Analysis: Which legislators had the most (and fewest) bills passed in the 2021 session?

Democrats controlled both houses of the Legislature during the 2021 session, and hundreds of high-profile Democratic measures sailed through the Assembly and Senate while a vast majority of Republican-backed measures failed to make much headway in the legislative process.

Out of 605 bills introduced and sponsored by a lawmaker this session, Democratic legislators had 63 percent of their bills and resolutions pass out of the Legislature, compared to just 18 percent for Republicans. Those in the majority party were able to pass priority measures, including bills establishing the “Right to Return,” a public health insurance option and permanent expanded mail voting, while many priorities for Republicans, such as a voter ID law, were killed without so much as a hearing.

Which lawmakers had the most success passing their bills? Which lawmakers were least successful? How did Assembly members fare compared to senators?

The Nevada Independent analyzed all bills and resolutions that were both introduced and primarily sponsored by a lawmaker and examined which of those bills passed out of the Legislature and which ones died. Of those 605 bills, 267 (44 percent) were approved by members of the Assembly and Senate, while the remaining 338 (56 percent) were left in the graveyard of the legislative session.

Those 605 measures make up only a portion of the 1,035 bills and resolutions introduced during the session — others were sponsored by committees, constitutional officers such as the secretary of state or governor, or helped implement the state budget. The 2021 session also saw fewer measures introduced than previous sessions, as the 2019 and 2017 sessions each saw closer to 1,200 bills and resolutions introduced.

State law limits the number of bills that can be introduced by any individual lawmaker — incumbent senators and Assembly members can request 20 and 10 bill draft requests, respectively, while newly-elected legislators are limited to six bills in the Assembly and 12 in the Senate. Legislative leadership for both the majority and minority parties are also allowed to introduce additional bills beyond the normal limits.

The analysis revealed that Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui (D-Las Vegas) and Sen. Chris Brooks (D-Las Vegas) led their caucuses with the highest rate of bill passage, while Assembly members Jill Tolles (R-Reno) and P.K. O'Neill (R-Carson City) were the only Republicans who had more than half of their bills passed out of the Legislature. Eight Republican legislators ended the session with zero bills passed.

A previous analysis of votes during the 2021 session revealed that most bills passed with bipartisan support, as more than half of all votes included no opposition. But that trend was largely driven by Democrats in the majority passing their priorities while not advancing nearly as many Republican bills, with 175 more Democrat-backed measures passing out of the Legislature than measures introduced by Republicans.

The guide below explores the results of our analysis, examining the successes and failures of both parties and of individual lawmakers this session.

We’ve double-checked our work to make sure we’ve counted every vote and hearing, but if you spot something off or think a bill was missed or improperly noted, feel free to email sgolonka@thenvindy.com.

How did Democrat-sponsored legislation fare? Did any Republican lawmakers find success?

Though hundreds of the more than 1,000 bills and resolutions introduced during the session were sponsored by Democrat-controlled committees, there were only 350 measures specifically sponsored and introduced by a lawmaker from the majority party.

Many were headline-grabbing progressive bills that drew staunch Republican opposition, including expanding permanent mail-in voting (AB321) and setting up Nevada to become one of the first states to have a public health insurance option starting in 2026 (SB420).

Of the 350 bills from Democratic lawmakers, 221 (63.1 percent) passed out of both houses. However, Assembly Democrats fared slightly better than their Senate counterparts, with 65 percent of their bills passing compared with 60 percent for those in the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro on the fourth day of the 81st session of the Legislature in Carson City on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

The success rate of bills introduced by Republican lawmakers was dismal in comparison.

Members of the Assembly Republican caucus had 27 of their 126 introduced measures (21 percent) pass out of both houses, while Senate Republicans had 19 of their 129 (15 percent) pass out of the Legislature. The majority of Republican-backed measures were not even given a chance by the majority party, as 56 percent of 255 bills and resolutions introduced by Republican legislators never received an initial committee hearing.

Failed Republican-backed bills included an effort to create a bipartisan redistricting commission (SB462), a measure requiring voters to provide proof of identity (SB225) and a bill that aimed to limit the number of legislative actions allowed per session (AB98).

Among the 46 Republican-sponsored measures that passed out of the Legislature were a variety of health care-related bills, including legislation from Sen. Joe Hardy (R-Boulder City) that appropriated state funds to the Nevada Health Service Corps for encouraging certain medical and dental practitioners to practice in underserved areas (SB233). Lawmakers also approved a measure from Assembly Minority Leader Robin Titus (R-Wellington) authorizing the Board of Regents to waive fees for family members of National Guard members who reenlist (AB156).

Senate Minority Leader James A. Settelmeyer, left, and Senator Joe Hardy on the fourth day of the 81st session of the Legislature in Carson City on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

While Republicans fared far worse, Democratic lawmakers still had more than a third of their bills fall victim to the legislative process.

Some bills were overwhelmed by backlash, such as SB452, a bill that aimed to grant casino resorts greater authority to ban firearms on their premises but was opposed by a broad coalition of Republicans, gun right advocates and criminal justice reform organizations and failed to advance out of the Assembly. 

Other bills were watered down or axed after lawmakers deemed there was not enough time to consider the effects of a measure. Such was the case for AB161, a bill that started as a ban on the state’s “summary eviction” process, then was amended into a legislative study on the process but still never received a floor vote. Some measures fell just shy of the support they needed, including AB387, an attempt to license midwives that fell one vote shy of a two-thirds majority in the Senate on the final day of the session.

Which lawmakers were most prolific? Which lawmakers introduced the fewest bills?

Although Democratic lawmakers significantly outpaced Republican lawmakers in getting their bills passed out of both houses of the Legislature, the number of bills introduced by each legislator remained similar between the two parties.

On average, lawmakers from the majority party introduced 9.2 measures during the 2021 session, compared to 10.2 for lawmakers in the minority party. 

Those who led their parties in introductions were typically house leaders or more experienced lawmakers.

In the Assembly, Speaker Jason Frierson (D-Las Vegas) topped the rest of his party with 18 bills introduced and sponsored, while Minority Floor Leader Titus had the most bills introduced and sponsored of anyone in the Assembly Republican caucus with 14.

Assembly Minority Leader Robin Titus speaks to Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson inside the Legislature on Monday, March 15, 2021 in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Minority Leader James Settelmeyer (R-Minden) introduced and sponsored 25 bills, which was the most of any legislator during the session.

Four other Senators also stood above the pack: Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas) led Democrats with 23 introductions, while Sen. Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas) and two Republican senators, Hardy and Keith Pickard (R-Henderson), rounded out the top with 20 bills each.

Assemblywoman Tracy Brown-May (D-Las Vegas), who was appointed by the Clark County Commission on Feb. 2, 2021 to fill the seat of Democratic former Assemblyman Alex Assefa, who resigned amid an investigation into whether he met residency requirements, was the only lawmaker who did not introduce a single piece of legislation this session.

The others at the bottom of the list — Assembly members Elaine Marzola (D-Henderson), Maggie Carlton (D-Las Vegas) and Richard McArthur (R-Las Vegas), and Sens. Fabian Doñate (D-Las Vegas) and Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) — introduced three bills each. Doñate was appointed to fill the seat of former Sen. Yvanna Cancela (D-Las Vegas), and introduced three of her bill draft requests submitted prior to the start of the session.

Which legislators had the most success with their bills?

Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui (D-Las Vegas) had more success getting her bills passed than any Nevada lawmaker during the 2021 session, as all eight bills that she introduced and sponsored passed out of both houses of the Legislature.

Jauregui had one bill that was passed only with the support of her own party members in both houses. AB286, which bans so-called “ghost guns” and other firearm assembly kits that don’t come equipped with serial numbers, passed through the Assembly and Senate along party lines. 

Other bills Jauregui introduced included measures focused on the environment and residential properties, as well as AB123, which increases fees on special Vegas Golden Knights license plates to help give more funds to charities.

Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui arrives on the first day of the 81st session of the Legislature in Carson City on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Five other Assembly Democrats, all based out of Southern Nevada, had at least 80 percent of their measures pass out of both houses, including Assembly Speaker Frierson. Frierson, who saw 15 of his 18 sponsored measures pass, introduced several high-profile Democratic measures, including a pair of big election bills: AB126, which moves the state to a presidential primary system instead of a caucus-based system, and AB321, which permanently expands mail-in voting. 

Other bills introduced by the Assembly leader that passed out of the Legislature included a measure requiring a three-day grace period before landlords can charge late fees for overdue rent (AB308) and a bill allowing college athletes to profit off of their name and likeness (AB254). Frierson was also the primary sponsor of AB484, which authorizes the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) to use $54 million in federal funds to modernize the state’s outdated unemployment insurance system.

Frierson had only three bills that did not pass out of the Legislature, including a controversial measure that would have allowed for the Washoe and Clark County school boards to be partially appointed (AB255).

Other lawmakers to have at least 80 percent of their measures pass out of both houses were Assembly members Venicia Considine (D-Las Vegas), Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas), Daniele Monroe-Moreno (D-North Las Vegas) and Howard Watts (D-Las Vegas).

Considine had five of her six introduced measures pass both houses with significant bipartisan support, including a measure that replaces the gendered language for crimes of sexual assault with gender-neutral language (AB214). 

Yeager saw eight of ten introduced bills pass, including AB341, which authorizes the licensing of cannabis consumption lounges, though he also presented several other, sometimes controversial, measures as chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. He presented AB400, a bill that removes “per se” limits on non-felony DUIs involving marijuana and that passed along party lines out of the Assembly. And he presented AB395, the death penalty bill that was scrapped by Democratic lawmakers in the Senate.

Though Monroe-Moreno had four of her five introduced bills pass out of both houses, including a measure that reduces the criminal penalties for minors found in possession of alcohol or small amounts of marijuana (AB158), she was also the sponsor of one of the few measures to fail to advance out of the Legislature because it failed to achieve a needed two-thirds majority. Her bill AB387, which would have established a midwifery licensure board, fell one vote shy of the two-thirds majority in the Senate.

Watts, a second-term assemblyman, sparked a variety of partisan disagreements throughout the session, as six of his ten introduced bills passed out of the Assembly with zero Republican support (Watts had eight bills pass out of both chambers). Those measures ranged broadly from a pair of environment-focused measures to a bill that bans offensive or racially discriminatory language and imagery, names, logos or mascots in Nevada schools (AB88).

In the Senate, only three legislators had more than two-thirds of their introduced measures pass out of both houses: Chris Brooks (D-Las Vegas), Roberta Lange (D-Las Vegas) and Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas).

Sen. Chris Brooks on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Brooks was the most successful of the bunch, getting five of his six introduced bills passed, including SB448, an omnibus energy bill expanding the state’s transmission infrastructure that was passed out of the Assembly on the final day of the session. With a larger number of introductions (13), Lange had twice as many bills passed as Brooks (10), covering a wide range of topics from health care to employment to a bill permanently authorizing curbside pickup at dispensaries (SB168).

The majority leader also succeeded in passing a higher percentage of her bills than most of her Senate colleagues, as 12 different Cannizzaro-sponsored bills made their way to the governor’s office. Those measures were met with varying degrees of bipartisan support, as a bill requiring data brokers to allow consumers to make requests to not sell their information passed with no opposition (SB260), while a bill barring the suspension of driver’s licenses for the nonpayment of fees received mixed support from Republicans in both chambers (SB219). Another bill, SB420, which enacts a state-managed public health insurance option, passed along party lines in both the Senate and Assembly.

