CARSON CITY — State Sen. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, involved in a messy divorce and child custody battle, announced Friday that she was resigning immediately.
In a letter to Gov. Brian Sandoval, Halseth said she has to move out of the state because she cannot find a job in Nevada because she is "regularly demonized by selfish partisans and a handful of reckless bloggers with personal agendas of salacious, unfounded personal attacks on me."
Halseth’s resignation comes four months after Las Vegas police arrested her husband, Daniel, on gross lewdness charges in connection with an incident at their home. He has maintained his innocence.
Halseth, 28, was the state’s youngest legislator. The couple have three children.
On Wednesday, Democratic members of the Legislative Commission questioned why Halseth had missed that meeting and an earlier meeting of an interim committee. They noted the telephone number for Halseth on the legislative website had been disconnected.
Because she is resigning now, there will be time for candidates of both parties to file in March for her Senate District 9 seat in southwest Las Vegas. Whoever wins the election in November would serve out the remaining two years of Halseth’s term. Because Democrats hold a 2,100-voter-registration advantage in District 9, they would have a good chance to pick up the seat.
Halseth’s resignation puts five Senate seats in play in the 2012 election. The Democrats are battling to hold onto their slim 11-10 majority as the GOP seeks to retake control of the body. The battleground seats include Senate Districts 5 and 6, where Democratic incumbents aren’t seeking re-election, and the new Senate District 15 in Northern Nevada and new Senate District 18 in Southern Nevada.
If Halseth had waited until after November’s election to announce her resignation, the Clark County Commission would have selected a Republican to fill out the remaining two years of her term.
In a letter released Friday, members of the Senate Republican Caucus saluted Halseth for her decision to "focus on providing for her young children. We wish Elizabeth the best of luck in her future endeavors and respectfully ask that as she transitions back into private life that she and her children be afforded the privacy necessary to move beyond this difficult time."
Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, the leader of the Senate Republican Caucus, said, "I don’t want to get political today. Understanding the difficult time she is going through, she made the right decision for her family."
That said, Republicans will have an excellent candidate who will run to fill her seat, Roberson said.
Roberson had said that Democrats miss interim committee meetings and that Republicans have not complained about their absences.
But Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, the Democrat Senate caucus leader, said that her presence was needed on a small interim tax committee and that the legislative staff was frustrated in their inability to reach her.
Denis said he wished the best for Halseth and her family.
"She is doing the right thing to help her family through this situation," Denis said. "I have met her husband and children."
Her resignation, he added, gives Democrat a great chance to pick up what should be a Democrat seat.
"We think it is our district to win," Denis said. "We are working on finding good candidates."
Halseth’s victory over Democrat Bennie Yerushalmi by 5 percentage points in November 2010 election surprised some observers. She was a political unknown who had lived in Nevada only four years. But she gained a lot of attention when she upset longtime Republican incumbent Dennis Nolan in the Republican primary.
Nolan sought to defend a friend who had been convicted on rape charges, and Halseth released a telephone tape conversation in which Nolan pleaded with his friend’s ex-wife.
In her resignation letter, Halseth talked about the difficulty she was having finding a job.
"Nevada leads the nation in unemployment, and we have a president that continues to make it difficult for Nevada businesses to grow, invest and create jobs," she wrote. "I have seen this firsthand as I continue to try unsuccessfully to find a job."
She said that her reputation and integrity have been "demonized" by bloggers and that she needed to protect her children from "any additional public humiliation."
The Review-Journal reported on Daniel Halseth’s arrest but not other allegations.
Daniel Halseth said in an email, "I think it’s a sad story about a very beautiful promising family that was impacted by the influence of power in a young family. Along with this the ability for me to clear my name of any wrongdoing brought on vindictively, I pray for peace and that this will be old news soon and everybody can move on from this horrible pain. It’s up to the justice system now and for all of us to have faith that the right honorable decision will be made, with a focus on the most wonderful children a dad or mom could ever wish for."State Sen. Elizabeth Halseth resignation letter