Professors think Democrats could gain Nevada Legislature seats |

Professors think Democrats could gain Nevada Legislature seats

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – Despite lingering turmoil over a record state tax increase and the possibility that Nevada will go for President Bush, Democrats could pick up seats in both the state Senate and Assembly in Tuesday’s election, analysts said.

“There just are more Republicans in vulnerable seats than Democrats in vulnerable seats,” said University of Nevada, Reno political science professor Eric Herzik.

Democrats could gain at least two Assembly seats and one state Senate seat, Herzik said, particularly if state Sen. Ray Shaffer, R-Las Vegas, loses to Democrat John Lee in solidly Democratic District 1, and Democrats David Love and Debbie Smith defeat Republicans Brooks Holcomb and Don Gustavson in Reno area Assembly Districts 24 and 30.

Democrats now hold a 23-19 advantage in the Assembly, while Republicans lead the state Senate 13-8.

Hal Rothman, history department chairman at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said Bush should not have a coattail effect in Nevada. A recent Las Vegas Review-Journal poll showed Bush leading Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. by a slight 6 percentage points in Nevada. The poll had a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

“Nevadans are classic ticket-splitters,” said Rothman, predicting many voters who select Bush could also pick Democrat Harry Reid, who is seeking re-election to the U.S. Senate.

Rothman also does not believe voters will retaliate against legislators who supported the record $833 million package of tax increases in 2003. All 32 sitting Democrats and 14 of 31 Republicans backed the tax increase.

“Everyone hates taxes, but these taxes people have not felt in a meaningful way,” Rothman said. “You don’t see an outraged population.”

Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, figured a 50-50 chance Republicans will pick up enough seats to control the Assembly for the first time since 1985.

Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, said he hopes to emerge from the election with more Democrats.

“I think we will pick up seats because the quality of our candidates,” he said.

Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal,