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Donate, Brown-May: Meet Nevada’s newest freshman Democrats

Updated February 3, 2021 - 10:55 am

Only a day after its 81st regular session got underway, the Nevada Legislature gained two freshman Democrats: Fabian Donate and Tracy Marie Brown-May.

Donate and Brown-May were unanimously appointed Tuesday by the Clark County Commission to fill vacancies in the state Senate and Assembly, respectively, left by the recent departures of Yvanna Cancela and Alexander Assefa.

Donate, 24, will replace Cancela in Senate District 10, which serves about 129,000 people in a large swath of territory including the Strip and McCarran International Airport. Brown-May will assume the seat last held by Assefa in Assembly District 42, which covers about 68,000 people in the unincorporated Spring Valley area.

Last month, Cancela took a job in President Joe Biden’s administration while Assefa stepped down amid an investigation into campaign finances.

The appointments of Donate and Brown-May, whose terms will run through November 2022, were recommended by state Democratic leaders, county lawmakers said.

Donate, whose background is in public health, was hand-selected from 18 other applicants, and Brown-May, a longtime advocate for people with disabilities, was picked over five others.

‘Continue her fight’

Donate, the son of Mexican immigrants and union workers, and a first-generation college graduate, most recently was an intern for LifeBridge Health in the Baltimore area and a development coordinator for the School of Public Health, University of Maryland, according to his application.

He earned his undergraduate degree in public health from UNLV and is a lifelong Nevadan, and he said he was the youngest person to serve on the Biden administration’s National Health Policy Committee.

In his application to the county, Donate said he saw the vacancy as a call to action after experience working locally at the American Cancer Society gave him insight into inequities within health care that affect marginalized communities.

After his appointment, Donate told the Review-Journal that he wanted to follow in Cancela’s footsteps as a champion for health care.

“I’m excited to take on the mantle and use my public health background to continue her fight, and again, it’s going to be a tough time for the state Legislature, and it’s a tough time for the Senate and for the state, so I’m just looking forward to getting ready to work,” he said.

He said he wants the state to devise a clear, concrete plan on how it will recover from the pandemic and what the future of public health infrastructure looks like in Nevada.

“Obviously I think with the pandemic that’s a good thing for us,” Commissioner Tick Segerblom said about Donate’s background in community health.

‘Telling the people’s story’

Brown-May is the director of advocacy, board and government relations for Opportunity Village, a Las Vegas-based nonprofit serving Southern Nevadans who have intellectual and related disabilities. And she has been an advocate for people with disabilities for two decades, working on behalf of a population she noted is marginalized.

“So telling the people’s story is going to be the most important thing, and I think our Legislature has a history of really acknowledging the individuals that we serve in our community,” Brown-May told the Review-Journal.

In her role, she develops strategies for advocacy and conducts research into policy issues, according to her application. She founded A Team NV in 2014, a nonprofit that helps more than 500 Nevadans with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Heading into the legislative session, Brown-May said she is focused on answering the problems of the pandemic and returning Nevada to a healthy and economically sound community. In her application, she circled education, health care and access to community services as values she supports.

“She’s been a staple in our community,” Commissioner Michael Naft said. “She has worked extremely hard in the district for years.”

Meanwhile, Donate and Brown-May were both noncommittal on whether they would seek election to retain their seats when their current terms expire, saying instead they were focused on the immediate work to be done.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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