Four experienced Democrats have joined the fight to fill the District 34 seat soon to be vacated by term-limited Assembly Majority Leader William Horne.
Gary Fisher, Fayyaz Raja, Sanje Sedera and Meghan Smith have all run for office or held top positions with the party or on local boards. The winner will square off against Republican Victoria Seaman in the Nov. 4 general election.
Horne is barred from running again after 12 years as an assemblyman, so he is seeking a Clark County District Court judgeship instead.
Fisher is a longtime University of Nevada, Reno professor, though for the past 18 years he has been teaching online courses that allow him to live in Las Vegas.
His decision to enter the race was spurred by the state’s deepening mental health crisis. If elected, Fisher, who is a psychologist, said he will be the only licensed mental health professional in the Legislature.
He said that with a simple tweak to the law — and not a whole lot of money — the state could clear some mental health patients from emergency rooms and jails by allowing psychologists, social workers and other licensed professionals to sign them out. As it is now, that is only done by doctors, Fisher said.
The broader problem with mental health care in Nevada will take a lot more time and money to fix, but it shouldn’t require the construction of new mental hospitals, he said.
“We have beds. Beds aren’t the problem,” he said. “It’s outpatient services and case management.”
Fisher plans to retire in January after 31 years with UNR. He said that will free him to be a full-time lawmaker.
He ran for the Assembly in District 4 in 2010 but lost to Republican Richard McArthur.
Raja ran for Las Vegas City Council last year but lost to Bob Beers, who also bested Raja and seven other candidates in the March 2012 special election to replace former Councilman Steve Wolfson.
He said he would bring a wealth of experience to the Assembly, including a street-level view of District 34. He has lived in the same house in the district since 1979 and knows his neighbors and neighborhood well.
Sedera owns a real estate office and a medical clinic, both in District 34, which he has called home for almost 20 years.
He serves on the board of the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority, and he has been active in leadership positions with the Clark County Democratic Party for years.
Sedera, making his first run for elected office, said Nevada needs to invest more in education to reduce class sizes and improve teacher development.
Smith first ran for office in 2008, when she lost in the primary for Assembly District 2. She ran again in 2010 for the District 19 seat, but narrowly lost in the primary to Steven Brooks.
She is perhaps best known for her legal fight with Wynn Resorts Ltd. over the gaming giant’s tip-pooling policy for casino dealers. Smith now owns a school for dealers.
District 34 is home to just over 12,400 registered Democrats and fewer than 8,800 Republicans.
Contact Henry Brean at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0350. Find him on Twitter: @RefriedBrean.