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Neal hopes to win open Senate District 4 seat

After five terms representing Nevada’s 7th Assembly District in North Las Vegas, Democrat Dina Neal is seeking to move over to the Senate in a contest against Republican Esper Hickman for an open seat.

The Senate District 4 seat had been held by Kelvin Atkinson, the former Senate majority leader who resigned office at the beginning of the 2019 session and pleaded guilty to wire fraud and misuse of campaign funds. His appointed replacement, Marcia Washington, opted not to run.

Democrats hold a 4-1 enrollment edge in the district, making Neal the presumptive favorite. Her father, Joe Neal, was the first Black person elected to the state Senate in 1972 and held the seat for 32 years. Dina Neal was first Black assemblywoman when she was first elected in 2010.

Hickman, a real estate agent, did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on state revenues is expected to continue into 2021. Neal took office amid the last economic downturn and said she has experience legislating in lean times.

“I’ve been in the Assembly since 2011 so I’ve been a part of a recession Legislature,” she said.

She has chaired the Assembly Taxation committee her last two terms and also served on the Commerce and Labor and Ways and Means committees in the 2019 session. She has staked out positions on a range of issues including tax policy, economic development and small business support, community investment in low-income neighborhoods, health care, workforce development in underserved communities, and bail reform.

In 2015 she got the NVGrow program passed by the Legislature that gives small businesses access to economic and demographic data and other assistance. She has worked to strengthen and expand the program, most recently last session.

Last year, she also successfully sponsored bills to improve treatment and tracking of sickle cell disease and have the state seek federal waivers to cover types of dental care for diabetics.

Discussing the summer’s two special legislative sessions, Neal said the Democrat-controlled Legislature, besides addressing the COVID-caused state budget shortfall, also moved important policy to expand ballot options in November and give the state’s unemployment director more authority to make program changes and respond more quickly. The unemployment division struggled with unprecedented level of claims this year driven by COVID-induced economic contractions.

She’s concerned with how disparities in distance learning, instituted in response to the pandemic, affect lower-income and special education students. If she wins, her Senate district will include an adjacent Assembly district that has greater poverty than the district she currently represents. Neal said economic development efforts aimed at low income communities and affordable housing programs will help there.

Economic development and employment help stabilize communities by supporting health care, housing and education, she said. Moving people from projects into homes in the area “can really change the trajectory of the generational poverty,” she said.

“If I can really impact that and shift that over, that I can start to lift them out, and then we can start to deal with the other areas,” she added.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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