66°F
weather icon Drizzle

Nevada’s Democratic wave comes ashore in Carson City

CARSON CITY — When Gov.-elect Steve Sisolak and other state officeholders are sworn in on Monday, Democrats will assume control of Silver State government to a degree not seen since at least the early 1960s — perhaps, by a slightly different reckoning, the 1930s.

By either measure, the significance of that transition is not lost on the person who will be the center of attention on Nevada’s Capitol steps come Monday.

“It’s obviously a big time for Nevada,” Sisolak said Friday, traveling by car on a tour of the state en route to the capital from Las Vegas. “An incredible blue wave came through, and we got a lot of good people elected: a lot of Democrats, a lot of females. There’s going to be a female (legislative) majority, the first state that’s ever had that. I’m just hopeful that we’ll be able to get to work quickly.”

Consider what changes Monday:

• Democrats will hold the governor’s office for the first time in 20 years.

• They will hold more statewide constitutional offices, five of six, than at any time since the mid-1960s.

• They will hold a government “trifecta,” the governorship and both houses of the Legislature, for the first time since the early 1990s. That’s a complete reversal of the same advantage Republicans enjoyed only four years ago.

The last time Democrats enjoyed all three advantages — full control of the Legislature, the governorship and a majority of other statewide offices — was the mid-1930s.

With that level of dominance, change is likely to happen fast, as it has in other states that saw similar electoral U-turns in November.

Sisolak is one of seven new Democratic governors elected two months ago. His counterparts in Michigan and Maine, already sworn in, have wasted no time. Maine Gov. Janet Mills quickly reversed her Republican predecessor to begin the state’s expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a series of rapid-fire executive directives to improve government transparency, strengthen ethics and increase accountability.

“You don’t become a Democratic governor of Kansas or the Democratic governor of Michigan or Maine and not have a mindset about needing to get things done,” said David Turner, deputy communications director for the Democratic Governors Association. “That’s the reason these folks were elected. Same with Nevada.”

Sisolak said: “We are planning on doing some things quickly and I’ll let you wait until Monday to see what’s that’s going to be.” But the governor-elect has made a significant opening move even before his swearing-in. With incoming state Attorney General Aaron Ford, the two have pledged that Nevada will join other states to fight a Texas federal judge’s Dec. 14 ruling invalidating the Affordable Care Act.

As for other policy disputes that could draw state-level Democrats into battle with President Donald Trump, Sisolak said he trusted those fights to the state’s federal officeholders. Democrats now hold both of Nevada’s U.S. Senate seats for the first time since 2000 in addition to the three of four U.S. House seats they’ve held for two years.

“I’ve got my hands full with Nevada, and that’s where I’m going to focus my energy,” Sisolak said.

A united executive branch

The cooperation already evident between Sisolak and Ford, as seen in the joint statement on the ACA ruling, also signals what will be a noticeable change for state executive government. Their Republican predecessors, Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who lost the governor’s race to Sisolak, were not on the same page ideologically. The two Democrats are, and the two offices will work together much more closely.

As for what lies ahead under a new attorney general, Ford takes the state’s top law enforcement job Monday as the first African-American elected to nonjudicial statewide office. Besides joining other states in defense of the ACA and fighting further attempts to resuscitate plans for nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain, Ford has pledged enhanced policing of consumer protections, environmental issues and the “rights of Nevada families,” sort of a catchall phrase for a range of topics that includes immigration, equality and civil rights.

Ford said Friday that he has yet to review the full scope of legal action Nevada might initiate, join or abandon under his tenure, but it is likely that Nevada will sign on to parts of the existing raft of multistate litigation against the federal government. Two years into the Trump administration, there are 67 such lawsuits, overwhelmingly from Democratic-controlled states.

That compares with 62 lawsuits during all eight years of the Obama presidency and 44 during eight years of President George W. Bush.

Nevada joining those actions is “more of a piling-on,” said Paul Nolette, a professor at Marquette University in Wisconsin who follows legal profession politics and tracks state-federal relations. But Democrats, who with a pick-up of four attorneys general posts hold a 27-23 advantage over Republicans, can now claim to represent a majority of states, electoral votes and total population.