A few Assembly Republicans stood above the pack, as Assembly members Jill Tolles (R-Reno), P.K. O’Neill (R-Carson City), Lisa Krasner (R-Reno) and Tom Roberts (R-Las Vegas) were the only members of their party to have at least half of their bills pass out of both houses.

Tolles, who was more likely to side with Democrats on close votes during the session than any other Republican lawmaker, found the most success of the group, as four of the six bills she introduced and sponsored were sent to the governor. Those bills that passed were met with broad bipartisan support, such as AB374 — that measure, which establishes a statewide working group in the attorney general’s office aimed at preventing and reducing substance use, passed unanimously out of both houses. The third-term legislator did introduce some bills that were killed by Democrats, such as AB248, which sought to allow "partisan observers" to watch over elections at polling places.

Assemblywoman Jill Tolles on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Four of O’Neill’s seven bills were sent to the governor. One allows the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center and Museum to designate certain buildings and grounds of the former boarding school for Native children for special events and authorizes the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages at such events (AB270). O’Neill was the only Republican present at a bill signing event for Native-focused legislation, after many of those bills passed with bipartisan support.

Half of Krasner and Roberts’ bills passed out of the Legislature, with each lawmaker introducing and sponsoring eight measures during the session.   

Nearly all four of Krasner’s bills that made it out of both chambers attracted unanimous votes, including AB143, which creates a statewide human trafficking task force and a plan for resources and services delivered to victims. Another well-received bill, AB251, seals juvenile criminal records automatically at age 18 and allows offenders to petition the court for the expungement or destruction of their juvenile records for misdemeanors. Both AB143 and AB251 have been signed by the governor.

Roberts, who was among the Republicans most likely to cross party lines and vote contrary to the majority of his caucus, had several bills sent to the governor with strong bipartisan support, including AB319, which establishes a pilot program for high school students to take dual credit courses at the College of Southern Nevada. Another of his four successful bills was AB326, which is aimed at curbing the illicit cannabis market.

Success for Republican senators in passing bills was more rare.

Sen. Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) had one bill sent to the governor and two bills killed without a hearing, giving him a higher percentage of bills passed (33 percent) than any other member of his caucus. Hansen’s one successful measure, SB112, aligns Nevada law with federal law regarding the administration of certain products for livestock. One of Hansen’s failed bills included an attempt to prohibit police officers from using surveillance devices without a warrant, unless there were pressing circumstances that presented danger to someone’s safety (SB213).

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer (R-Reno) was the second most successful member of his caucus in terms of getting bills passed, as three of the 14 measures (21 percent) he introduced passed out of both houses, including a measure establishing an esports advisory committee within the Gaming Control Board (SB165). But many of the measures introduced by Kieckhefer still failed, including a resolution to create an independent redistricting commission to conduct the reapportionment of districts (SJR9).

Only three other members of the Senate Republican caucus, including Minority Leader Settelmeyer, Hardy and Pete Goicoechea (R-Eureka), had at least 20 percent of their introduced measures pass fully out of the Legislature.

Which legislators had the least success with their bills?

Despite Democrats controlling both legislative chambers, a handful of Democratic lawmakers still had less than half of their sponsored measures sent off to the governor’s office.

In the Assembly, five members of the Democratic caucus failed to have 50 percent of their bills advance out of both houses, including Assemblywoman Michelle Gorelow (D-Las Vegas), who rounded out the bottom of the list as just one of her eight introduced bills passing out of the Legislature. Though that one successful bill — AB189, which establishes presumptive eligibility for pregnant women for Medicaid — garnered bipartisan support, many of Gorelow’s introduced measures failed to even receive an initial committee vote. Those failed bills included multiple more health care-focused measures, including an effort to require certain health plans to cover fertility preservation services (AB274).

The others in the caucus to have more than half of their bills fail were Assembly members Bea Duran (D-Las Vegas), David Orentlicher (D-Las Vegas), Edgar Flores (D-Las Vegas) and Cecelia Gonzalez (D-Las Vegas), who each had between 33 and 43 percent of their bills passed.

Duran found mixed success with her bills, getting three of her seven introduced measures passed, including a bill that requires all public middle schools, junior high schools and high schools to offer free menstrual products in bathrooms (AB224), but seeing four others fail, including one requiring public schools implement a survey about sexual misconduct (AB353).

One of Orentlicher’s five bills was among a small group that failed to advance at a mid-May deadline for second committee passage. The measure, AB243, would have required courts to consider whether a defendant is younger than 21 when deciding a sentence and failed to clear the deadline after previously passing out of the Assembly along party lines. Orentlicher introduced five bills, but only two passed out of both chambers.

While Flores introduced several measures that received broad unanimous support throughout the session, such as a measure that established a new, simpler Miranda warning for children (AB132), he also proposed several controversial measures that failed to advance out of the Assembly. One of those bills, AB351, would have allowed terminally ill patients to self-administer life-ending medication, and another, AB131, would have required all uniformed police officers to wear body cameras when interacting with the public. Only four of Flores’s ten introduced bills passed out of both legislative chambers.

Assemblymen Edgar Flores, center, and Glen Leavitt, left, speak inside the Legislature on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Gonzalez, a freshman, had four of her six introduced bills die at different times over the course of the session. Two of her bills died without ever being heard. Another bill she introduced (AB151) was never voted on by the Assembly because a Cannizzaro-sponsored bill took almost the same approach in barring the suspension of driver’s licenses for the nonpayment of fees. 

Gonzalez even had one piece of legislation, AB201, fail in its second house. That bill, which would have required more tracking and reporting on use of criminal informants, failed to advance out of a Senate committee after passing out of the Assembly along party lines.

Sen. James Ohrenschall (D-Las Vegas) was the only member of his caucus to have more than half of his bills fail. Though seven of his sponsored measures passed out of the Legislature, eleven other bills and resolutions from Ohrenschall failed to advance. Those bills often focused on the criminal justice system, including a measure that aimed to eliminate the death penalty for people who are convicted of first degree murder (SB228), though some stretched beyond that scope, such as an attempt to make Nevada the first state with an opt-out organ donation system (SB134) that failed to be voted out of committee.

Across the Senate and Assembly, eight Republican lawmakers had zero bills pass out of the Legislature. Those eight were Assembly members Alexis Hansen (R-Sparks), Annie Black (R-Mesquite), Andy Matthews (R-Las Vegas), Jill Dickman (R-Sparks), Jim Wheeler (R-Minden) and Richard McArthur (R-Las Vegas) and Sens. Carrie Buck (R-Henderson) and Pickard.

All eight of those Republicans were also among the least likely in their party to break from the majority of their caucus and vote with Democrats on legislation.

State Senator Keith Pickard on the fourth day of the 81st session of the Legislature in Carson City on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Those eight legislators introduced 70 measures combined, of which 58 died without ever receiving a committee hearing. Pickard was particularly unsuccessful, as he introduced 20 bills, and only one received a committee hearing before failing to advance past the first committee passage deadline in early April. The Henderson-based senator was previously derided by Democratic lawmakers, after backing out of a deal with Senate Democrats centered on a mining tax during one of the 2020 special sessions.

When were bills heard and when did they pass?

Throughout the session, lawmakers often waited until the latest possible days to complete the work needed for certain legislative deadlines.

In the week leading up to the first major deadline — bills and resolutions without an exemption were required to have passed out of their first committee by April 9 — lawmakers voted 336 bills out of committee. In the roughly nine weeks prior to that, only 236 bills were passed out of their first committee.

The other deadlines of the legislative session followed a similar pattern.

In the week leading up to and the week including the first house passage deadline (April 20), 340 bills received a vote in their first house, while just 71 bills were voted out of their first house in the 10 previous weeks.

The busiest week of the session was the week ending May 21, which included the second house passage deadline (May 20). During that week, 337 bills and resolutions were voted out of their second house, while a couple hundred more measures were acted on in some other way, including committee hearings, committee votes and first house votes.

The final shortened weekend of the session, stretching from May 29 through May 31, was also chock-full of legislative action, as lawmakers passed more than 150 bills out of their second house during those three final days.

Republican-introduced bills decimated by committee passage deadline

The majority of bills introduced by Republican legislators this session failed to advance past last Friday’s first committee passage deadline, with nearly half of GOP-sponsored bills dying without a hearing.

Out of 249 bills and resolutions introduced by Republican legislators this year, 162 died at the deadline, including 121 bills that never received a committee hearing. Some of the top Republican-backed efforts that failed included election bills repealing expanded mail voting (AB134) and requiring proof of identity before voting (AB137, AB163) and attempts to curb the governor’s emergency powers (AB93, AB373).

A handful of Republican senators bore the brunt of that devastation, including Minority Leader James Settelmeyer (R-Minden), Keith Pickard (R-Henderson) and Carrie Buck (R-Henderson), who combined to sponsor 34 bills that never received a hearing prior to the deadline.

Pickard, who backed out of a deal with Senate Democrats during 2020’s special session, led that group with 13 bills that died without a hearing. However, Pickard does have some bills left alive, as six of his 20 introduced bills were ruled exempt from the deadline.

Buck, a freshman lawmaker who does not have a single bill left alive and received a hearing for only one piece of legislation she introduced, said on Twitter during deadline week that she thinks the policy this session is “ALL bad.”

In this year’s Democrat-controlled Legislature, lawmakers in the majority fared better. Of 334 bills introduced by Democrats, 78 died at the deadline, with only 46 of those never receiving a hearing.

Some Democratic lawmakers even escaped the first deadline with no casualties. Assembly members Cameron “C.H.” Miller (D-North Las Vegas), Daniele Monroe-Moreno (D-North Las Vegas), Sandra Jauregui (D-Las Vegas) and Susie Martinez (D-Las Vegas) introduced a combined 26 bills this session, none of which died last Friday.

Several Democratic lawmakers were not as fortunate. Assemblywoman Michelle Gorelow (D-Las Vegas) and Sen. James Ohrenschall (D-Las Vegas) were the only lawmakers in their party to have more than half of their introduced bills killed at the deadline. Several of those failed bills were controversial, including an effort to curb use of the death penalty and a bill that would have established an opt-out organ donation system.

With the next major deadline less than a week away, Republican legislators are facing another potential wave of dead bills, as more than 90 percent of their remaining measures have yet to receive a floor vote.

This story first appeared in Behind the Bar, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2021 Legislature. Sign up for the newsletter here.

Out of the shadows: LGBTQ lawmakers reflect on past struggles, future goals

State Senator David Parks, left, greets, Assemblyman Howard Watts II

In late March, Assemblywoman Sarah Peters (D-Reno) stood up in the Assembly chambers to make history — coming out as openly pansexual, one of just three such state legislators in the country.

“Being celebrated for my queerness is weird,” she wrote on Twitter after the floor session. “Being bisexual and pansexual comes with so much guilt and questioning. Am I queer enough? Am I gay enough? What if I end up heteronormative, am I straight? Y'all, we are all enough and worth celebrating!”

