CARSON CITY – Those who think the lousy economy will sink the Democratic Party in Nevada in November shouldn’t write off the party just yet.
Twice as many people registered as Democrats last month than as Republicans. In fact, far more people registered nonpartisan than as Republicans.
The July registration numbers showed 8,121 Democrats, 3,705 Republicans and 4,946 nonpartisans, according to the secretary of state’s office. With the additions, Democrats hold an edge of almost 50,000 active registered voters with 451,066 Democrats, 402,471 Republicans and 180,366 nonpartisans.
The Democratic jump in July follows big gains in June when the party registered 9,849 voters compared with 4,462 for Republicans. Clearly cognizant of the shift, the Republican National Committee late in July gave state Republicans $166,000 for registration drives.
“It shows a lack of enthusiasm for Mitt Romney,” said Bob Fulkerson, state leader of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, a group that usually backs Democrats, about the latest registration figures.
“Nevada voters are clearly responding to Democrats’ message of creating jobs and adequately funding Nevada’s education system,” added state Sen. Mo Denis, the presumptive state Senate Democratic leader next year. “Nevadans will have a clear choice in this election between Democrats, whose priorities are putting middle-class Nevadans back to work and improving education, and Republicans, whose efforts to gut our education system is out-of-touch with Nevada teachers, parents, and students.”
State Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald did not return a call. But in April, he stressed the need for Republicans to register more voters, contending previous party leaders failed to register many voters. Registration is easier in 2012 since in all but Carson City and Douglas County, people can register online.
Assemblyman Pat Hickey, the presumptive Republican Assembly leader, isn’t pleased by the registration surge toward Democrats or the lack of registration drives by the Republican Party.
“It is part of the party’s duties to register voters,” Hickey said. “I would like to see the state party doing more. I think they are doing a good job with a large phone banking system to reach nonpartisans, but they are not doing as good of a job registering new voters.”
Democrats are “hiring people to walk” for their legislative candidates, according to Hickey, while Republican candidates themselves do all of the walking to meet constituents. The personal touch of a candidate talking with voters is what wins elections, he added.
But Democrats are particularly pleased by the gains they have made in recent months in two key Senate district races in Clark County,
In District 6, Democrats hold a 2,386 registered voter advantage over Republicans. This race pits Democrat Benny Yerushalmi against Mark Hutchison.
And in District 9, the party has a 2,354 voter lead. Democrat Justin Jones faces Republican Mari St. Martin in this race.
That is a pickup of more the 400 votes in each district since May.
Democrats now hold a 11-10 membership advantages in the Senate and a 26-16 lead in the Assembly. They need to pick up three Republican Senate and two Assembly seats to gain a veto-proof majority in both houses.
Hickey maintains the negative campaigning by both parties in the presidential race has caused people to turn off to politics and may account for more people registering non partisan than Republican in July. He also noted there has been a rift in the state Republican Party, which now is controlled by supporters of Rep. Ron Paul.
Hickey added he no longer even has much to do with the state party.
“The Republicans will tighten the gap with our belated voter registration effort,” he said. “There is an enthusiasm gap for President Obama that is significant enough and will affect close races at every level.”