CARSON CITY -- What will become increasingly obvious once the 2011 Legislature opens in February is the lack of diversity in the Republican caucus.
All seven African-American members of the Assembly are Democrats.
All eight Hispanic members are Democrats.
Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, is an enrolled member of the Walker River Paiute Tribe.
Ten of the 11 female members are Democrats.
What visitors to the Legislature will see in the Republican Assembly caucus is 15 mostly older white men, and Melissa Woodbury, R-Las Vegas.
"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."
Having Hispanics and African-Americans in the Legislature makes sure concerns of those communities are considered when laws are passed and funding awarded, he said.
Nevada lawmakers next year will redistrict state Senate, Assembly, Board of Regents and State Board of Education districts, as well as congressional districts. How those districts are drawn will determine who is elected to the posts and whether minority voters are fairly represented.
The Republican makeup in the state Senate isn't much different than the Assembly. Of the 10 Republicans, none is Hispanic or black, while two -- Barbara Cegavske and Elizabeth Halseth, both of Las Vegas -- are women.
In contrast, four of the 11 Democrats in the state Senate are women, two are Hispanic and Majority Leader Steven Horsford is black.
Adding up the numbers, no black or Hispanic Republicans will serve in either house of the Legislature in 2011. Only three female Republicans will be there.
State Republican Chairman Mark Amodei said he is bothered by the lack of minorities from his party in the Legislature. He said he and the party 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.
Hispanic people in general espouse the Republican philosophy of strong families, a good work ethic and solid religious values, according to the Republican chairman, and he hopes in 2012 to find more willing to run for the Legislature.
"We think a whole bunch of them are good Republicans. They have a phenomenal work ethic. They have phenomenal families. They are capitalists."
That said, Amodei noted it is tough for younger people of any ethnicity to take time off work to move to Carson City and serve in the Legislature for little money. Lawmakers get paid $8,760, plus a $161-a-day allowance.
"If the capital wasn't located in Carson City, I doubt I would have served in the Legislature for 14 years," said Amodei, a former state senator from Carson City.
The overt lack of diversity did not hurt the Republican Party in the Nov. 2 election. It picked up two Assembly seats and one in the state Senate. And Republican Brian Sandoval was elected the first Hispanic governor in state history.
But Fred Lokken, the Web college dean and a political science professor at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, said Sandoval's ethnic background was incidental in the gubernatorial race.
"His heritage until this election wasn't mentioned," Lokken said. "Sandoval won because of his competition. He didn't reach out to Hispanics."
The lack of minority Republicans is not just a state problem, but a national problem that could hurt the Republican Party in 2012, Lokken said.
"This is the 800-pound gorilla in the room for the Republican Party in the future," he said. "America is all about diversity, but the Republican Party doesn't reflect it. Appealing to Hispanic voters paid out huge for Harry Reid."
Like Lokken, Oceguera attributes the Democratic success in electing African-American and Hispanic Democrats in part to the strong get-out-the-vote effort by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
But Oceguera said his party also recruited candidates that blacks and Hispanic voters wanted to vote for.
"Nevadans don't vote a straight ticket," Oceguera said. "It is obvious that some of them voted Republican for governor and Democrat for our legislative candidates. We had Latino candidates in Latino districts that Latinos voted for."
Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said his party tried to elect more women and at least one Hispanic, but they lost their races.
"That is how the people voted," he 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."
Goicoechea is Basque, an ethnic background usually not considered Hispanic. He said the problem both parties face is finding qualified, younger candidates who want to serve in the Legislature for little pay. "It's pretty hard financially for a young person," he said. "Our legislators tend to be people pretty well set financially or retired people. It is hard for middle-class people to serve."
Goicoechea said he would welcome Hispanic and black Republicans to file for the Assembly, but suspects many don't run for financial reasons.
Republicans won't vote for a candidate because they are black or Hispanic, but if they are conservative, said Goicoechea, a former Democrat.
In rural Nevada, Hispanics and most Democrats and Republicans are "ultra conservative." Since he gathered 76 percent of the vote in his election, Goicoechea said he must have gained the Hispanic vote.
Oceguera replaced term-limited Democrat Barbara Buckley, the only woman speaker in Nevada history.
On Thursday, Oceguera named five of the 10 female Democratic Assembly members to top committee posts in the 2011 session.
Debbie Smith of Sparks chairs the Ways and Means Committee, which reviews state agency spending. The chairmanship is considered the most prestigious in the house.
Marilyn Kirkpatrick of North Las Vegas heads both the Taxation and Government Affairs committees.
Maggie Carlton of Las Vegas chairs the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining Committee.
Marilyn Dondero Loop of Las Vegas will run the Transportation Committee, while April Mastroluca of Henderson chairs the Health and Human Services Committee.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901.