A pivotal race in the Nevada Senate flipped from Republican to Democrat, snatching the title of Senate majority leader from Michael Roberson and demoting him to the less powerful post of minority leader.
Republicans no longer chair legislative committees. They’ve lost the ability to kill bills they don’t like. Democrats will hold that power.
One would think Roberson would have done everything he could to help Assemblywoman Victoria Seaman win a Senate seat last month. “Once I was the nominee, he supported me 110 percent,” Seaman said.
Before that, Roberson supported Assemblyman Erv Nelson, who challenged Seaman in June’s GOP primary.
Seaman contends the expensive primary contributed to her ultimate loss to Democrat Nicole Cannizzaro by 2 percentage points, 51-49, in Senate District 6, where there were 8 percent more Democrats than Republicans.
“It had nothing to do with available resources,” said Roberson, noting the caucus spent $1 million on Seaman’s behalf after she won the nomination. He believes voter registration made the difference and that any Republican would have lost, primary or no primary.
Roberson said the Senate Republican Caucus endorsed Nelson over Seaman because “we believed as a group that Erv would have been a better general election candidate.” Members had worked with Nelson and found him a thoughtful assemblyman, Roberson said.
During the primary season, Roberson was running for Congress and turned the chairmanship of the caucus — and the recruiting and fundraising duties — over to GOP Sen. Becky Harris. (Roberson ultimately lost the 3rd Congressional District GOP primary to Danny Tarkanian.)
“I had a bruising primary,” Seaman said, blaming Senate leadership for recruiting Nelson to run against her after she announced she would run for the open Senate seat. She crushed him with 63 percent of the GOP vote, but had to spend money to win.
“Leadership wanted someone to go along to get along,” she said, referring specifically to Harris and Sen. Patricia Farley. “Becky recruited Erv to run, with the blessing of Mike,” Seaman said.
In separate interviews Wednesday, Roberson and Harris both denied recruiting Nelson and stressed that the Senate caucus chose who to endorse, not one person. Nelson also said he wasn’t recruited.
“In the end it (the primary) cost me far too much and in the end it was a huge mistake,’ Seaman said. She had to spend more money earlier and, ultimately, Cannizzaro outraised her.
Both Seaman and Cannizzaro raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the Democrat, a county prosecutor, didn’t have a primary and saved her money for the general election.
“The obvious issue I had to overcome is registration,” Seaman said Tuesday. The so-called “Reid Machine,” which did so well with registering Democrats and getting them out to vote made a difference “without a doubt,” she said.
In Senate District 5, the other competitive seat Republicans hoped to win, Republican Carrie Buck took on incumbent Democrat Joyce Woodhouse and lost by 469 votes.
Proud of her campaign, Seaman she said she would have changed nothing.
The Senate split is now 11-9-1. The one is Farley, who changed her registration to nonpartisan after the election and said she will caucus with the Democrats. She’s in District 8 and will have to face voters again in 2018. Her district also has slightly more Democratic voters than Republicans, making that a race to watch in two years.
The GOP went from the majority in the Senate and Assembly to losing both.
“The Democrats are not happy at the federal level, and we’re not happy with the state results,” Roberson said.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column runs Thursdays. Leave messages for her at 702-383-0275 or email email@example.com. Find her on Twitter: @janeannmorrison