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Legislative battles

State Democrats have a healthy 27-15 edge in the Nevada Assembly. Republicans, meanwhile, have a tiny 11-10 majority in the state Senate.

Needless to say, picking off just a single GOP seat in the upper chamber is a primary goal of the Nevada Democratic Party as the November election nears.

The two men in their sights are state Sen. Bob Beers, perhaps the Legislature’s most ardent fiscal conservative, and state Sen. Joe Heck, who has been in Carson City for one, four-year term.

Both men’s districts used to be reliably Republican. But Democrats have made gains and now have a slight lead in voter registration in both districts, leading to enthusiasm among party loyalists that both incumbents might be vulnerable.

Problem is, neither Democratic opponent has yet to articulate a clear message or lay out any agenda that might better appeal to voters who previously supported Mr. Beers and Mr. Heck. The Democratic strategy seems to be to hope that so many independents can’t stand George W. Bush and the national Republican leaders that they’ll take out their anger in down-ticket races such as those involving Nevada lawmakers.

“Voters are looking for a new type of leadership to take our state forward,” said state Senate Minority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, probably reading from a text prepared for him by the national party.

That’s all well and good, but it’s not as if Obamamania has consumed Nevada. The latest polls show Sen. John McCain holding his own in Nevada.

So if the “let’s hope everyone hates Republicans” approach doesn’t work against Mr. Beers or Mr. Heck, what next?

“For someone like Bob Beers, who has been a cheerleader for (Gov. Jim) Gibbons’ no-new-taxes pledge, if it cuts the wrong way, it will cripple him badly,” said Gary Gray, a longtime Nevada Democratic political consultant.

So Mr. Gray would urge Democrats to attack Mr. Beers as a longtime opponent of tax hikes and profligate government spending? Go for it.

Something tells us that the odds for Democrats to grab either seat may be a bit overstated.

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