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PARTY LINES: Legislative ‘brain drain’: Two centuries of experience out the door

Nevada’s part-time citizen Legislature meets for only four months every two years and sometimes, lawmaking experience is hard to come by.

And this year, the Legislature is going to lose nearly two centuries of experience as members depart for various reasons.

A preliminary look at the numbers shows the state Senate will lose 96 years of experience as eight members leave, four due to term limits. In the Assembly, 112 years of experience will be lost as 14 members exit the chamber. Three members are leaving because of term limits.

The loss may be eased somewhat if four members of the Assembly who are running for the state Senate win their races, although two of them are seeking the same seat. Depending on that election, the total legislative brain drain will end up being between 184 and 186 years of lost experience.

The most common reason for departures is politicians who are seeking other offices. In the Senate, state Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, is running for mayor of North Las Vegas. In the Assembly, Assemblyman Tom Roberts, R-Las Vegas, is running for Clark County sheriff, Assemblywoman Annie Black, R-Mesquite, is running for Congress, and Assembly members Edgar Flores, D-Las Vegas, Dr. Robin Titus, R-Wellington, and Jim Wheeler, R-Minden, are running for the state Senate. Assemblyman Andy Matthews, R-Las Vegas, is running for state controller.

Another common reason for leaving: a new job. State Sen. Chris Brooks, D-Las Vegas, recently announced he’s resigning by year’s end to take a new job in the clean energy industry. Former Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, is now Nevada’s U.S. attorney and Assemblywoman Susie Martinez, D-Las Vegas, was elected executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada AFL-CIO.

And some members simply chose not run again, including state Sen. Keith Pickard, R-Henderson.

The losses will be felt nearly equally by the two major political parties: All told, 100 years of Democratic experience will be lost, while Republicans will lose 108 years of experience. Again, those numbers may be mitigated slightly if Assembly members seeking state Senate seats are elected.

Although some people have called for Nevada to have a full-time Legislature – we’re one of just four states whose lawmakers gather once every other year – the idea hasn’t seemed to catch on with the public. Mark Twain is said to have remarked that (in his day, at least) lawmakers met for 60 days every two years, but things would be better if they met for two days every 60 years.

I don’t know her!

Rivalry is common among elected officials in federal office, especially among members of the same party. It rarely comes out publicly, however: Most the time, you have to read between the lines. Or the letters.

Nevada Democratic U.S. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen issued news releases on Tuesday announcing a bipartisan letter sent to President Joe Biden, encouraging swift acceptance of Norway and Finland into NATO.

The curious thing? Neither senator’s letter mentioned the other!

“U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a member of the Senate NATO Observer Group, today joined a bipartisan group of more than 80 Senators in a letter to President Biden urging him to expedite the Executive Branch’s process to advance Sweden and Finland’s applications for NATO membership,” reads the first line in Rosen’s release.

“U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and a bipartisan group of 79 other senators in writing a letter to President Biden urging him to expedite the Executive Branch’s process to advance Sweden and Finland’s applications for NATO membership and pledging to work with the administration to ensure swift ratification of the Washington Treaty,” says Cortez Masto’s release.

Yes, it was the same letter, and yes, both senators signed it. But Rosen’s name appears nowhere in Cortez Masto’s release, nor does Cortez Masto merit a mention in Rosen’s. Perhaps there’s a rivalry brewing?

Oh, for the record, Cortez Masto sent her release at 11:27 a.m. on Tuesday, while Rosen’s didn’t come out until 1:05 p.m. In case anybody’s keeping track, or anything.

Timing is everything

Rep. Mark Amodei was only trying to tout his latest endorsement in his re-election campaign for the 2nd Congressional District. But it turns out he did it at the worst time possible.

The Nevada Firearms Coalition, an organization whose logo shows Carson City in the crosshairs of a rifle scope, had bestowed an A+ rating on Amodei, who is a reliable vote for gun rights. In normal times, Amodei wouldn’t even need to acknowledge the backing, but he’s locked in a primary election fight with Danny Tarkanian, who ran unsuccessfully for office in Southern Nevada six times before finally winning a seat on the Douglas County Commission in 2020.

The release from Amodei’s campaign went out at 1:10 p.m. on Tuesday.

And just 12 minutes later, news broke about a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that ultimately killed 19 children and two adults.

Obviously, Amodei’s campaign had no idea what was about to happen when it hit send on the Nevada Firearms Coalition release. But given that 27 school shootings have taken place so far in 2022, or an average of 5.4 per month, deciding when to advertise your gun rights support is a tricky decision.

Endorsements update

Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald endorsed Sigal Chattah on Wednesday in her race for the GOP nomination for attorney general. “Sigal Chattah is a proven fighter and will always defend the rule of law,” McDonald wrote in an endorsement letter. “Sigal has been endorsed by law enforcement and the Nevada GOP receiving 91.2% of the support, the highest of any candidate.”

While pre-primary endorsements are still controversial in some circles – the argument against doing so is that primary voters, not party insiders, should choose the party’s standard-bearer – the state GOP has not shied away from backing candidates this year. Their reasoning is that the party should support the person that elected party delegates think has the best chance to win in a general election. In this case, the party and its chairman seem to believe that’s Chattah.

More endorsements

Former Republican congressman, CIA director and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo waded into Nevada’s primary, endorsing Sheriff Joe Lombardo for governor. “Sheriff Lombardo is a lifelong conservative, and I have the utmost confidence that he will serve with integrity to deliver principled leadership and restore competence to the governor’s office,” Pompeo said in a statement.

And that’s not the only endorsement Pompeo made. He’s also backed 1st Congressional District candidate David Brog. “I’m proud to endorse David Brog for Congress in Nevada’s 1st Congressional District,” Pompeo said in a statement. “Joe Biden and the progressive left’s woke policies have done tremendous damage to America. Nevada deserves a fighter who knows how to defeat these dangerous ideas.”

Clearly, we can conclude from these endorsements that Pompeo is running for president in 2024, and that increasing his name ID in advance of the February 2024 presidential preference election is a top priority.

Quote of the week

“Let’s be honest with each other. For all practical purposes, this primary is over. There’s nothing more to argue about.” – Lombardo, mic dropping at the end of the KLAS Channel 8 gubernatorial debate Wednesday.

Contact Steve Sebelius at SSebelius@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-0253. Follow @SteveSebelius on Twitter.

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