Nevada Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson on Wednesday said Republicans have the best chance in years to retake control of the state Senate in the 2014 elections as the GOP closes the voter registration gap in the three most competitive districts — including his own — that are all in Southern Nevada.
“Politically, it’s shaping up to be a breakout year,” Roberson said in a speech to the conservative Keystone Corporation’s annual luncheon. “If we perform as well as we did in 2010 and 2012, we will take back the Senate in 2014.”
In 2010, the GOP closed the gap from a Senate controlled by Democrats 12 seats to nine to one in which Democrats held the edge 11-10. In 2012, Republicans won three out of five competitive seats despite a Democratic advantage with President Barack Obama at the top of the ticket, driving his party’s turnout, but leaving control unchanged at 11-10 seats.
This year, GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval is at the top of the ticket, and Roberson said Republicans have closed the voter registration gap in the three most competitive Senate districts: 8, 9 and his own, 20.
Still, Republicans would have to run the table, or win all three competitive seats, to retake control of the Senate. That is because two of the Senate districts in play — 8 and 20 — are held by Republicans and one, Senate District 9, is held by Democrat Justin Jones of Las Vegas. If the GOP won all three, Republicans would regain control, 11 seats to 10. Democrats would have to win just one seat to maintain the status quo, or 11-10 control of the upper legislative body.
Having control of the Senate is important for both parties. The majority party gets to name chairman to all of the committees, including the Senate Finance Committee, which decides how every dollar in the state budget is spent, and the Senate Revenue and Economic Development Committee, which handles all tax and revenue matters.
Also, if the GOP gains control of the Senate, it would lend more balance to the Nevada Legislature, where the Assembly has been dominated by Democrats, who control the body 27 seats to 15. Republicans lost control of the state Senate in 2008 as then-candidate Obama’s Democratic presidential campaign machine swamped GOP forces across the ticket.
Political analysts suggest Roberson, as the incumbent with plenty of campaign money, is expected to win re-election despite strong challenges in both the June 10 GOP primary — from former Ron Paul Nevada presidential campaign organizer Carl Bunce — and the Nov. 4 general election, from Teresa Lowry, a Clark County assistant district attorney.
But Democrats could win Senate District 8, which is open because Republican Sen. Barbara Cegavske of Las Vegas is termed out and running for Nevada secretary of state.
Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero Loop, D-Las Vegas, is running to represent the Democratic-leaning district and has the robust backing of her party. The Senate Republican Caucus has endorsed Patricia Farley, who owns a construction business. Two other Republicans are running, too, Clayton Kelly Hurst and Lisa Myers. And one other Democrat is in the race, Garrett J. Leduff.
In Jones’ Senate District 9, he is expected to be targeted by in-state and out-of-state Second Amendment groups, insiders say and could be in danger of losing his seat, particularly if his GOP-backed opponent is well-funded. As a freshman, Jones angered many gun rights conservatives during the 2013 session as he chaired the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and pressed for gun control legislation. He faces no Democratic primary competition.
The Senate Republican caucus has endorsed attorney Becky Harris, a foreclosure mediation specialist, in the race. She lost an Assembly race in 2012. Three other Republicans are running, too: Vick Gill, Ron Q. Quilang and David J. Schoen.
Roberson introduced both Harris and Farley at the Keystone lunch, suggesting the Republican Party went out of its way to recruit female candidates, who might help draw more voters, particularly independents.
“We have the best chance yet to retake the Senate and restore balance and common sense to the state Senate,” Roberson said before asking Harris and Farley to stand. “Those two ladies are the future of politics in the state of Nevada.”
Now, Cegavske is the only Republican woman serving in the Nevada Legislature.
This year, the voter registration gap has tightened in Cegavske’s District 8: Democrats had only a 39-voter advantage over Republicans at the end of March compared with a 265-voter lead at the end of 2013.
In District 9, the Democratic voter advantage remains high at 3,727 voters at the end of March out of a total of 55,747 but has narrowed since the end of the year when Democratic voters outnumbered Republicans by 4,288.
In Roberson’s District 20, he has extended the GOP voter advantage to 320 at the end of March from 36 at the end of 2013.
Contact Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj.