GOP groups aim at Nevada, other legislatures

Nevada Republicans working to win majority control of the state Senate in the Nov. 4 general election will be getting some help from national GOP organizations dedicated to dominating state legislatures across the country.

The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee announced last week that it had put Nevada on its list of “Sweet 16 targets” to flip legislative control to the GOP. The group is targeting both the Nevada Senate and Assembly, although there is no chance the GOP could take over the lower house, which now has 27 Democrats and 15 Republicans.

The Senate is a different story. Democrats control the upper house by a slim 11-to-10 seat majority. Republicans need to win the three most competitive Senate contests to take control — essentially retaining two GOP seats in Districts 8 and 20 and flipping one Democratic seat in District 9.

“We’re on offense and we’re playing on enemy territory,” said Matt Walter, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, which is working with its sister GOP organization on a 50-state campaign to keep or win GOP control.

Walter’s reference to enemy territory is aimed at West Coast states such as Nevada, which are “a little bit blue,” he said Thursday, meaning they lean Democratic by voter registration.

Democrats have about 64,000 more active registered voters statewide than Republicans in the Silver State. In the three competitive state Senate districts, Republicans barely outnumber Democrats in Districts 8 and 20, while Democrats have a greater advantage over the GOP in District 9 with 3,600 more registered voters.

Walter noted, however, that state Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, won District 9 in 2012 by a mere 301 votes. This year, he is defending his seat against Republican Becky Harris, a foreclosure mediation specialist.

Outside groups are expected to spend money to influence the race.

Walter wouldn’t talk specifics about how much money the national organizations will spend in Nevada or elsewhere.

In Senate District 8, Republicans have recruited another woman, Patricia Farley, who owns a construction business. She is running against Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero Loop, D-Las Vegas. It’s an open seat because the current state senator, Barbara Cegavske, a Republican from Las Vegas, is running for secretary of state.

In Senate District 20, incumbent Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, is favored to win re-election over Teresa Lowry, a Clark County assistant district attorney recruited by the Democrats. Now minority leader, Roberson would likely become the Senate majority leader if Republicans succeed in flipping control of the legislative body.

Nationwide, Republicans control 60 of 99 legislative chambers, mostly in the South, according to the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee. This year, the GOP has recruited a more diverse group of candidates, including some 244 minorities and nearly 500 women by the organization’s count.

GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval, who is expected to easily win re-election, will likely boost the chances of the Republican legislative candidates because of his popularity, said Walter, as he seeks a team to support his agenda.

“We have the opportunity. We have the resources. And we have a plan,” Walters said.

— Laura Myers

NEW SAGE GROUSE DRAFT

After their first draft drew mixed reviews, Nevada’s U.S. senators are circulating a new plan that aims to avert or at least mitigate harm if the government lists the sage grouse as an endangered or threatened species next year.

Democrat Harry Reid and Republican Dean Heller are asking state and county officials, industry groups and land advocates for feedback on a reworked proposal to boost habitat for the chicken-sized range bird. Officials and land use industries across the West are scrambling on strategies to avoid a listing that would lock off millions of acres from miners, ranchers, energy developers and others.

The second draft went out in late June, with an Aug. 15 comment deadline.

“That doesn’t mean there won’t be a third draft,” Heller said.

The Washoe County Commission passed a resolution favoring the plan. But it was a harder sell in other rural counties, where leaders expressed particular wariness over amounts of proposed new wilderness. They questioned whether it all was necessary to preserve habitat while curbing recreation and development.

The new draft reduces proposed wilderness from roughly 3 million acres to 1.5 million acres in Washoe, Churchill, Elko, Eureka, Humboldt, Lander, Nye and Pershing counties.

Heller said the new draft has “much less” wilderness, “but it’s still a large chunk.”

The bill contains other strategies as well. It would require the BLM to offer for sale a minimum 105,000 acres across seven counties in central and Northern Nevada, with anticipated millions of dollars in profits earmarked for state conservation and for federal agencies to spend on restoring grouse habitat.

It also would let federal land managers collect user conservation fees of $500 to $750 an acre on land identified as sage grouse habitat. But it emphasizes the fees as “one of many other options” to mitigate use of the land, according to a bill summary.

The U.S. Fish &Wildlife Service is under court order to decide by September 2015 whether the sage grouse should be put on the endangered species list, or designated as threatened as its habitat is consumed by wildfires and human intrusion. Once numbered in the millions, there are about 140,000 to 200,000 of the birds today, according to experts.

Heller said the senators will introduce their bill “when everybody agrees to it. I don’t know if that’s going to be within the next couple of months, but I will say we are getting closer. My goal is always to get full consensus, especially on lands bills, because they have such an impact on those counties.”

— Steve Tetreault

TIDBITS FROM OSCAR

When he was Las Vegas’ mayor, Oscar Goodman said he never attended one staff meeting. He was the big vision guy who left all the details up to staff.

But current Mayor Carolyn Goodman attends almost all of them, unless she has a conflict, saying it helps her understand the issues.

No wonder consultant Sig Rogich once said, before Oscar Goodman was first elected, he thought that of the two of them, Carolyn would make the better mayor.

■ The recently sentenced former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin once called Mayor Oscar Goodman and asked for free rooms so some of the exhausted Hurricane Katrina workers could enjoy some rest and relaxation.

Goodman made some calls asking for free rooms.

“He took tremendous advantage of me,” Goodman said.

Nagin just received a 10-year-sentence for bribery, money laundering, fraud and tax violations.

Apparently, Goodman wasn’t the only one Nagin exploited.

■ Do Goodman and his wife discuss city issues?

“Very little,” he said.

However, when certain people come to her with big ideas, he warns her: “Ask him if the money is in the bank.”

Without naming names, he said that when he was mayor people came in with great ideas. “But ask them how they’ll pay for it, and they didn’t have an answer. They had great ideas but no resources.”

■ The Goodmans came to Las Vegas as Republicans. Became Democrats in order to vote in the Assembly primary where Goodman’s law partner Richard Bryan was running and switched to nonpartisan before Carolyn filed to run for mayor.

The Goodmans covered all the political bases.

■ When he was a defense attorney and wiretapping was big, he and his wife became fearful the house was bugged. “We’d talk in whispers around the house.”

“The day I became mayor, I began to talk again.”

■ Did he ever advise his mob clients?

“Spilotro never asked me if he should kill somebody.”

— Jane Ann Morrison

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @STetreaultDC. Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj. Contact Jane Ann Morrison at jmorrison@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0275. Find her on Twitter: @janeannmorrison.

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