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Term limits shaking up Nevada Legislature

CARSON CITY — In the days before players’ names were placed on uniforms, hawkers at ballparks would prowl the stands shouting: "Scorecards. You can’t tell the players without a scorecard." Scorecards were a necessity for fans when new players were added to the roster.

Politics is a game, too, and you’ll need a scorecard to identify the key players at the next session of the Legislature in 2013.

Changes of historical proportions are expected, including an entire overhaul of the minority and majority leadership positions in both houses.

Term limits for the first time will be in effect completely in both the state Senate and the Assembly, and five veteran legislators will be term-limited out.

In addition, four legislators also might make bids for Congress and six Assembly members might seek new careers in the state Senate.

Less-experienced legislators will lead the next Legislature.

Although too many variables make it difficult to print a precise scorecard for the next Legislature, there are lots of possibilities and probabilities to give you a better idea of who might end up being in charge in 2013.


State Sen. Barbara Cegavske of Las Vegas is in line to replace term-limited Mike McGinness of Fallon as Senate Republican leader. State Sen. Sheila Leslie of Reno is the favorite to be the Democratic leader if Steven Horsford of Las Vegas decides to run for Congress, according to various legislators.

But freshman state Sen. Mike Roberson of Las Vegas also wants the Republican leadership post. He already has been named by McGinness to lead fundraising and candidate recruitment efforts in Southern Nevada. Cegavske has performed that duty in the past.

Democrats hold an 11-10 edge in the state Senate. Cegavske is confident her party will pick up at least one seat held by Democrats Allison Copening of Las Vegas or Shirley Breeden of Henderson and become the majority party in 2013. If she isn’t derailed by Roberson, Cegavske could become the first female Senate majority leader in state history.

"My only goal is taking back the majority," said Roberson, who added that he "absolutely" will be a candidate for the Senate party leadership after the November 2012 election.

But Copening might not even seek re-election. She said she made a commitment to serve one four-year term and won’t decide on running for re-election for several months.

In the Assembly, a battle looms between Ways and Means Chairwoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, and Majority Leader Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, for the speaker’s position. With re-election victories, they both will serve their sixth and final Assembly terms at the next session.

Assembly Taxation and Government Affairs Chairwoman Marilyn Kirk­patrick, D-North Las Vegas, is popular with both parties and also might draw support for speaker, although her time as the top Assembly member may wait until the 2015 session. Kirkpatrick said she isn’t interested in running for the state Senate.

The Assembly minority leader’s post is narrowing to a contest between Republicans Pat Hickey of Reno and John Hambrick of Las Vegas. Hambrick lost moves to become the leader in the past, however, and insiders say he doesn’t have the support to beat Hickey.


Let’s look at other changes in the Senate.

Its four term-limited horsemen are veteran Democrats Mike Schneider and Valerie Wiener, both of Las Vegas, along with McGinness and Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora. They will be watching from the sidelines in 2013 after serving a combined 92 years in the Legislature.

Then there is Senate Majority Leader Horsford. Rather than a run to a sure re-election victory, he has made no secret of his congressional aspirations. But so have Democratic state Sens. Ruben Kihuen of Las Vegas and John Lee of North Las Vegas.

Whether they run depends on how the courts draw the congressional and legislative district boundaries.

Since the Legislature could not agree on redistricting, that task now falls on District Judge James Todd Russell of Carson City.

Russell could throw redistricting back to the Legislature or redraw congressional district lines in a way that Horsford might have to face Kihuen, Lee and others in a Democratic primary.

Horsford then would decide whether he has a better chance winning state Senate re-election than facing the bi­lingual Kihuen in what could be a Hispanic-dominated congressional district.

"A lot of people are asking me to consider it (running for Congress)," Kihuen said. "I can’t make a decision until I see the redistricting maps."


The Assembly for sure loses its leader.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, will be term-limited out after a 12-year career. He likely also will be making a run for one of Nevada’s four seats in Congress.

Under one Republican redistricting plan, Horsford, Lee and Oceguera are in the same congressional district.

"People have talked to me about running; but until the lines are drawn, I am not telling people I am running," Lee said. "I’m flattered. What I will say is that I am interested in serving Nevada again."

Then there are the Assembly members who might make runs for the state Senate.

That list includes both Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, and Assemblyman Harvey Munford, D-Las Vegas. They both say they are exploring a run for Horsford’s seat if he leaves.

Assemblymen Tick Segerblom and William Horne, both D-Las Vegas, and Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, also might run for the state Senate instead of continuing on in the Assembly. Former Assemblyman Harry Mortensen, term-limited out of the Assembly two years ago, may make a bid for Schneider’s seat.

Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, has spoken of running to fill the state Senate seat held by the retiring Rhoads.


Smith isn’t yet announcing her candidacy for speaker. She said that is months away and she does not want a battle between Conklin, Kirkpatrick and herself for speaker.

"Marcus, Marilyn and I did a lot of work together," Smith said. "It is too early to talk about what will happen yet."

Atkinson isn’t conceding the Assembly speakership to them.

"Why not the first African-American speaker?" asked Atkinson, who is black.

Either he or Horne would make fine speakers, according to Atkinson, but both likely will opt for state Senate seats if they don’t feel they have the speakership locked up.

Kirkpatrick denied any interest at this point in the speakership or running for Lee’s state Senate seat. Named the best 2011 Assembly member in a Review-Journal poll, Kirkpatrick would not be term-limited until after the 2015 session, so she might bide her time until then.

Atkinson said this is the first time in recent memory that there will be a challenge for speakership.

In the past, Richard Perkins, Barbara Buckley and then Oceguera stepped into the speaker’s position largely by acclamation after serving time as Assembly majority leader.

But Atkinson said he was surprised when told that Munford also might run for the same state Senate seat. Munford said he has lived in the same house in the district since 1973 and was confident he would win a Senate bid over any opponent.

One Southern Nevada Assembly member said he favors Smith over Conklin for speaker because she has "more of a heart" and would be fair to all members, including Southern Nevadans.

Cegavske said Southern Nevadans should lead at least one of the state Senate and Assembly caucuses. If Reno’s Leslie leads Senate Democrats, then a Southern Nevadan should lead the Republican caucus, she said.

"You need to mix it up with leaders from the North and South," said Cegavske, confident after 15 years in the Legislature that she has the credentials and experience to be the Senate Republican leader.

Leslie, chairwoman of the Senate Revenue Committee, is open to Democratic leadership consideration in the state Senate. But she said "it’s premature" to consider the future, since what happens depends on redistricting and Horsford’s decision.

State Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, a soft-spoken man who chairs the Education Committee, also was mentioned by legislators as the possible Senate Democratic leader in 2013. Denis said he was willing to take whatever position his caucus wants him to fill.

State Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, said he is interested in a leadership post, but like Denis said he would accept whatever position his caucus wants him to fill.

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

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