For state Senate

The balance of power in Carson City tilts on control of the state Senate. Democrats currently have an 11-10 majority to go with their lock on the Assembly. If Republicans can win back control of the Senate for the first time since the 2007 Legislature, major reforms addressing education, collective bargaining and pension liabilities finally could get hearings and votes next year. If Democrats keep their majority, GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval’s veto pen will be the only barrier against larger government and reduced accountability.

The Review-Journal offers the following endorsements for the state Senate:

In Senate District 1, the Review-Journal offers no endorsement.

In Senate District 3, Democrat Valerie Wiener is out because of term limits, leaving voters to choose between Democratic Assemblyman Tick Segerblom and Republican Ed Gobel. Mr. Gobel is a veterans advocate who has worked as an unpaid lobbyist in Carson City. Mr. Segerblom, an attorney, has been a fine lawmaker. Although we disagree with him on issues ranging from tax policy to pension reform, he’s thoughtful and never short of ideas. Tick Segerblom, who supports education funding equity for Southern Nevada, and is one of the few people in Carson City who wants to provide enabling legislation for Nevada’s voter-approved constitutional amendment authorizing medical marijuana, is the better choice.

In Senate District 4, no endorsement.

In Senate District 5, Republican Steve Kirk faces Democrat Joyce Woodhouse to replace retiring Democrat Shirley Breeden. Mr. Kirk, a former Henderson councilman, has first-hand experience dealing with the demands of public-sector unions and the effects those demands have on government services. Unlike his opponent, who is a retired career educator, he has worked in business and understands how tax policy affects jobs. Ms. Woodhouse wants to return to Carson City after serving one term in the Senate but losing re-election in 2010. She’s a reliable vote for the status quo. The Review-Journal endorses Steve Kirk.

The good news for residents of Senate District 6 is that incumbent Allison Copening, D-Las Vegas, is retiring, and they have two smart candidates vying to replace her. The bad news is they can elect only one. Benny Yerushalmi is a different kind of Democrat, a small business owner who understands the harm that taxes can do to struggling employers. Still, Mr. Yerushalmi is supported by public employee unions that don’t embrace reform. Sending Mr. Yerushalmi to Carson City would only further empower a reactionary Democratic majority. The better choice is lifelong Nevadan Mark Hutchison, a fiscally conservative, limited-government small business owner and attorney who represented Nevada in the states’ Supreme Court challenge to ObamaCare. A six-year member of the Ethics Commission, Mr. Hutchison insists all government contract negotiations should be conducted in the open, and final contract decisions should be made by elected officials, not an arbitrator. He also favors school choice.

In Senate District 7, Democrat David Parks seeks re-election against Republican Trish Marsh. Sen. Parks is a veteran lawmaker with an impressive background in military, public and community service. He’s a reliable vote in favor of larger government, but also for individual rights. Ms. Marsh, on the other hand, has difficulty answering basic policy questions and cannot identify a single, specific vote by Mr. Parks with which she disagrees. The Review-Journal endorses David Parks.

One of the brightest new faces on the campaign trail is Republican Mari Nakashima St. Martin, running in Senate District 9 to complete the term of Republican Elizabeth Halseth, who resigned. Ms. St. Martin, who grew up in White Pine County, is an articulate opponent of taxes – including Nevada’s existing payroll levy – that "disincentivize hiring." She opposes social promotion in the schools, and in a field where too many candidates want every conceivable tax hike left "on the table," she insists "I’m not a person who thinks everything should be on the table, every session." Thank heavens. Democratic attorney Justin Jones, on the other hand, wants more school funding without school reform, believes the 2 percent business margins tax sought by the state teachers union "ought to be considered," and opposes opening government employee contract negotiations to public view. Mari Nakashima St. Martin wants to restore some balance to the Legislature; District 9 voters should enthusiastically give her the chance.

In Senate District 11, Democrat Aaron Ford faces Republican John Drake to replace term-limited Democrat Mike Schneider. Mr. Ford is making his second run for the Senate after losing to Joe Hardy in District 12 in 2010. Mr. Ford is a teacher-turned-attorney who, in shifting to a heavily Democratic district, has shifted further to the left. He defends the education establishment, supports binding arbitration, wants much higher taxes and carries the endorsement of the teachers union. Mr. Drake, a credit union executive, supports major reforms to improve schools, such as vouchers, and wants to reform the state’s pension plan before unfunded liabilities crush taxpayers and businesses. The Review-Journal endorses John Drake.

In Senate District 18, one-term Republican Assemblyman Scott Hammond, who teaches at Indian Springs High School, is a better choice than Kelli Ross, a political novice and wife of Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Ross. Mr. Hammond favors school choice and demonstrates familiarity both with tax policy and with current staffing and budget problems in the schools; Ms. Ross does not. Scott Hammond is the obvious choice in District 18.

Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea of Eureka also hopes to make the jump to the state Senate. The former minority leader faces Democrat Harley Kulkin and Independent American Janine Hansen in District 19, a massive new jurisdiction that covers the eastern half of the state. Mr. Goicoechea, a rancher, has been a fine representative of rural areas. He’ll do.

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