2022 general election will bring fresh faces to Nevada State Assembly

By: - October 28, 2022 5:50 am

The Nevada State Assembly during a special session in November 2021. (Photo: April Corbin Girnus)

Last year, the Democratic-controlled Nevada State Legislature redrew the boundary lines for all of its 63 political districts. With this year’s midterm elections, they will see whether those decisions are going to pay off and help them maintain, or expand, their majorities.

The Nevada State Assembly has 42 members. Democrats currently control the chamber with 26 seats. Republicans hold 16 seats. Members of the assembly serve two-year terms. That means all seats are up this year, though not all races are competitive.

(Looking for a breakdown of the Nevada State Senate? Click here.)

Democrats could stand to lose up to four seats in the upcoming elections and still maintain control of the lower chamber. If Democrats can successfully defend their existing seats and expand by two seats, they could regain a supermajority they had after the 2018 election.

How likely are either of those scenarios? Consider that over the past two decades – with the exception of 2014 “red wave” where Republicans swept Nevada and left Democrats with an unprecedented 15 state assembly seats – Democrats have controlled anywhere between between 23 and 29 assembly seats.

One third of this year’s races have no incumbent running in them, which means the 2023 Legislature will consist of a significant number of political newcomers. This will be particularly true of the Assembly Republican Caucus. Only seven of their current 16 assembly members are running for reelection, compared to 21 of the 26 Democrats.

Twenty-one districts are generally considered safe for Democrats this election cycle. Twelve districts are generally considered safe for Republicans. That leaves nine districts that could be considered competitive – though some political insiders would consider that number generous.

The most competitive assembly districts are 21, 29 and 25. All three are located within Clark County and have a Democratic incumbent running.

In Assembly District 21, Democratic incumbent Elaine Marzola will defend her seat for the first time against Republican Jon Petrick.

Marzola – a lawyer with her personal injury firm – narrowly secured her seat during the 2020 election, defeating Republican Cherlyn Arrington, who is now running for state senate. Petrick is a pain management doctor and CEO of EverReady Health and Las Vegas Pain Relief Centers.

In Assembly District 29, Democratic incumbent Lesley Cohen seeks her fourth term. Republican Rhonda Knightly is running against her.

Cohen, a family law attorney, first represented the district in 2012 when she was appointed to fill the seat after its recently re-elected assemblywoman quit for personal reasons. Cohen ran to keep the seat in 2014 but lost as part of that year’s red wave. She ran again in 2016 and has represented the district ever since. Her wins have always been narrow – in 2020 she won with 51.2% of the vote, in 2018 with 51.4%, and in 2016 with 50.37%. However, the district’s boundary lines were shifted.

Knightly is a longtime employee of the City of Las Vegas, according to her website.

In Assembly District 35, Democratic incumbent Michelle Gorelow is being challenged by Republican Tiffany Jones. Libertarian Mindy Robinson is also running.

Gorelow’s professional background is in nonprofit work, most recently at Positively Kids, which focuses on helping medically fragile and developmentally delayed children.

Jones works in sales for a medical device company and owned a boutique wedding cake bakery for eight years. Jones has run for the state Legislature twice before. In 2016, she ran in Assembly District 35 but was defeated in the Republican primary. In 2018, she ran in Senate District 9 but lost to Democrat Melanie Scheible in the general election.

Robinson is a Libertarian who dabbles in conspiracy theories and has said that “boxes of Biden votes fell from the sky” during the 2020 election. That year she ran in the Republican primary for Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District but lost to Dan Rodimer, who would go on to lose to Democrat Susie Lee.

Four Assembly districts where red-to-blue flips might be possible are 37, 25, 2 and 13.

Democrat Shea Backus, Republican Jacob Deaville and Libertarian Marc Tedoff are running to represent Assembly District 37. The district is currently represented by Republican Andy Matthews, who is now running for Nevada controller.

Backus is an attorney who was elected to represent the district for one term after beating then-incumbent Republican Jim Marchant by 135 votes in 2018. The next election cycle, 2020, Matthews unseated her in another close race decided by 657 votes. No third-party candidates ran that year.

The district boundaries have since shifted, though it is still expected to be competitive.

Deaville has also previously ran for the seat – he was defeated by Matthews in the 2020 GOP primary. He is a licensed contractor and small business owner, according to his website.

As reported by the Nevada Independent, Deaville has shared articles on social media questioning the legitimacy of the election process. He has also expressed agreement with the position that Trump and his allies were not directly involved with organizing the violence on Jan. 6, 2021.

Assembly District 25 in Northern Nevada pits Democrat Selena La Rue Hatch against Republican Sam Kumar. The seat is currently represented by Republican Jill Tolles, who decided not to run for reelection.

Previously, the district was seen as safely red but after Democrat-controlled redistricting is now seen as competitive.

La Rue Hatch was one of several Nevada State Education Association-backed candidates who ran in a Democratic primary against a candidate backed by the Assembly Democratic Caucus. She was the only successful candidate. (The Assembly Democratic Caucus now supports her.)

Kumar manages health care data for a regional healthcare provider. He wrote a column for the Reno Gazette Journal from 2016 to 2021.

In Assembly District 2, Republican incumbent Heidi Kasama is being challenged by Democrat Nick Christensen and Libertarian Jason Bednarz.

Kasama is a realtor running for her second term. Christensen previously worked in information technology, according to his campaign website. Bednarz is a professional pianist and teacher, according to his campaign website.

The district has been reliably red but Democrats came close to flipping it in 2018, when Jennie Sherwood lost to then-incumbent John Hambrick 48.1% to 51.9%.

Assembly District 13 is currently represented by Republican Tom Roberts, who opted to run for sheriff of Clark County instead of reelection. (He lost handedly to the police union-backed candidate, Kevin McMahill.) Seeking to represent the district going forward are Republican Brian Hibbetts and Democrat Will Rucker.

Hibbetts is a retired Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officer. Rucker works for the American Lung Association and sits on the board of several nonprofits, according to his campaign website and social media profiles.

Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district. Redistricting brought their numbers down, but the district still leans red. This year’s election results may give Democrats a sense of how competitive it could be in the future.

Two districts where blue-to-red flips might be possible are districts 9 and 41. In Assembly District 9, Democrat Steve Yeager is being challenged by Republican Ryan Fleming. Yeager has represented the district since 2016 and is best known legislatively for his work on criminal justice reform.

Yeager is widely expected to be the next leader of the Assembly Democrats. The previous speaker, Jason Frierson, resigned from the Legislature after he was named U.S. Attorney in Las Vegas.

Fleming is a political newcomer. In a Ballotpedia candidate survey, he listed law and order, school choice and the 2nd Amendment as three key messages of his campaign. He also said he was passionate about blockchain technology, writing that it has the ability to create “a more transparent and accountable government.”

Nonpartisan and third-party voters make up 40% of registered voters in the district. Democrats make up 33% of registered voters; Republicans 27%.

In Assembly District 41, Democratic incumbent Sandra Jauregui is being challenged by Republican Paul Bodine. Libertarian Sean McNamara is also running.

Jauregui has represented the district since 2016. A survivor of the Oct. 1, 2017 mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip, Jauregui is known for sponsoring gun-control legislation.

Bodine is a Donald Trump supporter who told the Nevada Independent in May that he didn’t know if President Biden was duly elected. More recently, when he was asked by the Las Vegas Review-Journal which politician he most admired, he mentioned the former president, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Winston Churchill.

Notably, one of the competitive districts in terms of voter registration and recent history – Assembly District 4 – had no Democrats file to run.

Republican Assemblyman Richard McArthur currently represents the district and should cruise to an easy victory next month against Libertarian Darby Burns.

McArthur flipped that seat red in 2020 by defeating Democrat Connie Munk, who had flipped the seat blue in 2018 by defeating McArthur.

There is a Republican candidate running in every partisan race in Nevada – even in blue strongholds where Democrats outnumber them 2 to 1. But the reverse isn’t true. Five Republicans on the ballot – incumbent Assemblymembers Alexis Hansen, Gregory Hafen and Jill Dickman and newcomers Thaddeus Yurek and Gregory Koenig – are running unopposed.

For additional Assembly races, hover over the districts:

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April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus

April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, three children and one mutt.