CARSON CITY — State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford and Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick were voted the best legislators of the 2011 legislative session in a Review-Journal poll of lawmakers, reporters and lobbyists.
State Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, and Assemblyman Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, were named the best freshmen. State Sen. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, was chosen the worst Senate freshman and senator, while Mark Sherwood, R-Henderson, was named the worst Assembly member and freshman.
Gov. Brian Sandoval earned a "B" grade for his performance working with legislators. In his last session in 2009, Gov. Jim Gibbons received an "F" grade.
Forty of the 150 ballots distributed by the Review-Journal were returned. Review-Journal staff members did not participate.
"This is a huge honor for me," said Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, who chaired both the Assembly Government Affairs and Taxation committees. "My goal was to work with all the freshmen. I am thankful to them. I’m all about policy and bipartisanship."
Voters’ positive comments about Kirkpatrick included, "She works hard and is honest," and she "does things right."
Kirkpatrick, who completed her fourth term in the Assembly, said she wants to return to another session instead of running for what might be an open Senate seat.
Respondents either loved or hated Horsford, D-Las Vegas, who was named both the best and the third-worst state senator.
Horsford led the Democratic opposition to Sandoval, contending education and social services would be devastated without higher taxes. Ultimately he compromised with the governor, settling for continuation of $620 million in taxes that would have expired.
Poll voters called him a "passionate" leader. At times he even cried, such as when he mentioned during a hearing that his late grandmother had been in a nursing home for 25 years.
But some voters considered him a polarizing influence, saying he often resorted to "grandstanding" and "serves unions only."
The two-term state senator is expected to run for Congress.
As for Sandoval, several voters said the governor held the Republican caucus together. One voter called him "charismatic," but others rated him down for breaking his pledge not to extend taxes that would have expired at the end of June.
Frierson attributed his success as a lawmaker to his experience as a lobbyist for the public defender’s office in recent sessions.
"I was most proud of my ability to work with everybody, across the table, with my colleagues in the Senate and with all the caucuses," he said.
One voter called Frierson a "future speaker of the Assembly."
Kieckhefer also had previous legislative experience, covering the 2003 session as an Associated Press reporter and more recently working as Gibbons’ press secretary and as spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services. Respondents called him someone who "works to find solutions" and "thoughtful and measured."
Halseth, 27, was called "immature" by one voter. Another said she "needs to learn decorum."
Since she has a four-year term, Halseth can improve in the 2013 session.
Sherwood, known for his conservative principles, often irritated Democrats with his floor statements, but in the end stood with Sandoval in support of extending taxes and passing the state budget.
Some voters called him "smart," but others said he lacks "people skills."
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3900.