“Given the fact that immigration has been obviously a huge hot-button issue on the national stage, it will be interesting to see what direction Ford goes on that issue, given that it’s a particularly important issue for Nevada,” Nolette said.

Labor issues are also a potential priority for Ford, Nolette predicted, given the relative strength of unions in the state.

Is the change all that?

By one measure, the state government that takes office Monday reflects an extraordinary reversal of fortune for a party that in 2014 was on the losing side of the trifecta calculus. The 2015 legislative session was the high-water mark for roughly two decades of Republican ascendancy at the state level in Nevada, although Democrats held for six years starting in 2009 and four lesser state offices for eight, starting in 2007.

Viewed from a different angle, however, gains Democrats made in Nevada more reflect trends that played out in several states on Election Day. Indeed, there was the typical midterm disaffection toward the president and the party in power. But voters also telegraphed a general weariness with government gridlock and partisan infighting.

“The election ended up unifying a lot of state governments under one party,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a nonpartisan newsletter from the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

Among state legislatures, only one, Minnesota’s, has divided-party control, not counting Nebraska’s unicameral, nonpartisan Legislature. There are 22 Republican government trifectas and 14 for Democrats, with 13 states divided. Two years ago, there were eight divided legislatures and 19 divided state governments.

“It was generally a good year to be a Democrat nationally,” Kondik said. “I think there’s been this idea that Nevada was clearly trending to become a blue state. That may be what the longer trajectory is, but I don’t think we’re there yet.”

On Friday, Ford pointed to the electorate’s desire for change and noted the precedents here: his victory, the seating of the nation’s first majority-female legislature, and African-American leadership of both houses of the Legislature, with one of those leaders being openly gay.

“These types of things reflect that in Nevada we have an appreciation for diversity, not just in gender and in race but also in thought,” Ford said. “And when you bring together people in the way that Nevada has and the way that, writ large, the national election demonstrated, then you have a better opportunity to represent everybody.”

Contact Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-0661. Follow @Dentzernews on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
May-Brown describes why some with disabilities need the subminimum wage - VIDEO
Eliminating the subminimum wage will end training and work opportunities for some members of the disabled community. Instead of doing something productive, they would be relegated to adult day care. That’s according to Tracy May-Brown, Opportunity Village’s director of advocacy, board and government relations.
Commission’s decision will delay Red Rock Canyon development
The Clark County Commission Wednesday rejected a developer’s request to approve a preliminary plan for 3,000 homes overlooking Red Rock Canyon before a federal agency grants permission for a roadway leading to the site.
Clark County commissioner calls on landlords to bring properties up to code
Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom has called on landlords in older parts of the valley to bring their properties up to code and keep them well-maintained or face the prospect of inspections, fines and citations. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Harry Reid speaks out against anti-Semitism
Unnerved by the rise in anti-Semitic hate speech and the general pervasiveness of bigotry, including in Nevada, former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid organized an educational forum at UNLV on Thursday as part of his call to unite people against it. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and updated on Israeli relations. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump says border wall will have 'hundreds of miles' built by end of next year
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and discussed the progress of the border wall and the current relations there. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Protesters disrupt Trump's speech
Just as President Donald Trump started to make his opening remarks during his appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting, protesters disrupted his speech. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Roerink On The Problems With Taking Water From Eastern Nevada - Video
The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to take billions of gallons of water that doesn’t exist from Eastern Nevada via a pipeline that would cost ratepayers $15 billion. Doing so would devastate the wildlife and people who live there. That’s according to Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, which opposes the pipeline.
Las Vegas Election Night Wrap-Up
The Review-Journal's Politics and Government Editor, Steve Sebelius, wraps up election night. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Olivia Diaz Speaks To Ward 3 Supporters After Primary Election - Video
Olivia Diaz speaks to her supporters at a election party after results started coming in for the Ward 3 primaries.
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (edited)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife, Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (Full)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Gun Debate Shows Limits Of Government - Video
On Monday, the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees held a joint hearing on Assembly Bill 291. It would ban bump stocks and allow local governments to pass additional restrictions on firearms.
Lucy Flores speaks out about Biden incident
Former Nevada assemblywoman, Lucy Flores, expresses her feelings about an incident with former Vice President Joe Biden in 2014. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Harry Reid takes the stand in injury lawsuit
Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid took the stand on Thursday in the product liability lawsuit brought against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Jurors hear opening statements in Reid personal injury trial
Opening statements were made on Tuesday in the product liability lawsuit brought by Harry Reid against against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Mayor Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels
Mayor Carolyn Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels to seniors on March 26, 2019.
Las Vegas City Council Ward 1 race
Candidates for Las Vegas City Council Ward 1. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Beto O’Rourke campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke addresses attendees during a campaign stop at Arandas Taqueria in Las Vegas on Sunday, March 24, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Beto O'Rourke House Party in Las Vegas
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke delivered a message of unity inside a Las Vegas living room Saturday night, outlining a mission to bridge the divide in a polarized America and rally behind “big defining ambitions that we have in common.” (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand talks at Atomic Liquors
Democrat presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand talks to her supporters at Atomic Liquors.
Presidential candidate Gillibrand meets with UNLV Immigration Clinic student attorneys
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., meets with UNLV Immigration Clinic student attorneys at her first stop in Nevada as a candidate Thursday, March 21, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto promotes the Rebuild America’s Schools Act
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., co-sponsor of the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, speaks at Hoggard Elementary School in Las Vegas to promote the bill that would provide $100 billion for infrastructure improvements at schools across the country. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Scholar Max Eden on how restorative justice decreases student achievement - VIDEO
Across the country, restorative justice is lowering test scores and increasing the number of students who feel unsafe at schools. That’s according to Max Eden, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, who recently released a study discipline reform.
NV Dems Want To Gut Read By Three - Video
Nevada’s students have a major problem. They aren’t very good at reading. In 2017, just 31 percent of fourth graders were proficient at reading according to the National Assessment of Education Progress. The number proficient falls to 28 percent in eighth grade. Read by Three could change that. If a student can’t read at grade level by the end of third grade, he repeats the grade.
Presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard stumps in Las Vegas
Presidential hopeful U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, holds a meet and greet at the Asian Culture Center in downtown Las Vegas Monday, March 18, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Nye County pushes back against state gun bill
Gun store owner Robby Brentlinger and John Koenig, Chairman of the Nye County Board of Commissioners, discuss their thoughts on gun rights and Nevada Senate Bill 143. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Atkinson pleads guilty
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge Monday.
Atkinson pleads guilty to wire fraud charges
U.S. Attorney’s Office announces plea deal for charges against former Nevada Senate majority leader Kelvin Atkinson during a press conference on Monday, March 11, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson pleads guilty
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge Monday, less than a week after resigning from his post. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Melania Trump Speaks Out About Opioid Epidemic - VIDEO
Melania Trump speaks at the Westgate hotel about the Opioid epidemic in the United State and how this generation can be the group that ends it.
Nevada Legislative Session Preview: Education, Yucca Mountain and Microchips
The Nevada Legislature will be meeting to look at new bills that involve education and marriage age restrictions. Governor Sisolak has also requested to meet with the White House about the plutonium shipments sent to Nevada.
Cortez Masto, Rosen For Infanticide - VIDEO
If an abortionist — armed with scissors, clamps and a vacuum cleaner — can’t kill a baby while she’s still in the womb, he shouldn’t get another chance after she’s born. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen disagree.
Abortion Bill Would Decriminalize Causing A Pregnant Woman To Miscarry - VIDEO
If abortion advocates believed their own rhetoric, they’d oppose the Trust Nevada Women Act.
Las Vegas city council candidate Diaz talks about Badlands, public safety and homelessness
The residents of Las Vegas’ Ward 3 aren’t thinking about the development issues surrounding Badlands golf course. They do, however, want more neighborhood police patrols to increase public safety. Other jurisdictions should help the City of Las Vegas with its growing homelessness population. That’s according to former Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz who’s running for the Ward 3 city council seat.
THE LATEST