Dem-dominated commission to pick Nevada senator

A critical vote in the Nevada Senate rests in the hands of the Clark County Commission.

County commissioners will pick someone to fill the District 6 Senate seat vacancy created by the pending departure of Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas, who was elected lieutenant governor Tuesday.

Under state law, county commissioners are required in this case to choose a member of the Republican Party, like Hutchison.

The new senator will be a potential key swing vote within a Senate that has a slim GOP majority of 11-10.

Republicans gained control of the Senate and the Assembly in Tuesday’s election, also sweeping the state constitutional offices. That sets the stage for Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and GOP lawmakers to pursue their agenda, which includes education reform, collective bargaining and pulling Nevada from the economic doldrums.

The seven-member, all-Democratic County Commission started accepting applications for the seat Friday.

Applicants must live within the district, in the northwest area of the Las Vegas metropolitan area, including north of Summerlin Parkway.

The person picked will serve out Hutchison’s Senate term, which expires in November 2016.

Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said feedback from Sen. Mike Roberson and Commissioner Larry Brown will be valuable. Roberson will lead the Republican majority in the Senate. The legislative district lies in Brown’s commission district. Neither could be reached for comment Friday.

Sisolak said he wouldn’t look at how a candidate would vote on proposals, saying that would be unfair.

“I’m not going to look at that,” he said. “That doesn’t matter to me.”

“To me it’s important how long you’ve been in the district,” Sisolak said. “Are you a member of the community? What is your real life experience?”

The commission’s task of filling the opening isn’t the kind of opportunity that lends itself to political maneuvering to tilt the balance, said Eric Herzik, chairman of the political science department at the University of Nevada, Reno.

For one, they already are constrained by the requirement to pick a successor who has the same political party as the outgoing senator, he said.

“This other constraint is you really don’t try to grandstand with this,” Herzik said. “… That would most likely be so transparent the County Commission would make themselves look ridiculous.”

Names of potential replacements for the seat include Chris Collins, executive director of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, and Assemblyman Wes Duncan, R-Las Vegas.

Collins stressed that he hasn’t made a decision about whether to apply, noting that people have simply told him he would be a viable candidate.

“I haven’t really given it much thought,” Collins said.

Duncan said he is “definitely exploring” it and talking it over with his wife. Duncan was elected Tuesday to a second term with 61 percent of the vote.

Hutchison said via email Friday afternoon “no I haven’t” when asked if he has submitted his resignation yet to formally step down from his District 6 seat. He did not indicate when such a letter will be submitted to Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Hutchison said he will consider resigning when it makes sense to do so.

The County Commission will discuss the appointment at its Nov. 18 meeting. The deadline to apply for the seat is Nov. 28. Officials said the deadline could be adjusted, so applicants should submit information as soon as possible.

An appointment is anticipated in December.

Potential applicants can find out if they live in District 6 by visiting the state’s legislative website at www.leg.state.nv.us/App/Legislator/A/Senate/Current/6#district.

They can also do an address search on the county website at http://gisgate.co.clark.nv.us/openweb/.

Capital Bureau writer Sean Whaley contributed to this report. Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2904. Find him on Twitter: @BenBotkin1.