Democrats expand hold in Nevada Legislature, but will fall short of veto power over Lombardo

By: - November 17, 2022 6:21 am

Divided government may incentivize Lombardo to govern as a consensus builder, perhaps following in the path of former Gov. Brian Sandoval, who dealt with Democratic legislative majorities for most of his tenure. (Photo: April Corbin Girnus)

Republican Gov.-elect Joe Lombardo has promised to bring back school voucher programs and eliminate “soft on crime” laws. But his ability to implement right of center policies are likely to be handicapped by the Nevada State Legislature, which assuming unofficial results hold, will be solidly controlled by Democrats.

Going into this year’s midterms, Democrats held 12 of 21 Senate seats and 26 of 42 Assembly seats. Unofficial election results as of Wednesday show the party will have at least that many seats going forward and likely three additional seats – one in the Senate and two in the Assembly.

That should give Democrats a two-thirds supermajority in the Assembly but not in the Senate, where they will be just one seat shy. Having a supermajority in both chambers would have allowed the Legislature to override any gubernatorial veto and raise taxes without bipartisan support.

Nationally, this year marks the first time since at least 1934 that the president’s party did not lose a single state legislative chamber, according to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. Democrats defended their legislative majorities not only in Nevada but in Colorado, Maine, Washington and Oregon. Additional Democratic legislative victories include flipping the Minnesota Senate and both chambers of the Michigan State Legislature.

Nevada having a split government is more common than uncommon in recent history. When he was elected in 2018, Sisolak was the first Democrat to secure the seat since 1994. Republicans after a “red wave” in 2014 secured a state government trifecta for one legislative session; Democrats after a “blue wave” in 2018 secured a trifecta for two.

That makeup may incentivize Lombardo to govern as a consensus builder, perhaps following in the path of former Gov. Brian Sandoval, who dealt with Democratic legislative majorities for most of his tenure. Lombardo on Wednesday announced his transition team. It includes several moderate members of his party, including state Sen. Heidi Seevers Gansert, who will be the next senate minority leader, and Ben Kieckhefer, a former state senator who was appointed to the Nevada Gaming Commision by Sisolak.

Nevada Democrats will have another chance at gaining a Senate supermajority in 2024. Again, they will benefit from the redrawn maps. Four of the districts that will be on the ballot that year are currently represented by Republicans, and three of them saw significant shifts that should favor Democrats.

In the meantime, Lombardo and the Legislature will have at their disposal an unprecedented amount of excess revenue from the current fiscal year, which can be used for one-time appropriations. The amount of the biennium budget won’t be set until early next month but has unofficially been projected to be higher than the current budget.

Nevada Senate

Only one of the 11 districts up for reelection this year flipped parties: Senate District 12. There, Democrat Julie Pazina defeated Republican Cherlyn Arrington, 52% to 48%.

SD12 was one of many districts where the boundary lines shifted significantly in favor of Democrats as part of their unilateral political redistricting process last year. Pazina notably ran for state Senate in 2018 but lost by a mere 24 votes to Republican Keith Pickard.

In Senate District 8, Democratic incumbent state Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop appears to have held off Republican challenger Joey Paulos. Fewer than 800 votes – approximately 1.5% – separate the two candidates, according to unofficial election results. The district had been targeted by Republicans as a possible flip.

In Senate District 9, Democratic incumbent state Sen. Melanie Scheible defeated Republican challenger Tina Brown, 53% to 47%. While Democrats had a healthy registration advantage going into the race, concerns about low turnout had opened the door for a possible flip by Republicans.

As for other outcomes:

  • Republican Jeff Stone was elected to represent Senate District 20, a solidly red district. Stone, who defeated Brent Foutz 62% to 36%, is a newcomer to Nevada politics but has previously held office in California and worked in the Trump administration.
  • Democratic Assemblyman Edgar Flores will jump to the upper chamber after easily defeating Republican Leo Henderson in deep blue Senate District 2, 70% to 30%.
  • Republican Assemblywoman Robin Titus will also jump to the upper chamber to represent deep red Senate District 17. Titus faced no general election competitor but survived a competitive GOP primary in June.
  • Republican Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner is the third member of the Assembly to switch chambers. She handily beat Democrat Aaron Sims in Senate District 16, 60% to 40%.
  • Democrat Skip Daly, who has previously served in the Assembly, easily won against Republican Matthew Buehler in Senate District 13, 61% to 39%.
  • Democratic state Sen. Fabian Donate, who was appointed to his seat in 2021 after Yvanna Cancela resigned to take a job with the Biden administration, won his first election. He beat Republican Philip Gravient, 56% to 41%.
  • Republican state Sen. Ira Hansen had no challenger in Senate District 14, so he will retain his seat.

Nevada Assembly

All 42 Assembly seats were up this year. Democrats expanded their control into a supermajority by successfully defending 26 seats and flipping two additional seats.

Their two flips came in districts where the Republican incumbents chose not to run again. In Assembly District 37, Republican incumbent Andy Matthews opted to run for state controller. (He won.) In Assembly District 25, Republican incumbent Jill Tolles opted not to run again.

Succeeding them will be Democrats Shea Backus and Selena La Rue Hatch, respectively.

Backus, who has represented the district in the Assembly previously, defeated Republican James Deaville, 51% to 48%, while La Rue Hatch prevailed over Republican Sam Kumar, 54% to 46%.

Notably, Democrats successfully defended their seats in what were seen as three of the most competitive Assembly districts:

  • In Assembly District 35, Democratic incumbent Michelle Gorelow held back challenger Tiffany Jones, 49% to 47%.
  • In Assembly District 21, Democratic incumbent Elaine Marzola defeated Republican Jon Petrick, 52% to 48%.
  • In Assembly District 29, Democratic incumbent Lesley Cohen defeated Republican Rhonda Knightly 53% to 47%.

For complete Assembly results, see Nevada’s Silver State Election page.

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April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus

April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. 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.

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