Newcomer Flores wins Las Vegas Assembly race without having to campaign

You might call Edgar Flores the accidental legislator. You definitely can call the Las Vegan lucky.

The 27-year-old Democrat, first-year attorney and first-time candidate is Nevada’s newest state lawmaker.

All he had to do was file to run for Assembly District 28, which Lucy Flores is giving up to run for lieutenant governor.

No other candidate filed for the seat, handing Edgar Flores — no relation — an easy victory. His name will still appear on the Nov. 4 general election ballot; and if he gets even one vote, he will officially become an assemblyman, no fuss, no bother.

“I’m still in awe, I suppose,” Flores said Tuesday night, vowing to walk door to door anyway to get to know his mostly Hispanic constituents better before next year’s state Legislature meets. “I feel very privileged that everything kind of fell into place. I can’t pretend I’m a perfect candidate. It’s my responsibility to prove the right thing happened.”

Incumbents sometimes face no opposition, particularly in districts that lean heavily Democratic or Republican. And lawmakers have been appointed — two for 2013’s session for example — without having to run for office. But it’s highly unusual for a first-time legislative candidate to walk into office without having to campaign.

The last time a first-time legislator took office after running unopposed was in 1958 when Democrat Raymond Knisley, representing Pershing County, was elected to the Assembly, according to the Research Library at the Legislative Counsel Bureau. Knisley had failed to win a Senate seat in the previous election.

Actually, Flores’ candidacy was no accident. He had been thinking about running for the seat for eight months, ever since rumors first popped up that Lucy Flores, a fellow Democrat, was planning to run for lieutenant governor.

When the rumors became a near certainty, Flores moved into the district about three months ago to establish residency.

Although Flores didn’t grow up in the northeastern Las Vegas district, he shares many of the personal hardships with his new neighbors. His parents were Mexican immigrants who came to the country illegally. They raised three boys on limited incomes and with government assistance after they became legal residents when then-President Ronald Reagan offered amnesty in 1986 for those already here.

His mother and father had fled the drug cartel violence of Juarez, Mexico.

Flores said his father had about $20 in his pocket when he and his mother came to Las Vegas in the late 1970s. His mother worked as a maid and now is a pantry cook and member of the Culinary union. His father got a job at El Mundo, the Spanish-language newspaper, selling ads and traveling the city on his bicycle because he had no car. Today his father is a manager at La Bonita Supermarkets.

“Obviously, growing up were tough times,” Flores said. “We received a lot of help from government assistance. So I am very adamant about people who criticize government assistance because I’m a product of it.”

From a young age, Flores, the middle child, was a translator for his parents, including a key moment in their lives when they needed more time to pay the rent on their apartment. The landlord said yes, then kicked them out. The eviction came with a sudden loud knock on the door. They rented a motel room in Naked City near the Stratosphere, named for the gang that ruled the streets and the drug trade. Flores was 7 years old.

“There was a feeling of hopelessness, voicelessness and anger,” he recalled, saying that he felt he had failed his parents. “At that point, I committed to myself that I would never allow myself to feel that way again.”

A lawyer was born. Last year, Flores passed the Nevada Bar exam after attending the Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. This is where he crossed paths with Lucy Flores, a couple of years ahead of him. He didn’t know her well, but they were members of La Voz, the Hispanic Law Students Association at the school.

They worked together when she sponsored Assembly Bill 74 during the 2013 legislative session. AB74 was aimed at cleaning up the business practices of “notarios,” document preparers who are popular in the immigrant community. But some are unscrupulous, passing themselves off as lawyers and charging big fees. Under the new law, document preparers must register with the state, pass a background check and post a $50,000 bond to do business.

Edgar Flores had conducted a study on notarios, and Lucy Flores reached out to him for his expertise.

This year, when Assemblywoman Flores heard he might run for her seat, she called him to offer her support.

State Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, offered praise for Edgar Flores. Denis represented the same Assembly district for six years, and his Senate district still covers the area. He said it is one of the oldest Hispanic neighborhoods (about two-thirds of the residents are Latino) and is a working-class area.

“I think it’s important to have someone who understands that dynamic,” Denis said Wednesday. “There are a lot of construction workers, hotel workers, people who work hard and don’t have a lot of time to get involved in politics. You have to go out and meet the people. You have to walk the district.”

Edgar Flores is well-known within the Hispanic community. Starting at age 19, he worked at the Latin Chamber of Commerce for about six years. He also has been involved in several mentoring programs, including education, to help people like himself rise out of poverty.

As a result of his experiences, he said, his priorities as a lawmaker will be helping small businesses, immigration and education. He is a recipient of the Millennium Scholarship program and relied on scholarships to complete his education.

Flores said he wants to offer mentorship programs for people in his district. If parents can’t get their child to pay attention at school, Flores said, he will help hook up the family with a tutor, for example. If someone wants to open a small business, he will partner the person with an expert on getting a business license. If a household is in danger of foreclosure, he will find a housing expert to help the family stay in their home.

“I want to create a mentorship program as big as Assembly District 28,” he said. “I want to help people find answers. I want do it with a very hands-on approach.”

As for his first legislative session in 2015, Flores said he wants to be a team player. He already has received a congratulatory call from Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas. He also has permission from the head of the law firm he works for, Jeglaw, to take a four-month leave next year to serve in the Legislature.

“I’m the new guy, so I’m going to make an extra effort and work real hard.”

Contact reporter Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Follow her on Twitter @lmyerslvrj.

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