Nevada state Sen. Patricia Farley bolts GOP for independence; will caucus with Democrats

CARSON CITY — State Sen. Patricia Farley said Monday she has changed her party affiliation from Republican to nonpartisan and will caucus with Democrats in the 2017 Legislature.

Democrats retook control of the Nevada Senate after the November election and hold an 11-10 majority over Republicans. Adding Farley, if she votes along Democratic Party lines, would bump that margin to 12-9. The Democrats still would be two votes shy, however, of the 14 needed to pass a tax increase or override a veto by the governor.

“Nevada has a long tradition of legislators working across party lines to make positive changes for our state,” said Farley, who represents District 8 in Las Vegas and was first elected in 2014.

“I am choosing to serve as an independent in the 2017 session because my constituents come before party labels, and I believe this is the best way to represent them.”

She said she became disenchanted with partisan politics.

“Look at the size of the problems that we have in the state of Nevada, and I think every one of us should be nonpartisan,” Farley said. “I think I’ve always listened to the other side. Now I’m not restricted by the political games on both sides. I’m not restricted by other people’s agendas.”

Farley becomes the first Nevada lawmaker in more than a half-century to serve without a party affiliation. The last one was former state Sen. Emerson F. Titlow from Nye County, who served as an independent during the 1965 session. Titlow served as a Democrat in the 1967 session.

District 8 is split almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats in voter registration. Another 15,000 are registered as nonpartisan.

Farley, who had been a lifelong Republican, said she expected to be her own “nonparty” of one in the Legislature but was invited by the Democrats to caucus with them. She accepted so she can listen to pros and cons as legislation is discussed but emphasized she makes no allegiance to either party.

“I told them if they want to caucus without me, I get it,” Farley said. “But I appreciate them putting a hand out and being willing to work with me.”

Farley is the mother of two young daughters and owner of a Southern Nevada construction company. She was recruited to run for office by state Sen. Michael Roberson, now the GOP Senate minority leader, to replace Barbara Cegavske, who was termed out. Cegavske, a Republican, was elected secretary of state two years ago.

As a freshman Republican lawmaker in the 2015 session, Farley led the Senate Committee on Operations and Elections and served on the Commerce and Labor Committee.

A moderate, she has publicly spoken in favor of proposals to allow the terminally ill to choose the time of their death with a doctor’s assistance and has proposed raising the state’s minimum wage.

She also has been a voice for combating opioid abuse and addiction.

During last month’s special session to raise Clark County room taxes to help fund a proposed $1.9 billion domed football stadium in Las Vegas, Farley asked pointed questions and raised concerns about using public financing given other pressing state needs. She ended up voting for the proposal because of job creation but urged her colleagues to remember critical needs in mental health and education when lawmakers convene for the regular session in February.

Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, welcomed Farley into the Democratic caucus.

“As senators, our first obligation is to ensure that we’re creating jobs and providing quality educational opportunities to Nevadans,” Ford said, “In the past, Sen. Farley has demonstrated a desire to work across party lines to accomplish our shared goals. We are excited that she will now work directly with our caucus for the betterment of the state of Nevada.”

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3821. Follow @SandraChereb on Twitter.

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