Races to decide who controls state Legislature | NevadaAppeal.com

Races to decide who controls state Legislature

Associated Press Writer

While Democrats are confident the Nov. 4 election results will leave them solidly in control of the Nevada Assembly, Republicans aren’t so sure about retaining their bare 11-10 control of the state Senate.

Assembly Democrats, who already have a 27-15 edge over Republicans, are looking to pick up from one to three more seats. Gaining just one seat would give Democrats the 28 seats needed for a supermajority – the number needed to override a veto by Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons. They say their worst-case scenario is retaining their current, overwhelming margin.

In the Senate, Democrats don’t have a shot at a supermajority, but are making a strong bid for two seats now held by Republican Sens. Bob Beers and Joe Heck.

If the Democrats win just one of those seats and hang onto an open seat that’s up for grabs, the 11-10 GOP advantage would flip their way and they’d be in control for the first time since the 1991 session.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, says the races for the Southern Nevada seats held by Beers and Heck “are closer than they should be. … They should be re-elected, but it’s a year of uncertainty. With the Democrat registration going far ahead, it makes it more questionable.”

Major voter registration gains by Democrats have resulted in the GOP losing the advantage that favored Beers, R-Las Vegas, and Heck, R-Henderson, in their districts at the start of the year. And the state Democratic Party is spending heavily on the campaigns of Beers’ challenger, Allison Copening, and Heck’s main opponent, Shirley Breeden.

The other eight Senate races are relatively dull by comparison.

Raggio, in his last state Senate campaign because of to term limits, survived a tough primary challenge from anti-tax conservative Sharron Angle and now faces a Democratic newcomer and a splinter-party candidate in a district that has a 2-to-1 GOP voter registration advantage.

Senate Minority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, has it even better in his re-election bid – a 3-to-1 registration advantage for Democrats over Republicans in his district.

For the rest of the Senate incumbents seeking re-election to four-year terms, they either have big registration edges or face only minor-party opposition. And some like Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, have no opposition at all.

In the lone race for an open Senate seat, a 2-to-1 voter registration advantage in the Las Vegas district should help Democrat David Parks as he tries to move up from the Assembly in his race against Republican Lindsay Madsen. Sen. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, gave up the seat to run for Congress.

In the Assembly, all 42 seats are up.

Most incumbents, whether Republican or Democrat, appear to be favored to be re-elected to new two-year terms – but there are a couple of possible exceptions.

Incumbent Democrat David Bobzien has a strong registration advantage in his Reno-based Assembly District 24. But he’s up against Republican John Gwaltney, who has a long, prominent record in education that includes service as a state Board of Education member.

In Carson City-based Assembly District 40, incumbent Democrat Bonnie Parnell faces Republican Cheryl Lau, a former Nevada secretary of state, and minor-party candidate John Wagner. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district, although the popular Parnell has overcome that disadvantage in four previous elections.

In southern Nevada, Democratic registration gains in several open Assembly districts should help Democratic newcomers, though they face tough GOP contenders. They include district 2, 4 and 5, which had been held by Republicans; and districts 23 and 29, which had been held by Democrats.

The District 5 candidates include Democrat Marilyn Dondero Loop and Republican Donna Toussaint, and an independent. In District 23, the GOP’s Melissa Woodbury and Democrat Allison Herr are running. In District 29, Democrat April Mastroluca is up against Republican Sean Fellows.

In Assembly District 2, John Hambrick, the former Clark County Republican Party chairman, is running against two minor-party candidates and Democrat Carlos Blumberg, a lawyer and political newcomer.

In Assembly Districts 21 and 4, two moderate Republican incumbents, Francis Allen and Bob Beers, lost in the August primary elections to more conservative GOP challengers. Allen was defeated by Richard McArthur and Beers lost to Jon Ozark.

In the general election, McArthur, a retired FBI agent, faces two minor-party contenders and Democrat Craig Ballew, a well-known educator and coach, in District 4. Ozark is up against Democrat Ellen Spiegel in District 21.

Of the five open seats, only Assembly Districts 2 and 4 have GOP voter registration majorities – and those margins are now about half what they were in January.