Balance of power likely to remain as it is when 2015 Legislature meets

CARSON CITY — Don’t expect much change in the party makeup of the Nevada Legislature when it next convenes in 2015, but the Democrats could increase their majority by one seat in the state Senate.

Most of the state Senate seats up for grabs in the November 2012 election are in safely Republican or Democratic districts, and the Assembly is so solidly Democratic that it would take a miracle for Republicans to win control.

The 2012 Senate races were among the most contested in state history as both parties sought to pick up the majority. Democrats won a narrow 11-10 advantage when Democrat Justin Jones defeated Republican Mari St. Martin by 301 votes in a Las Vegas race.

In Reno, Republican Greg Brower held the seat he had been appointed to after the death of Bill Raggio by defeating former Sen. Sheila Leslie by 266 votes.

Democrats could pick up another Senate seat in the 2014 election, the one held by term-limited Sen. Barbara Cegavake, R-Las Vegas.

She expects Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero Loop, D-Las Vegas, will run for her seat.

Democrats hold an 825-registered voter advantage in that district, and Dondero Loop already has shown she can win decisively in the district. Her Assembly District 5 makes up half of Cegavske’s Senate district. Dondero Loop defeated her Republican opponent, Bill Harrington, by 1,500 votes in November.

But other Senate seats up for re-election are in largely safe districts for the incumbents, with the exception of District 20 represented by Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas. Democrats hold a slim 200 registered voter advantage in Roberson’s district.

Democrats might try to earmark Roberson for defeat, but he now has name recognition, a reputation as a Sandoval team player and as an advocate for increased education spending and English- language learner classes. Roberson can amass a nice campaign war chest in a re-election bid.

He won over incumbent Joyce Woodhouse in 2010 when he was virtually unknown, though she had a decidedly Democratic registration advantage.

Democratic Sens. Mo Denis, Mark Manendo, Ruben Kihuen and Debbie Smith, Republicans Ben Kieckhefer, James Settelmeyer, Joe Hardy and Don Gustavson also face re-election. But registration leads for their parties make them overwhelming favorites.

So if the Democrats pick up Cegavske’s seat, the 2015 session could be one where Democrats hold a 12-9 advantage over Republicans in the Senate.

The Assembly, where Democrats hold a prohibitive 27-15 advantage, isn’t likely to change much either way with the Democrats’ registration advantages in Clark County. Republicans have not had outright control of the Assembly since 1985.

Even a 12-9 Democratic advantage in the Senate still would be two votes short of the two-thirds majority they need to pass taxes or override governor vetoes.

That means the 2015 session could be like 2013: Neither party passes the major bills they want, and members stand in place passing technical changes to state laws that nobody in Carl’s Jr. down the block gives a hoot about.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.