But Nevada, as with many other states, has a long history of not celebrating but persecuting individuals who identify as LGBTQ. Almost 160 years ago, state lawmakers enacted anti-sodomy laws that were used to terrify, blackmail and persecute members of the LGBTQ community ⁠— laws that weren’t repealed until 1993. 

And 18 years ago, Nevada voters overwhelmingly adopted a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage that wasn’t fully overturned until a 2014 court decision.

But the path toward full recognition and equality for LGBTQ populations hasn’t always moved in one consistent direction. Six years before voters approved the same-sex marriage ban, the first openly gay member of the Legislature — David Parks — was elected, kicking off a two-decade legislative career that contributed to the state being named one of the best for LGBTQ rights by the time he left office in 2019

Assemblywoman Sarah Peters during the first day of the 81st session of the Legislature in Carson City on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Peters’ ability to share her sexual orientation on the floor of the Legislature without immediate political or social repercussions is not an overnight shift, but rather a product of decades of advocacy and legislation, LGBTQ advocates and lawmakers say.

Figures such as Parks, former Sen. Lori Lipman Brown, an ally who helped overturn Nevada’s anti-sodomy laws, and Sen. Pat Spearman (D-Las Vegas), the first openly lesbian woman to serve in legislative office, are among those who pushed for equal treatment under the law regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Parks, an introvert by nature, never expected to run for office, but after much “arm-twisting” from members of the state party and after he considered the difference he could make as a legislator, he tossed his hat into the ring in 1996 to run for Assembly.

As an active member of groups addressing HIV/AIDS issues, Parks knew that hiding his sexuality on the campaign trail was not an option.

“There was no way that I could deny that I was gay,” he said. “I don't know if it's the fact that being gay, that I’ve used my life experiences in a way that I'm able to connect with voters from a wide variety of backgrounds, but I seemed to have had a really good connection in that respect.”

State Senator David Parks
State Senator David Parks on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020 during the third day of the 32nd Special Session of the Legislature in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Throughout his campaigns, Parks described facing vitriolic, anti-homophobic sentiment from opponents, but he was able to maintain his seat and pass landmark legislation — often signed by Republican governors — that provided funding for HIV and AIDS programs, banned gay conversion therapy programs, established trans-inclusive health benefits, addressed “gay panic” defenses and implemented anti-bullying laws.

“I went through some pretty hard knocks,” Parks said. “[A USA Today headline] said ‘Nevada Ranks the Best State in America for LGBTQ People.’ And that's, I think, a major accomplishment that 25 years ago, I would not have thought that.”

Parks termed out of office after the 2019 session, but his legacy is still felt in the Legislature. Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas) said he not only blazed trails for the LGBTQ community, but also brought forward legislation that benefited everyone.

“Growing up, I used to think, if I'm ever going to run, I probably need to move to San Francisco in the most liberal district,” Harris said. “I've got tattoos on my arms and just thought, it's probably not going to happen anywhere else.”

Harris said she did not think it was possible for her to run for public office until she was first appointed in 2018.

While she was in high school, Harris remembers pulling “protect marriage” signs advocating for banning gay marriage in the state Constitution from yards. Nearly two decades later, she watched voters undo the ban from her seat in the Nevada Senate — an office she ran for with a picture of her and her wife and their child on a campaign mailer. 

Nevada State Senators Dallas Harris and Mo Denis on the fourth day of the 31st Special Session of the Legislature in Carson City on Saturday, July 11, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Spearman vividly remembers the inception of the federal policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which condemned discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community but also prohibited military service members from being openly queer. 

An Army veteran, Spearman said that discussions around repealing the policy ultimately led her to come out to her community and the church where she was serving as pastor.

“It angered me when I heard some politicians in Washington saying, ‘we don't want them in the military because it would destroy morale and the good order,’” Spearman said. “We've been there. We're in graveyards. We're in Arlington National Cemetery.”

Seven members of her congregation left, Spearman said, but she did not want to hide who she was.

“I'm always conscious of the fact that I am intersectional. I'm Black, I'm a woman and I'm a same gender-loving woman,” Spearman said. “I have to look at it through all of those lenses because that's who I am ... and if you have a problem with it, then one of us probably needs to leave and I'm taking a seat right here.”

State Senator Pat Spearman on the first day of the 81st session of the Legislature in Carson City on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Watching Spearman run for office made running as an out bisexual woman much easier, said Sen. Melanie Scheible (D-Las Vegas). She wondered aloud in an interview with The Nevada Independent about past lawmakers and historical figures who had to mask their identity.

“I look back at all the pictures on the walls of all of the former legislators ... and I don't think we'll ever know how many gay, bisexual, lesbian, trans, nonbinary, asexual, otherwise, not cis-gender heterosexual legislators there have been in Nevada,” Scheible said. 

Others, including Harris, said that having that representation matters and helps young people to grow into adulthood without having to hide their sexual orientation.

“If there is one kid who was like, ‘Oh, that person's like me. I could do that’ and it inspires them to be their best selves, if that happens, then I have done more than enough,” Harris said. “There is serious power in being here, in walking the halls, in speaking up, and that's just as important, if not more than, the small pieces of the Legislature.”

State Senator Melanie Scheible on the fourth day of the 81st session of the Legislature in Carson City on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

When Parks was first elected to office, he estimated that there were roughly 50 openly gay individuals serving in public office across the nation, most of them located in coastal areas and major metropolitan cities. Now there are five openly LGBTQ lawmakers serving in the Legislature and 979 openly LGBTQ elected officials in the U.S. which account for 0.19 percent of all elected officials. A little more than 28,000 LGBTQ people would need to be elected to achieve equitable representation in the U.S.

And LGBTQ lawmakers past and present say there’s still a lot of work to be done.

For Scheible, having an openly transgender legislator would indicate increased social progress. Harris said she would like to see more non-LGBTQ members of the Legislature pass LGBTQ-focused laws.

“I think we're all better off when we have everyone thinking about everybody,” Harris said.

Though Scheible, Harris and Spearman are driving much of the legislation surrounding the LGBTQ community, the lawmakers said their focus extends beyond that community.

As a bisexual, white woman, Scheible can mask her identity and does not have to be vocal about LGBTQ or other issues, Spearman said. However, Spearman said Scheible’s outspokenness and willingness to raise awareness is what all lawmakers should strive for, regardless of background.

“It's important for other people, who have access to privilege that I will never have, to understand what courage looks like,” Spearman said.

State Senators Dallas Harris, right, and Melanie Scheible arrive at the Legislature on Friday, July 31, 2020 during the first day of the 32nd Special Session of the Legislature in Carson City.
State Senators Dallas Harris, right, and Melanie Scheible arrive at the Legislature on Friday, July 31, 2020 during the first day of the 32nd Special Session of the Legislature in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Below is an overview of bills introduced this session with implications for Nevada’s LGBTQ community.

Equal Rights Amendment set for the ballot box

Nevada voters will have a chance to codify the Equal Rights Amendment in the state Constitution on the 2022 ballot, after lawmakers approved SJR8 this session. The measure would formally guarantee equal rights, regardless of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry or national origin, and copies language from the still-unapproved federal Equal Rights Amendment.

Democratic lawmakers and a handful of Republicans supporting the amendment hailed it as a landmark change that would codify protections for all Nevadans.

"Despite passing laws that have incrementally eroded pieces of inequality, barriers still exist, laid bare for the world to see in the midst of a global pandemic," Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) said.

Republican Sens. Ira Hansen (R-Sparks), Carrie Buck (R-Henderson) and Pete Goicoechea (R-Eureka) voted against the proposed constitutional amendment, which was approved on an 18-3 vote in the Senate. 

Hansen said that he voted no out of fear that the law would remove protections given to minorities, and the inclusion of gender identity and expression in the bill would allow biological males to compete in women’s sports.

"I don't want to see this body give up the rights for all of my female children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, or any other women in the state of Nevada," Hansen said.

Sen. Keith Pickard (R-Henderson) voted in favor of the bill.

"I do understand the concerns of my constituents, that the language will be misinterpreted and misused to promote changes in social order that is incompatible with their personal beliefs," Pickard said. "But while I may share those concerns, I still believe that we should be supporting equality under the law."

Adoption bill passed by committee would allow multiple parents to adopt a child

Assemblywoman Rochelle Nguyen (D-Las Vegas) introduced AB115, which would allow multiple parents to adopt a child without removing another parent from the birth certificate. 

The bill would recognize the parental rights of stepparents and same-sex parents and would allow for children who are born to surrogate parents or who have divorced parents to have more than two names listed on a birth certificate.

Cathy Sakimura, deputy director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said the bill is vital for children's well-being and would ensure diverse and multi-parent families are "protected and given the same dignity and respect as other families."

Members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee unanimously passed the bill on March 12. The bill awaits a vote in the Assembly.

From left, Nevada State Senators, Dallas Harris, Melanie Scheible and Yvanna Cancela arrive at the Legislature on the eighth day of the 31st Special Session in Carson City on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Addressing HIV stigma

To destigmatize human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a bill sponsored by Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas) would update Nevada law to treat the virus in the same way as other communicable diseases.

The bill, SB275, would repeal a Nevada statute that makes it a felony for someone who has tested positive for HIV to intentionally, knowingly or willfully engage in conduct intended or likely to transmit the disease. 

Repealing that statute would mean a person who has contracted HIV and engaged in such behavior would instead receive a warning for a first offense. For a second offense, the individual would be guilty of a misdemeanor — a punishment in line with the treatment of other communicable diseases, such as chlamydia and SARS.

"The priority for me is equality," Harris said during a hearing on the bill. "The goal is to remove the statutory stigma that was intentionally placed into our laws all the way across the country that's done nothing but harm to those who have contracted HIV."

Other changes within the bill would remove discriminatory language.

"These laws were written back in the '80s and '90s," said André Wade, chair of the state's Advisory Task Force on HIV Exposure Modernization. "Whenever there's a specific call out of HIV, instead of including it as a communicable disease … then that, in and of itself, is stigmatizing."

The bill was heard on April 1, and as of Friday had not been scheduled for a committee vote.

Gender-neutral language

Sponsored by Assemblywoman Venicia Considine (D-Las Vegas), AB214 would replace language related to sexual assault crimes with gender-neutral language. The bill would remove references to “he or she” and “himself or herself,” replacing those pronouns with “the person’s,” “the child,” and “the perpetrator.”

The bill was heard on March 12, and passed out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee on March 24.

Study on services for veterans

AB172, introduced by Assemblywoman Michelle Gorelow (D-Las Vegas), would require the Nevada Veterans Services Commission to conduct a study on the effectiveness of its services for LGBTQ people, women or people of color. 

The study would analyze services provided to veterans and military members, and spouses and dependents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, persons of color and women.

The bill hasn’t been scheduled for a hearing, but was given a notice of exemption from legislative deadlines in early March. State lawmakers usually limit the number of interim studies, and wait until the end of the session to approve which studies will go forward.

State Senators Marcia Washington, left, and Pat Spearman
State Senators Marcia Washington, left, and Pat Spearman on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020 during the third day of the 32nd Special Session of the Legislature in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Strengthening protections against discrimination and harassment 

SB51, which comes on behalf of the state's human resources department, would require the state to ensure that its employees do not engage in sex or gender-based harassment. The bill was heard on March 11 but hasn’t yet been voted out of committee.

