Democratic Assembly caucus.

Rochelle Nguyen will fill the vacancy left by former Assemblyman Chris Brooks in District 10 after he was picked to fill a state Senate vacancy, and Beatrice Duran replaced Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz, who resigned earlier this month to run for the Las Vegas City Council.

Women now hold 23 of 42 seats in the state Assembly and nine of 21 in the Senate, for a total of 32 seats in the 63 seat Legislature.

When the Current did its own version of the Nevada-could-become-first-state-with-female-majority-Legislature story last summer, Barbara Buckley, the first woman to serve as Nevada Speaker of the Assembly, said men and women respond differently from the onset of their legislative careers.

“Almost every woman I recruited asked me ‘do you think I am qualified’ and almost every man asked ‘how much does it pay,'” Buckley told the Current in July. “That’s societal influence that is still pervasive — it’s changing, but not gone.”

One of the commissioners who approved the appointments of Duran and Nguyen Tuesday was Governor-elect Steve Sisolak, sitting as a county commissioner for the last time.

Rep. Dina Titus, a former state Senate minority leader in the Nevada Legislature, also marked the moment on Twitter.

And Laura Martin of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada observed the history-making development, albeit with a slightly different take.

Another of the commissioners who approved Tuesday’s appointments was Marilyn Kirkpatrick, like Buckley, a former speaker of the Nevada Assembly.

“It’s a given that men are at the table and the women have to work harder,” Kirkpatrick said in the Current’s story last summer envisioning a female majority Legislature. “You have to do your homework and come to the table prepared. You have to be twice as good.”

Only AAPI legislator

One of Tuesday’s appointments, Nguyen, is the only Asian America Pacific Islander (AAPI) community member in the Legislature. While speaking in support of her appointment Evan Louie, the chairman of One APIA Nevada, said it was important for members of the community to see themselves in the Legislature.

“I’m a single father raising a daughter,” said Louie. “Yet she’s never seen an AAPI or someone who looks like her in the state Legislature.

In her application, Nguyen said her father arrived in the U.S. in 1975 as a refugee from Vietnam. She moved to Las Vegas after graduating from Washington State to attend the William S. Boyd School of Law at UNLV in 2002, where she helped start the Public Interest Law Association, marking the start of her interest in public service. Afterward, she worked for the U.S. Department of Justice researching and drafted decisions involving immigration proceedings, before joining the Clark County Public Defender’s office for three years. She cited her current work in criminal defense and indigent defense in her own practice as an asset for the Legislature.

“We are very familiar with the criminal justice system and have first-hand knowledge about the reform that needs to take place in that area,” Nguyen said.

Duran joined the Culinary Union as an organizer in 1999 after working as a food server for at the Four Queens for 14 years. She’s now part of a team of 12 grievance specialists who represent union members in workplace disputes. Her top priorities in the Legislature are education, environmental protection, and immigration, according to her application.

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Jeniffer Solis
Jeniffer Solis

Jeniffer was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies.