Michael Roberson is leaving the Nevada Senate for a shot at lieutenant governor, and in his wake, he’s leaving the Republican party vulnerable.
He was elected to represent Senate District 20 in 2010, but the seat is up for grabs in a district that’s evenly split with active Republican and Democratic voters, and just over 18,000 nonpartisan voters. It could be a linchpin seat for the Democratic party, which is eyeing a two-thirds supermajority in the Senate.
Republican Assemblyman Keith Pickard said Roberson’s departure was the perfect chance to try for a higher office and keep the district red. Political newcomer Julie Pazina, a Democrat, also saw the open seat as an opportunity, but said she doesn’t view it in such black-and-white terms.
“I think at the end of the day we have to put away partisanship, work together and collaborate, and do what’s in the best interest of our neighbors and our communities,” said Pazina, a businesswoman.
Pickard, a family law attorney, was elected in 2016 to serve Assembly District 22, which covers a large swath of Henderson. Pickard said Roberson, the Senate minority leader, encouraged him to run, and he recently picked up the endorsement of Rick Bronstein. Bronstein, whose name is still on the ballot, jumped into the race as a Libertarian, but said he’s withdrawn from the race and has split with the party.
“I got called a racist because I believe that there should be some controls on the border,” Bronstein said. “I will not accept that kind of garbage from anyone.”
Pickard said he believes he’s well suited to make the jump to the Senate because of his law school background, and because the work is similar to his job in the Assembly.
“The main difference between the two is that there’s more work to be done and about half as many people to spread the work out across,” he said. “I know what I’m doing because I’ve done it. And with law school, I’m used to reading a couple hundred pages a night. Those who don’t have that background flounder and struggle a little bit to understand what the bill’s about and what the unintended consequences are.”
Pazina believes she can bring a spirit of collaboration to the role of state senator. Her priorities include workforce development, renewable energy and accessible and affordable health care.
“I’ve heard from my neighbors who are worried about what will happen to them, especially if they have a preexisting condition,” she said.
Aside from cleaning up family law statutes, Pickard said his greatest focus will be on education funding accountability. He said he’s sure that the Legislature will find wasteful spending within the Clark County School District.
“CCSD was given millions for class size reductions and to this day they can’t tell us how they spent it, but we know it’s gone,” he said.
Pickard is also in favor of strengthening competency-based education options. He said he doesn’t view himself as ultra-liberal or ultra-conservative, but rather a voice from the middle. He believes he’s been able to work across both sides of the aisle to find common ground.
If she wins the seat, Pazina could become part of a majority-woman state Legislature.
“We have smart qualified women who are passionate about helping families and standing up for and representing members of our district, state and our neighbors,” she said.
Editor’s note: This story has been changed to correct the year that Michael Roberson was elected.