The bill prohibits state employees from engaging in such behavior against anyone in the workplace, including a job applicant. It also creates the Sex-or Gender-Based Harassment and Discrimination Investigation Unit within the division and requires an investigator to prepare a written report of findings.

The state is already practicing a majority of SB51's proposals, but passing the bill would protect and solidify the investigation unit's role, said Peter Long, an administrator for the Division of Human Resource Management. 

In a similar vein, SB109, sponsored by Sen. Pat Spearman (D-Las Vegas), aims to protect LGBTQ individuals by ensuring that their personal information related to sexual orientation or gender identity remains confidential. Proponents say the bill would help address the many disparities LGBTQ persons already experience in health and welfare, including high rates of poverty, suicide, homelessness and violence.

Under the bill, which was heard on March 26 and is scheduled for a committee vote on Monday, individuals would not have to provide a government agency with any information about sexual orientation or gender identity or be denied services or assistance from a governmental agency for failure to provide that information.

Jury duty

A bill on the table would seek to codify a defendant's right to be judged by a jury of peers.

The bill, SB223, sponsored by Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas), would stipulate that the opportunity for jury service cannot be denied or limited based on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age or physical disability of a person.

"These protections are not a new idea," Harris said during the bill's presentation on March 23. "They just need to be codified to be preserved."

Language in the bill would not affect the process of creating a jury by dismissing people. Instead, it would ensure that the attorneys on the case are not removing people from the already-selected jury based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, age, physical disability, race or religion, Harris said.

"Such discriminatory treatment undermines the justice system and could hurt crime victims by preventing a fair trial by jury of their peers as well," Harris said.

Harris added that although the Supreme Court has ruled that excluding a juror based on race or gender is unconstitutional, neither the Supreme Court nor federal law explicitly prohibits discrimination in jury service based on other characteristics, such as sexual orientation.

Nevada State Senator Melanie Scheible on the eighth day of the 31st Special Session of the Legislature in Carson City on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Transgender protections

SB258, sponsored by Sen. Melanie Scheible (D-Las Vegas), would require the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) to adopt new standards for transgender and non-binary inmates, including adding cultural competency training for correctional staff. The bill was heard on March 29, and was voted out of committee on April 1.

Under the bill, the director of prisons would have to adopt regulations outlining standards in each institution and facility of the department for the supervision, custody, care, security, housing and medical and mental health treatment of transgender, gender non-conforming, gender non-binary and intersex inmates.

Standards would also include the use of respectful language and currently accepted terminology that accounts for and protects the rights of those inmates.

Debora Striplin, coordinator of the Prison Rape Elimination Act at NDOC, said during a hearing that there are about 50 inmates who have self-identified as transgender. 

Some committee members worried that broad standards surrounding the fluidity of gender could lead to inmates lying about their gender identity.

"My concern is that we're just perpetuating the same problem if we don't give them clear guidance ... What standards are we going to make the NDOC follow if it's not biological science?" said Sen. Keith Pickard (R-Henderson).

Another bill introduced by Assemblywoman Sarah Peters, AB280, would require all single-occupancy public restrooms to be gender-neutral. Transgender rights activists praised the bill as a necessary step to make people who are nonbinary or transgender feel safer.

Bill would prohibit insurers from denying treatment for gender dysphoria

Sen. Melanie Scheible (D-Las Vegas) presented a bill on March 12 that would require insurance companies, including Medicaid, to provide for the treatment of gender dysphoria.

Scheible said SB139 would ensure “trans people are treated equitably and with dignity” and address instances of insurance companies denying medically necessary surgeries. 

“When insurers fail to cover medically necessary care, people suffer anxiety, depression, social ostracism, and a higher risk of suicide,” transgender rights advocate Brooke Maylath said during the bill presentation. “SB139 is designed to send a clear message to the greater healthcare community – discrimination is not acceptable in Nevada.” 

Those seeking gender reassignment surgery already require separate letters from a psychiatrist or psychologist and a medical doctor. The letters have to attest that the patient has performed certain levels of therapy and medical interventions before qualifying for the surgery.

In 2015, the Nevada Division of Insurance issued bulletin 15-002 prohibiting the denial, exclusion or limitation of medically necessary health care services based on gender identity or expression. For example, a plan covering a medically essential mastectomy for a cisgender woman must also cover a medically necessary mastectomy for a transgender man. 

“Despite these laws and policies, transgender persons still experienced denials of coverage,” Maylath said. “Those denials are most heavily felt amongst our Back and brown sisters and brothers. These exceptional marginalizations cause multiple barriers to health and opportunity.”

Treatment, including hormone replacement therapy and surgeries, is considered medically necessary because, without them, the mental health of people who have gender dysphoria would suffer.

“The policy is fairly rigorous to ensure that an individual has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria disorder and has sought several levels of treatment prior to having the surgery paid for and authorized by Medicaid,” said DuAne Young, deputy administrator for the Division of Healthcare Financing and Policy.

The bill was amended and passed out of committee on April 2.

Senator David Parks on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020 during the sixth day of the 32nd Special Session of the Legislature in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Giving LGBTQ owned businesses additional support

Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas) has introduced a bill that would broaden the definition of the term “disadvantaged business” in existing law to include Nevada's LGBTQ community, allowing those businesses access the same type of assistance and loan programs afforded to other minority-owned businesses. 

The bill, SB237, was heard on March 23 and would apply to businesses owned by an individual who identifies as LGBTQ or have at least 51 percent of its ownership held by one or more individuals who identify as LGBTQ. 

“As we work through Nevada's economic recovery, we're going to need to make sure that all of Nevada's small businesses have the resources they need,” Nevada Treasurer Zach Conine said during the hearing. “By elevating the voices of our LGBTQ business community, we can work collaboratively to create a state that is more inclusive and prosperous for all Nevadans.” 

Committee members raised the question of whether business owners would require "proof" they are part of the LGBTQ community and worried about potential fraud. 

Tim Haughinberry, president of the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Nevada, said the law already requires businesses to be certified to participate in the assistance and loan programs. 

“I hear this question a lot, and the truth is, no one is out there masquerading as a disadvantaged person in order to gain some perceived advantage,” Harris said. “This is actually not an issue in practice and generally these types of arguments are only used to suggest that LGBTQ businesses, or even LGBTQ persons, don't need any additional protections.” 

Follow the Money: Breaking down $1.7 million in legislative campaign spending from PACs, political groups and politicians

The Legislature on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020 during the third day of the 32nd Special Session in Carson City.

Of more than $10.6 million spent on Nevada legislative races in the 2020 cycle, no single group of donors, corporate or otherwise, spent more money than candidates, politicians and political PACs, which combined for more than $1.7 million spread across 61 of the state’s 63 lawmakers.  

That represents an uptick compared to 2018, when the same group of donors gave less than $1.4 million in the aggregate. 

Of these donors, dozens of candidate campaign committees — i.e. the formal fundraising accounts for each individual campaign — combined to be by far the largest single chunk with more than $931,000 contributed. They were followed by political groups and related PACs ($556,000), candidate-linked PACs ($117,500) and loans from candidates to their own campaigns ($113,366).

Broadly speaking, these contributions came in smaller chunks, and no single donor spent more than five figures in combined contributions. And, though the sum of these contributions has increased overall, many individual donors — especially issue-related or politically affiliated PACs — contributed less money than they did in 2018. 

In order to assess broad trends in campaign spending, The Nevada Independent categorized and analyzed more than 7,700 individual contributions of more than $200 made to sitting lawmakers in 2019 and 2020. 

These contributions capture nearly all campaign spending through that period, and more broadly show to whom the largest contributions flowed and how much they were worth overall. 

The data in this story show only part of the broader whole: 978 contributions from 271 unique donors fell under the umbrella of candidate or political PAC contributions. 

There are, however, two legislators not captured in these numbers, both appointed to their seats after the election and after a freeze on legislative contributions. They are Sen. Fabian Donate (D-Las Vegas), who replaced former Sen. Yvanna Cancela following her appointment to a post in the federal Department of Health and Human Services; and Assemblywoman Tracy Brown-May (D-Las Vegas), who replaced former Assemblyman Alexander Assefa after he resigned amid a criminal probe into the misuse of campaign funds and a residency issue. 

No single lawmaker raised nearly as much as Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas), who brought in more than $215,000 from 45 contributors for her highly competitive re-election bid last year. 

Almost half of that money — an even $100,000 — came from just 10 donors giving Cannizzaro the maximum of $10,000 allowed by state campaign finance law. Four of those max-donors — Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D-Las Vegas), Sen. Roberta Lange (D-Las Vegas), Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop (D-Las Vegas) and Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas) — were fellow legislative Democrats, while the rest came from former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and three more politician-related PACs. 

Those PACs include Gov. Steve Sisolak’s Sandstone PAC, Sen. Jacky Rosen’s Smart Solutions PAC and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s All for Our Country Leadership PAC.

Rounding out the list of top fundraisers are a number of other lawmakers who found themselves in extremely competitive — and consequently extremely expensive — elections. That includes Sen. Heidi Gansert (R-Reno), who raised $147,450; Assemblywoman Heidi Kasama, who raised $147,138, including roughly $119,000 in candidate loans; Sen. Carrie Buck, who raised $130,800; and Sen. Roberta Lange, who raised $113,650. 

All of those top fundraisers received a mix of PAC and campaign committee funds, though only one, Kasama, saw a massive fundraising boost from the addition of candidate loans made to her campaign. For the purposes of this analysis, those loans do not formally make Kasama a “contributor” like other major donors listed below, but still represent a massive influx of campaign cash relative to other campaign contributions. 

The near-$119,000 Kasama loaned her own campaign was so much that, if counted with other donors, it would make her the 10th largest legislative contributor in the entire election, sandwiched between the Southern Nevada Home Builders Association PAC ($119,000) and the public workers’ union AFSCME ($114,500). 

Unlike industry-related spending, contributions made from candidates, candidate PACs or political groups were largely diffuse, with no single donor giving more than five-figures (excluding Kasama’s candidate loans, which do not share the same fundraising role as other contributors listed here). 

Those top donors otherwise include a mix of politicians and issue-focused groups, including Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson with $68,000 contributed; the Humane Society-linked Humane Nevada PAC with $60,500; the Keystone Corporation, a Nevada-based conservative group, with $50,000; and the pro-Democratic Party, pro-abortion rights and pro-women candidates group EMILY’s List with $48,300. 

Below is a breakdown of spending from those top-donors. 

With generally little risk of an election loss in a deep blue district — Frierson has won each of his last three elections by between 16 and 20 percentage points — a non-trivial portion of the speaker’s sizable campaign warchest has, cycle by cycle, trickled down to a number of his fellow Democratic lawmakers. 

In 2020, that included contributions to 10 assembly colleagues and fellow legislative leader Cannizzaro, who received the maximum $10,000 from Frierson’s campaign. 

Other lawmakers receiving that maximum include incumbent Assemblywomen Michelle Gorelow (D-Las Vegas) and Lesley Cohen (D-Henderson), as well as legislative newcomer Elaine Marzola (D-Henderson), with the remaining recipients all receiving $5,000 or less.    

A pro-animal rights PAC linked to the Humane Society, Humane Nevada PAC was unique among top politically affiliated PACs in its contributions to members of both parties. The group gave $60,500 spread across 33 lawmakers last cycle, with $45,500 going to 21 Democrats, and the remaining $15,000 going to 12 Republicans.  

A new PAC to the 2020 cycle — it was created in 2018 but did not spend any money until last year — Humane Nevada’s contributions were also generally small, rarely exceeding a few thousand dollars. Among its recipients, no legislator received the maximum contribution amount and only two — Cannizzaro ($7,500) and Frierson ($5,000) received more than $3,500. 

A Nevada-based non-profit corporation organized in the 1990s around advocating for conservative policy, the Keystone Corporation has since served as a reliable donor for state Republicans. 

In 2020, that amounted to $50,000 spread across 20 Republican lawmakers, all but five members of the Legislature’s Republican caucus. And, as with a number of other major donors, Keystone’s biggest contributions flowed to some of the most competitive races. 

The two biggest recipients were Sen. Carrie Buck (R-Las Vegas) and Assemblyman Andy Matthews (R-Las Vegas), who each received the $10,000 maximum. Four Republicans — Sen. Scott Hammond (R-Las Vegas), Assemblyman Richard McArthur (R-Las Vegas), Assemblywoman Jill Dickman (R-Sparks) and Sen. Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno) — received $5,000, while the remaining 14 received $2,000 or less.     

A national group prioritizing the election of Democratic, pro-abortion women candidates, EMILY’s List is routinely among the top politically affiliated PAC donors in each Nevada election cycle. In 2020, those donations — split across both EMILY’s List and the EMILY’s List NF Fund PAC — amounted to $48,300 across just 10 legislators, all women and all Democrats. 

The four biggest recipients were Cohen ($11,500), Marzola ($10,000), Cannizzaro ($9,900) and Gorelow ($9,900), with the remaining six receiving just $1,500 or less. 

Still, that amount is roughly 37 percent less than EMILY’s list spent in Nevada in 2018, when its $77,000 total made it the spendiest single political group of the entire cycle.   

As part of our Follow the Money series The Nevada Independent will be publishing deep dives over the coming weeks into the industries that dominated legislative campaign spending in the 2020 campaign cycle. To see previous installments, follow the links below: 

Tim Lenard, Riley Snyder and Sean Golonka contributed to this report.

Follow the Money: Breaking down more than $1 million in union and labor group spending on legislative campaigns

As in most election years, no single group of political donors was a bigger booster for legislative Democrats than labor unions, which shelled out more than $1 million on legislative campaigns in 2020, of which roughly 94 percent went to Democrats. 

Still, it was a sharp drop in contributions from labor groups, which doled out nearly $1.4 million during the 2018 midterm elections and almost $1.7 million in 2016. 

In order to assess broad trends in campaign spending, The Nevada Independent categorized and analyzed more than 7,700 contributions of more than $200 made to sitting Nevada lawmakers in 2019 and 2020. 

These contributions capture nearly all campaign spending in the two-year cycle, and more broadly show to whom the largest contributions flowed and how much those contributions were worth in the aggregate. 

The data in this story represent a slice of the broader whole: 746 unique contributions from 63 donors — from union-controlled political action committees to a handful of individual union leaders — fell into the broad category of unions and labor.

There are, however, some points not captured in these data: 11 sitting legislators did not receive any contributions from union or union-affiliated donors. That group includes two Democrats — Sen. Fabian Donate (D-Las Vegas) and Assemblywoman Tracy Brown-May (D-Las Vegas) — who were appointed after the 2020 election; one Democratic senator, Sen. Melanie Scheible (D-Las Vegas), who was not up for re-election and raised the least of any sitting lawmaker last cycle; and eight Republicans. 

Also excluded are any funds spent on losing candidates, a group that includes a handful of well-funded Democratic incumbents and challengers in highly competitive districts in both Reno and Las Vegas. 

Breaking down the top contributors

Unlike some other industries, where the largest contributions are clustered among a handful of wealthy donors at the top, labor contributions were largely spread across dozens of unions. Few groups gave lawmakers more than $50,000, and only one gave more than $100,000. 

Even so, taken together the top 10 donors still comprise a majority of all labor contributions, roughly 56 percent, with the bottom 53 donors making up the remainder. 

Among the smaller labor donors, many unions still gave in relatively large amounts, comparative to small donors in other industries. An additional 17 donors gave between $35,000 and $10,000, and just 13 donors gave less than $2,000. 

Below is a donor-by-donor breakdown of the three largest labor contributors. 

Leading the pack of PACs was the only six-figure union donor last cycle: the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which cumulatively gave 31 legislators — all Democrats — $114,500. 

AFSCME has long been a campaign booster for state Democrats, most recently spending more than $3.7 million on Gov. Steve Sisolak’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign ahead of a push to allow state workers to collectively bargain in 2019. 

But even among AFSCME contributions given solely to legislators, spending dipped by roughly 25 percent in 2020, down from the $153,000 the union spent in 2018. 

Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) — who spent much of 2020 locked in a highly competitive re-election campaign — was the only lawmaker to see a maximum $10,000 contribution from AFCSME. 

Three other legislators — Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D-Las Vegas), Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson (D-Reno) and Assemblywoman Elaine Marzola (D-Henderson) — received $7,500, while the remaining 27 recipients received $6,500 or less. 

The Service Employees International Union, which represents service employees and hospital employees, among others, contributed $75,500 to 25 Democrats last cycle, enough to make it the second-largest labor donor. 

Even so, SEIU’s legislative campaign spending dropped by nearly 29 percent in 2020, down from $106,000 spent in the 2018 cycle. 

Once again, Cannizzaro was the sole legislator to receive the $10,000 maximum from SEIU, with Frierson and Assemblywoman Michelle Gorelow (D-Las Vegas) following behind with $7,500 each. 

Five legislators — Sen. Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas), Sen. Dina Neal (D-North Las Vegas), Assemblywoman Lesley Cohen (D-Henderson), Assemblywoman Shondra Summers-Armstrong (D-Las Vegas) and Assemblywoman Claire Thomas (D-North Las Vegas) — received $5,000, while the remaining 17 received $3,000 or less. 

The Nevada State Education Association, the statewide teachers union, came up as the third-largest donor last cycle, contributing $73,000 to 29 legislators (all Democrats). 

But amid widespread school closures and months of uncertainty over the future of in-person teaching, that topline figure is a sharp drop from similar spending in 2018, when NSEA contributed more than twice as much — $154,500 — spread across 35 lawmakers. 

In 2020, no legislator saw the maximum from NSEA, though Assemblywoman Natha Anderson (D-Sparks) — who at one time led the Washoe County Teachers Association union —  did receive $9,000. Frierson and Assemblywoman Brittney Miller (D-Las Vegas) followed behind with $5,000, while the remaining 26 recipients received $4,000 or less.

Notably absent from the legislative fundraising rolls is the state’s other major education union: the Clark County Education Association, which gave just $5,000 to Sen. Mo Denis, the chair of the Senate Education Committee. 

Instead, much of CCEA’s fundraising — $190,000 in raw contributions and more than $107,000 in additional in-kind contributions — went to Strategic Horizons PAC, a group founded by the union in 2019 with the aim of drastically boosting state funding through tax increases. 

Breaking down the top recipients

Though legislative leaders often see more contributions than rank-and-file members, a disproportionately vast share of the union total went to the state’s two Democratic leaders — Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D-Las Vegas) — who combined to received more than 30 percent of all union contributions last cycle. 

Cannizzaro in particular, who led all recipients with more than $196,000 in union and labor contributions, was an outlier among both her fellow senators and all legislators taken together. Of more than $346,000 raised by state senators of both parties from labor groups, nearly 57 percent was raised solely by Cannizzaro. 

Overall, nearly all union-related contributions — roughly 94 percent, or more than $970,000 — went to legislative Democrats. Only a handful of public safety-related unions for police and firefighters gave to both Republicans and Democrats, and of those unions, only the Las Vegas Police Protective Association gave more to Republicans ($8,500) than to Democrats ($7,500). 

Over the coming weeks, as part of our Follow the Money series The Nevada Independent will be publishing deep dives into the industries that dominated legislative campaign spending in the 2020 campaign cycle. To see previous installments, follow the links below: 

Tim Lenard, Riley Snyder and Sean Golonka contributed to this report.

EMILY’s List announces ‘historic’ $250,000 investment to keep the Legislature blue

EMILY’s List, the pro-choice women's political advocacy group, has invested more than a quarter of a million dollars into competitive Nevada legislative races this cycle with the goal of keeping the Legislature in Democratic hands.

The organization has spent $256,100 this cycle in direct contributions to lawmakers, candidates and Democratic legislative caucuses, including $150,000 to the Nevada Senate Democratic Caucus. EMILY’s List also contributed $15,500 to the Nevada Assembly Democratic Caucus and $10,000 each to Democratic candidates in several competitive Assembly races.

According to EMILY’s List, it is the largest financial investment the organization has made in legislative races in Nevada in an effort to “increase and diversify women’s leadership across the country.”

“With early voting in full swing and so much at stake for health care and redistricting in 2021, we are confident that our historic investment will make the difference in the final push toward Election Day and once again help get our women over the finish line,” Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, said in a statement.

In total, the organization has endorsed 21 pro-choice Democratic female legislative candidates in Nevada this cycle, including five in Senate races, Kristee Watson in District 5, Senate Democratic Leader Nicole Cannizzaro in District 6, Roberta Lange in District 7, Sen. Dallas Harris in District 11 and Wendy Jauregui-Jackins in District 15.

In the Assembly, EMILY’s List is backing 16 candidates: Radhika Kunnel in District 2, Assemblywoman Connie Munk in District 4, Assemblywoman Brittney Miller in District 5, Shondra Summers-Armstrong in District 6, Assemblywoman Rochelle Nguyen in District 10, Assemblywoman Bea Duran in District 11, Cecelia González in District 16, Clara Thomas in District 17, Venicia Considine in District 18, Elaine Marzola in District 21, Assemblywoman Lesley Cohen in District 29, Natha Anderson in District 30, Assemblywoman Michelle Gorelow in District 35, Assemblywoman Shea Backus in District 37 and Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui in District 41.

Two years ago, Nevada became the first state in the nation to have a female-majority Legislature. Of the 63 lawmakers who serve in the Senate and Assembly, 33 are women.

Women are likely to hold at least 36 seats in the Legislature next year, either because they are running with a party that has an overwhelming voter registration advantage in their district, face no opponents, are not up for re-election or both candidates in a competitive race are women.

What to watch in the 2020 primary election: Assembly and state Senate races

The inside of the Nevada Legislature during State of the State

When the dust settles on the June 9 primary election, Nevadans will have a good sense of who’s going to win about half of the seats up for grabs in the statehouse.

Party control of the Legislature is always a major objective for lawmakers in both parties, and the 2021 session will give lawmakers and Gov. Steve Sisolak the once-in-a-decade chance to redraw district boundaries during the redistricting process. 

It’s a process that could help lock in party advantages for congressional representatives, legislators and other elected officials for the next ten years (although a group is attempting to qualify a constitutional amendment creating an independent redistricting commission). Democrats control more than two-thirds of Assembly seats and are one seat shy of a supermajority in the state Senate. 

But candidates facing a massive variable — a global pandemic that has canceled the traditional trappings of a campaign, diverted attention from elections and spurred a shift to a virtually all-mail voting system with unpredictable turnout patterns.

“Under normal circumstances, a good pair of running shoes and the money to print up campaign literature could potentially be enough for a candidate to win a race simply by outworking their opponent,” said Eric Roberts of the Assembly Republican Caucus. “The old saying goes, ‘If you knock, you win.’ In 2020, that is all out the window.”

Largely unable to talk to voters at the door during the crucial weeks leading up to voting season, candidates can communicate through mail pieces — if they can drum up the money to pay for it. Businesses such as casinos that typically make sizable donations in state-level politics have seen their revenue flatline, and the effect ripples to candidates.

There are phone calls, political text messages and email missives. But what some observers think could make a difference is how well candidates leverage social media and digital advertising. 

A new challenge is the sudden shift to voting by mail. Up to this point, voting in person has been the method of choice for Nevadans, with the majority of those voters opting for a two-week early vote window.

This time, voters are receiving ballots in the mail more than a month before Election Day, elongating the voting period. With weeks left to go, tens of thousands of Clark County voters have already turned in their ballots, for example.

With ballots arriving in all active voters’ mailboxes — and in Clark County, even those deemed inactive — more people may be inclined to participate in what is usually a sleepy contest. Nevada and national Democrats filed but later dropped a lawsuit against state election officials after they agreed to send ballots to “inactive” voters, who are legally able to cast a ballot but have not responded to change of address forms sent out by county election officials.

“Truly the unknown is this vote by mail universe and who’s really going to take advantage of it, who does it leave out, how do you communicate to a universe that is 10 times bigger than what you thought you were going to have to communicate with,” said Megan Jones, a political consultant with close ties to Assembly Democrats. 

Of the 42 seats in the state Assembly, almost a quarter will be decided in the primary election. Four races will actually be decided in the primary — including three incumbent Republicans fending off challengers — because no other candidates filed to run in those districts. Another five races will effectively be decided in the primary, given vast disparity in voter registration totals making it all but impossible for the opposing party to gain a foothold. 

An additional seven Assembly members did not draw a re-election challenge and will win their seats automatically. These include Democrats Daniele Monroe Moreno, Selena Torres and Sarah Peters, and Republicans Tom Roberts, Melissa Hardy, Jill Tolles and John Ellison.

Of the 10 races in the state Senate, only one — the Democratic primary in Senate District 7 — will be determined in the primary election as no candidates from other parties filed to run for the seat. Two Senate members — Democrats Chris Brooks and Patricia Spearman — did not draw challengers and will automatically win their seats as well, while another three candidates have effectively won because of the voter registration advantages their party has in their district.

To help make sense of where the most intriguing races of this election will be, The Nevada Independent has compiled this list of races we’re keeping a close eye on, both for the storylines in the individual contests and how the outcomes could shift the balance of power heading into the critical 2021 legislative session. Additional information on these races and more can be found on The Nevada Independent’s Election 2020 page.

Senate District 7

This race is at the top of our watch list not only because it will be decided in the primary — all Democrats and no Republicans filed to run for the open seat — but because it pits two Assembly members against a former head of the state Democratic Party who has the support of the sitting Senate Democrats.

Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel has a wide lead in the money race for the seat, which is held by termed-out Democratic Sen. David Parks. Stakes are high for the two Assembly members in the race, who are giving up their current seats to bid for the Senate seat.

Spiegel raised nearly $32,000 in the first quarter, twice that of former three-term Nevada State Democratic Party Chairwoman Roberta Lange, a Senate caucus-endorsed candidate perhaps best known for presiding over Democrats’ divisive 2016 presidential nominating process. Spiegel spent even more — $36,000 in the last quarter — and has a massive war chest of $208,000 on hand.

Spiegel, who describes herself as an “e-commerce pioneer” and now owns a consulting firm with her husband, chaired the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee last session. She has endorsements from the Vegas and Henderson chambers of commerce. 

Lange, a retired teacher and union negotiator and now executive at a company that runs neighborhood gaming bars, has backing from the Senate Democratic Caucus, the Nevada State AFL-CIO, the Nevada State Education Association and the Culinary Union.

Trailing in the money game is Democratic Assemblyman Richard Carrillo, who only raised about $4,500 in the latest quarter. He’s spent nearly $16,000 in that timeframe and has about $26,000 in the bank.

Carrillo, a contractor who owns an air conditioning business, did not chair an Assembly committee last session and shares the AFL-CIO endorsement with Lange.

The district includes portions of the eastern Las Vegas Valley and Henderson. It has almost twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans.

Assembly District 2

Republicans are looking to keep control of this Summerlin Assembly seat this election after Assemblyman John Hambrick, who has represented the district since 2008, was termed out of office. Hambrick, 74, missed most of the 2019 legislative session because of health-related issues with both himself and his wife, who passed away in July.

The Assembly Republican Caucus has endorsed Heidi Kasama, managing broker of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices-Nevada Properties, as Hambrick’s successor, as has Hambrick himself. Kasama has lived in Las Vegas since 2002 after starting her career as a certified public accountant and real estate agent in Washington. So far, Kasama has raised about $124,000 and spent about $19,000.

But Kasama faces four other Republicans in the primary: Erik Sexton, Jim Small, Taylor McArthur and Christian Morehead. Of those, Sexton, who works in commercial real estate, has raised the most, about $69,000 over the course of the cycle. Sexton has been endorsed by Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore and former North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon.

Jim Small, a retired member of the U.S. Senior Executive Service, has raised about $56,000 over the course of the cycle. Small has been endorsed by former congressional candidate and businessman Danny Tarkanian and conservative commentator Wayne Allyn Root, among others.

The other two Republican candidates in the race — McArthur and Morehead — have raised no money.

The Alliance for Property Protection Rights PAC, which is funded by the National Association of REALTORS Fund, has also inserted itself into this primary, sending negative mailers highlighting Sexton’s DUI arrest last year and accusing Small of having a “hidden past” as a “liberal Democrat,” while in other mail pieces boosting Kasama’s “strength,” “courage,” and “optimism.”

Meanwhile, both Sexton and Small have been punching back at Kasama for her ties to the REALTORS in other mail pieces. 

In one, Small argues that Kasama financially supports Democrats because the Nevada Association of REALTORS donated tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates in 2018, the year she was president of the association. In another, Sexton criticizes the National Association of REALTORS’ budget, which was created when Kasama served on the association’s finance committee. 

Whoever wins the Republican primary will have a good shot at winning this lean Republican seat, where 37 percent of voters are Republican and 34.7 percent are Democratic. The Assembly Democratic Caucus has not endorsed in the primary, though journeywoman electrician Jennie Sherwood was backed by the caucus in the general election last year and is running again this cycle. Three other Democrats are also running for the seat: law school student and former cancer biology professor Radhika Kunnel, Eva Littman and Joe Valdes.

Of the four candidates, Kunnel has raised the most, about $27,000 between this year and last year, while Littman has loaned herself $25,000, Sherwood has loaned herself $5,000 and Valdes has raised $100.

A tenth candidate in the race, Garrett LeDuff, is running with no political party and has raised no money so far in his race.

Assembly District 4

The Nevada Assembly Republican caucus is looking to win back this swing seat lost to Democrats last election cycle by backing a political newcomer, Donnie Gibson, who will first have to defeat a primary challenge from former office-holder Richard McArthur.

Officially backed by the Assembly Republican caucus, Gibson is the owner of both a construction and equipment rental company, and sits on the board of several industry groups, including the Nevada Contractors Association and Hope for Prisoners. During the first quarterly fundraising period, he reported raising just over $51,000 and has nearly $86,000 in cash on hand.

But Gibson faces a tough challenger in former Assemblyman McArthur, who has served three non-consecutive terms in the Assembly; two terms between 2008 to 2012, and then one term between 2016 and 2018. He raised just $520 during the first fundraising period, but has more than $28,000 in available campaign funds. McArthur previously served with the U.S. Air Force and was a special agent for the FBI for 25 years.

Democratic incumbent Connie Munk did not draw a primary challenger, and reported raising more than $52,000 during the first fundraising period. Munk flipped the seat to Democrats in 2018, defeating McArthur by a 120-vote margin out of nearly 30,000 votes cast. 

Assembly District 7

Democrat Cameron “CH” Miller, who most recently served as Nevada political director for Beto O’Rourke and Amy Klobuchar’s presidential campaigns and has had a 20 year career in the entertainment industry, is running with the backing of the Assembly Democratic Caucus for this North Las Vegas Assembly district. The seat is held by Assemblywoman Dina Neal, who is running for state Senate.

While Miller has been endorsed by most of the Democratic-aligned organizations — including SEIU Local 1107, the Nevada State Education Association, Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada, the Culinary Union, NARAL Pro-Choice Nevada and the Nevada Conservation League — his one primary opponent, John Stephens III, has been endorsed by the Nevada State AFL-CIO.

Stephens is a former civilian employee of the Las Vegas Metro Police Department, former steward for the Teamsters Local 14 and a self-described political scientist, writer, exhibitor and Las Vegas library employee.

Miller has raised about $21,000 so far in his campaign, while Stephens has not reported raising any money.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary is likely to go on to win the general election against the one Republican candidate in the race, former Virginia Beach police officer Tony Palmer, as the district leans heavily Democratic with 54.3 percent registered Democrats, 22.7 percent nonpartisans and only 18 percent Republicans. Palmer has raised about $2,000, mostly from himself, in his bid.

Assembly District 16

Four Democratic candidates are running in this open seat after Assemblywoman Heidi Swank, who has represented the district since 2012, opted not to run for re-election. 

The Assembly Democratic Caucus has not endorsed any candidate in the race. Cecelia González and Russell Davis have so far split the major endorsements from Democratic-aligned groups. Both candidates were endorsed by the Nevada State AFL-CIO, while González was also endorsed by the Nevada State Education Association, the Culinary Union and the Nevada Conservation League, and Davis was endorsed by SEIU Local 1107. 

González, a community activist who plans to begin a doctoral program in multicultural education at UNLV in the fall, has raised a little more than $5,000 in her campaign, while Davis, a two-decade Clark County employee and SEIU member, hasn’t reported raising any money.

A third candidate in the race, online finance professor Geoffrey VanderPal, has loaned himself a little less than $4,000 in the race, while Joe Sacco, a union trade show and conventions worker with IATSE Local 720 and a REALTOR, has raised about $500.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary is likely to win the general election against the one Republican in the race, Reyna “Alex” Sajdak, as Democrats have an overwhelming voter registration advantage in the district, representing 47.1 percent of all voters. Nonpartisans make up another 27.3 percent, while Republicans represent only about 18.2 percent.

Sajdak has loaned herself only $260 in the race and received no other contributions.

Assembly District 18

Assemblyman Richard Carrillo has opted not to run for re-election to this East Las Vegas Assembly seat, which he has represented since 2010. He is running for state Senate.

Venicia Considine, an attorney with Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, is running with the backing of the Assembly Democratic Caucus for the seat and has been endorsed by SEIU Local 1107, Nevada State Education Association, Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada, the Culinary Union and the Nevada Conservation League.

However, she faces three other Democrats in the primary, including Char Frost, a former campaign manager and legislative staffer for Carrillo; Lisa Ortega, a master arborist and owner of Great Basin Sage Consulting; and Clarence Dortch, a teacher in the Clark County School District.

