Republicans in Nevada Legislature lack diversity
(AP) – Republicans will present a monochromatic caucus when the 2011 Nevada Legislature opens in February.
In the lower chamber, the Republican Assembly will be comprised of 15 white men and one white woman. In the Senate, Republicans will be represented by eight white men and two white woman.
In contrast, Democrats list eight Hispanics, 10 women and seven black members in the Assembly. Democratic Speaker John Oceguera is an enrolled member of the Walker River Paiute Tribe.
In the Senate, Democrats count four women and two Hispanics in their ranks. Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford is black.
Does diversity matter?
Democrats say yes.
Minorities make up roughly 45 percent of Nevada’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“We wanted our caucus to look like Nevada,” Oceguera said. “We went out over a year ago and started our recruitment process. The face of the Assembly Democrats looks like the face of Nevada.”
Nevada lawmakers next year will redraw U.S. House districts and state Senate, Assembly, Board of Regents and State Board of Education districts. That process will determine who is elected and whether minority voters are fairly represented.
Hispanics and African-Americans in the Legislature represent those communities when laws are passed and funding is awarded, Oceguera said.
State Republican Chairman Mark Amodei said the GOP must do more to recruit black and Hispanic candidates.
“It is troublesome,” said Amodei, who acknowledged he was not aware of the lack of minority Republican legislators until it was pointed out.
Amodei said it is tough for younger people of any ethnicity to take the time to move to Carson City and serve in the Legislature. The low pay doesn’t help. Lawmakers earn $8,760, plus a $161-a-day allowance.
To be sure, diversity was not a focal issue in the Nov. 2 election, where Republicans picked up two Assembly seats and one in the state Senate.
Nevadans also elected Republican Brian Sandoval as the Silver State’s first Hispanic governor.
Republican Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea said his party hoped to elect more women and at least one Hispanic, but those candidates lost their races.
“That is how the people voted,” Goicoechea said. “In the past we had more women – Sharron Angle, Heidi Gansert, Dawn Gibbons. It’s just the way the election came out this time.”