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Former Nevada legislator noncommittal on tax increase vote

What would you do?

The $1.5 billion tax package approved by lawmakers in 2015 reverberates in the 2016 election as Republicans hope to retain control of the state Senate and Assembly.

In Senate District 15, an open seat representing west Reno, Democrats are taking aim at leading Republican candidate Heidi Gansert, a former assemblywoman and ex-chief of staff to Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Would she have voted for Sandoval’s tax plan? That was the question Senate Minority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, asked at a news conference Thursday in Reno.

Gansert has said she supports the governor’s efforts to make education a priority and believes they are critical to Nevada’s future. But she’s noncommittal on whether she would have voted to pass the tax increases, saying she didn’t partake in the session-long debate or monthslong budget scrutiny.

After Ford’s news conference, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, issued a statement mocking the Democratic minority.

“Today Sen. Ford and the Senate Democrats acknowledged that they have no chance of beating Heidi Gansert in the general election in Senate District 15,” Kieckhefer said. It’s nice that they have come to accept that reality and demonstrate it so plainly.

“The other reality they reminded everyone of today is that Democrats did nothing to improve education in Nevada during their recent four years of unilateral control of the Legislature,” he said, concluding that Democrats are grasping for power “knowing that they’ll do absolutely nothing with it to improve education in Nevada.”

Gansert serves as executive external relations director at the University of Nevada, Reno. She is expected to face Eugene Hoover, a small-business owner, in the June GOP primary. Candidate filing ends Friday.

Senate Democrats have endorsed Devon Reese, a Reno attorney.

Republicans have an 11-10 edge in the Senate and the District 15 seat will be key in determining control in the 2017 Legislature.

— Sandra Chereb

Pro-choice group endorses two

A national group that helps elect pro-choice Democratic women to office has endorsed two candidates in Nevada congressional races.

Emily’s List is backing Susie Lee, a philanthropist and education advocate running for the Democratic nomination in the 4th Congressional District.

The endorsements will provide a high-profile fundraising venue for Lee and the other candidate, Jacky Rosen, who is running for the 3rd Congressional District.

Democrats are hoping to pick up the 4th Congressional seat, which is held by U.S. Rep. Cresent Hardy, R-Nev., who is running for a second two-year term.

The group cites Lee’s work leading Communities in Schools of Nevada, an organization that helps 58,000 at-risk students in 56 schools, with an eye toward keeping them from dropping out. Six Democratic candidates have filed so far to run in the CD-4 primaries.

“When elected she will work tirelessly to move Nevada forward for all children and families,” the group said of Lee.

For Rosen, the group noted her work as president of Congregation Ner Tamid in Henderson and putting in place a solar energy project that will save the congregation almost $2 million during a 25-year period.

Nine candidates have jumped into that race so far: four Democrats and five Republicans. The race is open because incumbent U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., is running for Senate.

Emily’s List has put more than $400 million into efforts to back pro-choice Democratic women running for office since 1985.

— Ben Botkin

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