Considine has raised nearly $24,000 in her bid so far, while Ortega has raised a little less than $17,000 and Frost has raised about $8,000. Dortch has not yet reported raising any money.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary will go on to face Republican Heather Florian in the general election, though they are likely to win as Democrats hold a 24-point voter registration advantage over Republicans in the district. Florian has not yet reported raising any money in the race.

Assembly District 19

Assemblyman Chris Edwards is running for a fourth term in this rural Clark County Assembly district, but he faces a challenge from Mesquite City Councilwoman Annie Black, who is running to the right of the already conservative Edwards. Black most recently ran for Nevada Republican Party chair, losing to incumbent Michael McDonald.

So far, Edwards has raised about $17,000 in his re-election bid, to Black’s $2,600, which includes a $1,000 contribution from Las Vegas City Councilwoman Victoria Seaman and a $500 contribution from former Controller Ron Knecht.

Whoever wins this primary will go on to win the general election in November, as there are no Democrats or third-party candidates in the race.

Assembly District 21

Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo, who has represented this seat since 2016, is not seeking re-election this year and is running for the Nevada Supreme Court. The Assembly Democratic Caucus has endorsed attorney Elaine Marzola to replace him.

Marzola has received most of the Democratic-aligned endorsements in the primary, including from the Nevada State AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada, the Culinary Union and the Nevada Conservation League, while her one Democratic opponent in the primary, David Bagley, has the backing of the Nevada State Education Association. 

Bagley is the director of operations for the stem cell diagnostics company Pluripotent Diagnostics and was also Marianne Williamson’s Nevada state director for her presidential campaign last year.

Marzola has raised about $44,000 in her race so far, while Bagley has raised $20,000 in in-kind contributions from himself.

The winner of the Democratic primary will go on to face Republican Cherlyn Arrington in the general election. Arrington ran for the seat in 2018, losing to Fumo by 12.6 percentage points. Democrats have an 8 percentage point voter registration advantage in the district over Republicans. Arrington has raised a little less than $15,000 so far, including a $4,000 contribution from herself.

Assembly District 31

Former Republican Assemblywoman Jill Dickman hopes to reclaim a seat she held for one term and lost by fewer than 50 votes in 2016. But the manufacturing business owner is in a three-way primary, most notably with Washoe County Republican Party treasurer Sandra Linares. 

The Washoe County seat is held by Skip Daly, a four-term Assembly member who works as the business manager for Laborers Local 169 and has several notable endorsements from organized labor groups, including the Nevada State AFL-CIO and the Culinary Union.

Republicans have a registration advantage of more than four percentage points, but nonpartisans also make up about 21 percent of the swingy district.

Dickman raised just $116 in the first quarter of the year but has more than $99,000 cash on hand for the race. Linares, an educator and Air Force veteran, reported raising more than $24,000 in the first quarter but has about $20,000 in her war chest.

The other candidate in the race is Republican David Espinosa, who has worked in the information technology sector and served on boards including the Washoe County Citizen Advisory Board. He reported raising $7,000 in the first quarter of the year and has about $500 on hand.

The winner of the three-way contest will face off against Daly, who does not have primary challengers. He raised $31,000 in the first quarter and has $98,000 cash on hand.

Assembly District 36

Appointed to fill the seat of brothel owner Dennis Hof — who won this Pahrump-area seat in 2018 despite dying weeks before the election — Republican Assemblyman Gregory Hafen II is facing a primary challenge from Dr. Joseph Bradley, who ran for the district in 2018.

Hafen, a fifth generation Nevadan and general manager of a Pahrump water utility company, and has been endorsed by multiple sitting Republican lawmakers, the National Rifle Association and was named “Rural Chair” of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign in Nevada.

Hafen has raised nearly $89,000 since the start of the election cycle, including $26,600 in the last reporting period, and has more than $55,000 in cash on hand.

His primary opponent is Bradley, a licensed chiropractor and substance abuse specialist with offices in Las Vegas and Pahrump. He ran for the seat in 2018, coming in third in the Republican primary behind Hof and former Assemblyman James Oscarson.

Bradley has raised more than $68,000 in his bid for the Assembly seat since 2019, and had more than $43,000 in cash on hand at the end of the reporting period.

Bradley’s campaign has tried to tie Hafen to Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, who as a member of the Clark County Commission voted on a replacement candidate after Hof’s death. Sisolak did vote to appoint Hafen to the seat, but the decision was essentially made by the Nye County Commission because of Nevada’s laws on appointing a new lawmaker after an incumbent leaves office or passes away. Hafen was appointed to the seat with support from 16 of 17 county commissioners in the three counties that the Assembly district covers.

Because no Democrats or other party candidates filed to run in the district, the winner of the primary will essentially win a spot in the 2021 Legislature.

Assembly District 37

A crowded field of well-funded Republican candidates are duking it out in a competitive primary to take on incumbent Democrat Shea Backus, one of several suburban Las Vegas districts Republicans hope to win back after the 2018 midterms. Voter registration numbers in the district are nearly equal: 38.1 percent registered Democrats 35.7 percent registered Republicans and 20.5 percent nonpartisan.

Four Republican candidates filed to run in the district, including two former congressional candidates who have each raised more than six-figures in contributions: Andy Matthews and Michelle Mortensen.

Matthews is the former president of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a libertarian-leaning think tank and was former Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s policy director for his failed 2018 gubernatorial run. He has been endorsed by a bevy of Nevada and national Republicans, including Laxalt, several Trump campaign officials including Corey Lewandowski, Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore and several current and former state lawmakers.

Matthews has also been one of the top legislative fundraisers during the 2020 election cycle, outraising all other Republican Assembly candidates including current office-holders. For the first reporting period of 2020, he reported raising nearly $35,000, but has raised nearly $189,000 since the start of 2019 and has early $115,000 in cash on hand.

Mortensen, a former television reporter who ran for Congress in 2018, has also been a prolific fundraiser. She reported raising about $12,500 during the first fundraising period of 2020, with more than $115,000 raised since the start of 2019 and had more than $92,000 in cash on hand at the end of the last reporting period.

But they won’t be alone on the primary ballot. Jacob Deaville, a former UNLV college Republican chair and political activist, has raised more than $19,600 since the start of 2019 and had roughly $9,400 in cash on hand at the end of the reporting period. Another Republican candidate, Lisa Noeth, has not filed any campaign finance reports.

The primary election winner will get to challenge incumbent Shea Backus, who wrested the seat from Republican Jim Marchant in the 2018 election by a 135-vote margin. She reported raising more than $52,000 over the first fundraising period, and has more than $108,000 in cash on hand. Backus, an attorney, did not draw a primary challenger.

Assembly District 40

Former Assemblyman P.K. O’Neill is making a comeback bid after serving one term in the Assembly in 2015 and losing re-election in a campaign focused on his controversial vote for Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval’s tax package.

Two-term incumbent Al Kramer decided at the last minute not to seek re-election in the district, which includes Carson City and portions of Washoe Valley. According to The Nevada Appeal, he said he and his wife need to take care of her 94-year-old mother in Ohio and attend to their own health issues, and will not be in Carson City often enough to serve in the Legislature.

O’Neill is a former law enforcement officer who previously served in the Nevada Department of Public Safety. But his path back to the statehouse is complicated by a primary challenge from the right from Day Williams, a lawyer who is running on a platform of repealing the Commerce Tax that O’Neill supported.

O’Neill has the fundraising advantage, raising more than $13,000 in the first quarter and reporting about $10,000 cash on hand. Williams reported raising about $2,300 and has about $1,200 in the bank.

Whoever wins the Republican primary is likely to win in the general — Republicans have a nearly 15 percentage point advantage in the district. The three Democrats in the race are former Carson City Library director Sena Loyd, software engineer Derek Ray Morgan and LGBTQ rights advocate Sherrie Scaffidi, none of whom have more than $500 cash on hand.

Other races that have a primary

  • Senate District 11: Republican Edgar Miron Galindo, who has been endorsed by the Senate Republican Caucus, faces off against Joshua Wendell. However, the winner faces an uphill battle against Democratic state Sen. Dallas Harris in the general election in this overwhelmingly Democratic district in Spring Valley, where Democrats have a 19.5 percentage point voter registration advantage over Republicans.
  • Senate District 18: Democrat Liz Becker, who has been endorsed by the Senate Democratic Caucus, faces Ron Bilodeau in the primary. The winner will go on to face Republican state Sen. Scott Hammond in this lean Republican northwest Las Vegas Assembly district, where Republicans have a 3 percentage point voter registration advantage over Democrats.
  • Assembly District 5: Republicans Mac Miller, Retha Randolph and Mitchell Tracy face off in the primary. But they’ll have a tough time in the general election against Democratic Assemblywoman Brittney Miller in this district, where Democrats have a 9 percentage point voter registration advantage over Republicans.
  • Assembly District 6: Democrat Shondra Summers-Armstrong is running with the backing of the Assembly Democratic Caucus to represent this Assembly District that encompasses the historic Westside of Las Vegas. She faces one opponent, William E. Robinson II, in the primary. There are also two Republicans, Katie Duncan and Geraldine Lewis, who will face off in their own primary. The winner of the Democratic primary is all but guaranteed to defeat the winner of the Republican primary in the general election, as Democrats have a 52.5 percentage point voter registration advantage over Republicans in the district.
  • Assembly District 10: After being appointed to the seat in 2018, Democratic Assemblywoman Rochelle Nguyen is running for her first election in this overwhelmingly Democratic district, where there are more than twice as many Democrats as Republicans. Nguyen has one primary challenger, Jesse “Jake” Holder. The two other candidates in the race, Independent American Jonathan Friedrich and Republican Chris Hisgen, do not face primary challenges. Democrats are likely to retain control of this seat in November because of their overwhelming voter registration advantage.
  • Assembly District 14: Democratic Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton is running for her sixth and final term in this East Las Vegas Assembly district, where Democrats make up more than half of all registered voters. She faces a primary challenge from James Fennell II. The third candidate in the race, Libertarian Robert Wayerski, does not face a primary. With only 163 registered libertarians in the district, Democrats are all but guaranteed to hold onto this seat in November.
  • Assembly District 15: Democratic Assemblyman Howard Watts is running for re-election in this East Las Vegas Assembly district. He faces a primary challenge from Democrat Burke Andersson. A third candidate in the race, Republican Stan Vaughan, does not have a primary. Democrats are overwhelmingly likely to win this seat in the general election as they hold a 30.8 percentage point voter registration advantage over Republicans.
  • Assembly District 17: Democrat Clara “Claire” Thomas is running with the backing of the Assembly Democratic Caucus in this overwhelmingly Democratic North Las Vegas Assembly district and does not face a primary. Two Republican candidates, Sylvia Liberty Creviston and Jack Polcyn, will face off in June. However, Thomas is likely to win the general election come November because of Democrats’ voter registration advantage.
  • Assembly District 20: Democrat David Orentilcher is running with the backing of the Assembly Democratic caucus but faces three other Democrats in the primary: Zachary Logan, Michael McAuliffe and Emily Smith. Whoever wins the primary is guaranteed to win the general election as there are no Republican or third-party candidates running in the race.
  • Assembly District 26: Republican Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner faces one Republican challenger, Dale Conner, in her re-election bid for this overwhelmingly Republican Assembly district where Republicans hold a 10.7 percentage point registration advantage over Democrats. Though one Democrat, Vance Alm, is running for this seat, Republicans are likely to hold onto this seat come November.
  • Assembly District 29: Democratic Assemblywoman Lesley Cohen is running for re-election to this Henderson Assembly district, where Democrats hold a narrow 5.6 percentage point voter registration advantage over Republicans. While she doesn’t have a primary challenge, she will face one of two Republicans, Steven Delisle or Troy Archer, in the general election.
  • Assembly District 30: Democrat Natha Anderson is running with the backing of the Assembly Democratic Caucus to represent this Sparks Assembly seat where Democrats hold a 10.2 percentage point voter registration advantage over Republicans. She will face fellow Democrat Lea Moser in the primary. The winner is likely to win the general election over Republican Randy Hoff and Independent American Charlene Young because of Democrats’ significant voter registration advantage in the district.
  • Assembly District 35: Democratic Assemblywoman Michelle Gorelow is running for re-election in this southwest Las Vegas Assembly district, where Democrats hold a 8.5 percentage point voter registration advantage over Republicans. She does not face a primary challenge. However, two Republicans, Jay Calhoun and Claudia Kingtigh, will face off in a June primary. Gorelow will face the winner of that primary, as well as nonpartisan Philip “Doc Phil” Paleracio in November, though she is likely to win because of the Democratic voter registration advantage in the district.
  • Assembly District 38: Republican Assemblywoman Robin Titus faces a primary challenge from Jeff Ulrich in this overwhelmingly Republican rural Assembly district, where there are more than twice as many registered Republicans as Democrats.

