Spearman trounces state Sen. Lee

Progressive Democrat Patricia Spearman scored an upset victory Tuesday over two-term incumbent state Sen. John Lee in the Senate District 1 primary.

Backed by liberal-leaning groups, Spearman, who is black, gay and an evangelist minister, had attacked Lee for being too moderate and not doing enough to help constituents. She picked up 63 percent of the vote, compared with 37 percent for Lee, a 15-year legislator.

"This was a victory for the people," said Spearman, who is expected to win the Democrat-dominated district in North Las Vegas in November. "I am so humbled by the people’s response and the confidence they placed in me. I commend my opponent for a spirited campaign and wish him the best in his future."

Only one other legislative incumbent, District 39 Assemblyman Kelly Kite, R-Minden, lost in the primary. Conservative Jim Wheeler had criticized Kite, who was backed by his party, for voting for the continuation of $620 million in taxes in 2011.

Lee was backed by his party and lost, but the other four candidates in key state Senate primaries in Clark County, who also were backed by their parties and picked up the most contributions, won. They were Republicans Scott Hammond, Mari Nakashima St. Martin and Steve Kirk, and Democrat Aaron Ford

The Senate races are significant because both the Senate Democratic Caucus led by Mo Denis and the Senate Republican Caucus headed by Michael Roberson wanted primary winners who have the best chance of winning in the general election in November.

The Democrats have an 11-10 edge in the Senate, and the party that wins control will name committee chairmen and members and largely control the fate of legislation.

In the Assembly, where Democrats have a 26-16 lead, Republicans could pick up a few seats in November, but it would be a mammoth surprise if they became the majority party. Republicans have not controlled the Assembly since the 1985 legislative session.

Unless the Democrats reach two-thirds of the members – 14 in the Senate and 28 in the Assembly – they won’t be able to pass tax increases if the Republicans vote no. It takes a two-thirds vote to pass a tax increase and to override a governor veto.

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval has vowed to oppose any tax increases, other than continuing until July 1, 2015, the $620 million in temporary sales and business taxes that would expire on June 30, 2013.

In one of the most heavily contested Senate primaries, in southwest Las Vegas, Republican District 9 candidate St. Martin beat her opponent, Brent Jones, 54 percent to 46 percent.

In another key Senate primary, in District 18 in northwest Las Vegas, District 13 Assemblyman Hammond took 56 percent to defeat District 4 Assemblyman Richard McArthur, who had 41 percent of the votes. Indian Springs firefighter Conrad Vergara picked up 3 percent.

In the Democratic primary in Senate District 18, Kelli Ross advanced by defeating Donna Schlemmer, 59 percent to 41 percent.

In the Senate District 5 Republican primary in the Henderson area, former Henderson City Councilman Steve Kirk trounced Dr. Annette Teijeiro 71 percent to 29 percent.

The District 11 Democrat primary in Spring Valley and western Las Vegas was won by Ford. He received 68 percent to 32 percent for former Assemblyman Harry Mortenson.

For District 28 Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, the primary election was a special treat. She gained 73 percent of the vote, compared with 22 percent for Abraham Camejo and 5 percent for Luis Rendon.

Because there are no Republicans running for the seat, Flores will be the only candidate for that seat on the November ballot.

In Senate District 1, Spearman also is a cinch to win in November because her only opponent is Independent American Party candidate Gregory S. Hughes. Lee had spent nearly $170,000 in the race, compared with $13,000 by Spearman.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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