Follow the Money: Legislative fundraising continues at slower pace amid COVID-19

The Nevada Legislature building

The financial battle for control of the Legislature is continuing, albeit at a slower pace during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Outside of a sharp uptick in contributions on the final day of reporting, campaign finance records submitted to the secretary of state’s office on April 15 show that most candidates ceased fundraising through the last half of March — right around the time of emergency shutdown directives from Gov. Steve Sisolak aimed at mitigating further spread of COVID-19 amid the pandemic.

Candidates have responded to the pandemic in different ways — canceling in-person fundraisers and door-knocking operations, or shifting to digital operations.

But despite interruptions in normal campaigning, the fundraising faucet hasn’t exactly been turned off for legislative hopefuls. 

During the reporting period, which ran from Jan. 1 to the end of March, legislative candidates reported raising just over $1.5 million, spent $1.26 million and reported holding just over $5.12 million in cash on hand.

Democratic legislative candidates raised a little more than $934,000 combined through the fundraising period, while Republican candidates brought in just over $650,000.

The stakes are high for both parties. Although Democrats are all but certain to maintain majorities among the 63 seats in the Legislature — 42 in the Assembly and 21 in the Senate — the question of whether they will have the two-thirds majority required for passing any increase in taxes will likely come down to just a handful of competitive seats.

In the Assembly, where Democrats enjoy a 29-13 seat supermajority, Republican candidates outraised Democratic incumbents in three competitive seats through the 2019 reporting cycle. After the first three months of 2020, all three of those Democratic legislators — Connie Munk in Assembly District 4, Lesley Cohen in Assembly District 29 and Michelle Gorelow in Assembly District 35 — have substantially upped their fundraising totals, but their cash on hand totals remain close to those of their Republican opponents.

The battle for the state Senate, where Democrats hold 13 seats and Republicans hold seven, is also coming into focus. 

Democrats have endorsed and helped fund opponents running against incumbent Republican senators Heidi Gansert and Scott Hammond, while Republican candidates are running even in fundraising with Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro in Senate District 6 and in the open Senate District 5, vacated by termed-out Democratic Sen Joyce Woodhouse.

While legislative incumbents usually enjoy a fundraising advantage, two Republican candidates — Heidi Kasama in Assembly District 2 and April Becker in Senate District 6 — were the top individual fundraisers among legislative candidates during the three-month reporting period.

Fundraising reports are not a crystal ball and cannot predict the success of any particular candidate, but they do offer helpful context on which races party leaders see as most winnable, and whether individual candidates have the resources to run competitive campaigns.

The reports filed by the Wednesday deadline will also be the last chance voters have to view campaign donors and spending for legislative candidates ahead of the state’s primary election in early June. A change to the reporting system adopted by the 2019 Legislature made campaign finance reporting a quarterly system during election years, similar to federal candidates, but no longer requires disclosures immediately before an election. 

That means the next campaign finance reports will be due on July 15, more than a month after the state’s primary election.

Here’s a look at how candidates in major legislative races fundraised:

Competitive Senate Races

Control of the state Senate — where members serve four-year terms and Democrats enjoy a 13-8 advantage — is one of the top political questions on the 2020 general election ballot. Republicans are hoping to claw back several competitive seats in districts where the parties have near-even voter registration, while Democrats are playing defense and looking to pick off an additional seat to give them a two-thirds advantage in the chamber.

SD6

Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro is facing a spirited challenge from Republican challenger and attorney April Becker, who outraised the Democratic incumbent and all other legislative candidates by pulling in more than $74,000 during the fundraising period.

But Cannizzaro, a Clark County prosecutor who reported raising nearly $67,000 herself during the fundraising period, has a significant cash on hand advantage over Becker — roughly $586,000 for the incumbent, compared to $156,000 for Becker. Cannizzaro’s spending totals were also less than Becker — nearly $11,000 expended, compared to more than $70,000 reported spent by Becker.

Neither candidate is facing a primary challenge.

Democrats have a modest voter registration advantage in the Las Vegas-area district, which includes Summerlin.

SD5

Fundraising continues at a rapid clip for the seat held by termed-out Democratic Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, a retired educator.

Republican school principal Carrie Buck, who narrowly lost a race for the seat in 2016 and then put herself forward as a potential replacement for Woodhouse in a failed 2017 recall bid, raised a little more than $32,000 in the last quarter. She spent more than $16,500 and has close to $74,000 in the bank.

Democrat Kristee Watson also raised about $32,000 last quarter, but spent far less — only $2,200 — and has more than $116,000 cash on hand.

The district, which leans slightly Democratic in registration, includes parts of Henderson.

SD7: Democratic primary

Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel is running away with the money race in an intrigue-filled primary that’s pitting a former Democratic Party leader endorsed by the state Senate Democrats against two longtime Assembly members. 

The race will be decided in the primary because no Republicans have filed for the seat, which is currently held by termed-out Democratic Sen. David Parks. Stakes are high for the two Assembly members in the race, who are relinquishing their current seats to bid for the Senate seat.

Spiegel raised nearly $32,000 in the first quarter, twice that of former Nevada State Democratic Party Chairwoman Roberta Lange, a Senate caucus-endorsed candidate perhaps best known for presiding over Democrats’ divisive 2016 presidential nominating process. Spiegel spent even more — $36,000 in the last quarter — and has a massive war chest of $208,000 on hand.

Trailing in the money game is Democratic Assemblyman Richard Carrillo, who only raised about $4,500 in the latest quarter. He’s spent nearly $16,000 in that timeframe and has about $26,000 in the bank.

The district includes portions of the eastern Las Vegas Valley and Henderson. It has almost twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans.

SD11

Democratic Sen. Dallas Harris, who was appointed to finish Aaron Ford’s term when he won the 2018 race for attorney general, only raised about $1,600 in the last quarter.

But she spent about $27,000 in that timeframe, and has about $40,000 in the bank, eclipsing her opponents’ totals.

She has no primary opponent in the district, which encompasses portions of the southwestern Las Vegas Valley and has a significant Democratic registration advantage.

Two Republicans have filed for the seat, including Joshua Dowden, who raised about $4,400 in the last quarter and spent about $6,200. He has $4,400 in the bank.

That puts him on par with Republican Edgar Miron Galindo, who has about $4,000 cash on hand but raised no money in the last quarter and spent about $3,200.

SD15

Republican Sen Heidi Gansert raised more than $61,000 in the last quarter, putting her slightly behind the nearly $63,000 that Democrat Wendy Jauregui-Jackson raised during that period.

The swingy Washoe County district has a narrow Democratic voter registration advantage.

But Gansert, who has no primary opponents, has $267,000 in the bank — more than four times what Jauregui-Jackson has. And Gansert has been steadily spending, putting out nearly $32,000 in the last quarter compared with the $77 that Jauregui-Jackson spent.

Others in the race have shown little evidence of serious fundraising. Democratic candidate Kristie Strejc failed to file a report, and independent Catana Barnes reported raising and spending $100 during the fundraising period.

SD18

Republican Sen. Scott Hammond has raised nearly $31,000 in the latest quarter as he tries to defend his Las Vegas-area seat. Hammond is the only Republican senator in the Democratic-leaning Las Vegas area; most of his GOP colleagues represent districts in rural or Northern Nevada.

Hammond spent about $54,000 in the last quarter and has nearly $68,000 cash on hand.

That puts him in a strong position against Democratic political newcomer Liz Becker, who only raised about $6,600 in the last quarter and spent about $4,600. She has about $12,600 cash on hand.

The district, which includes the northwestern section of the Las Vegas Valley, has a narrow Republican registration advantage.

Legislative leadership

Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson raised $60,000 in the first quarter and spent more than $90,000 in that period, leaving him with about $445,000 cash on hand. He presided over a supermajority of Democrats in the Assembly in the 2019 session.

Assembly Republican Leader Robin Titus, who is trying to help her party gain ground and achieve more than a third of the lower house’s seats, raised more than $15,000 in the last quarter and spent more than $20,500. She ended the quarter with more than $73,000 cash on hand, which is about one-sixth of what her Democratic counterpart has in the bank.

It’s unclear how much Republican Senate Leader James Settelmeyer has raised this quarter. He is halfway through a four-year term and is not required by law to file a report at this juncture.

On the Democratic side, leader Nicole Cannizzaro has nearly $600,000 cash on hand as she tries to defend her own swingy seat while helping her caucus members maintain or gain ground.

Senate Republicans were one member above being in a super minority last session, which allowed them to block Democrat-backed tax increases that needed a two-thirds majority. 

No opponent, no problem

Nine lawmakers — two state senators and seven Assembly members — did not draw a primary or general election challenge by the close of candidate filing in March. 

But the lack of an opponent did not stop those lawmakers from fundraising; the nine incumbents reported bringing in more than $128,000 over the fundraising period, led by Democratic Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe Moreno ($22,000 raised) and Republican Assemblywoman Jill Tolles (about $16,600 raised).

Those nine lawmakers combined also reported spending nearly $221,000, and have more than $541,000 in available cash on hand.

Although they technically don’t need to campaign without an opponent, many of the incumbent lawmakers reported transfering significant amounts of campaign dollars to other candidates —  Tolles reported transferring more than $15,000 to other Republican candidates and party organizations, for example.

Live Blog: Candidates make it official during Nevada’s two-week candidate filing period

Nevada kicked off a two-week period March 2 in which candidates who are seeking offices other than as judges must file paperwork to appear on the ballot.

Candidates must appear in person, pay a filing fee, show identification and sign paperwork to complete the transaction. For seats within a single county, candidates file at that county clerk’s office; for multi-county seats, they file with the Nevada Secretary of State.

The filing period is a major step for candidates to make their bids official, even though many have already announced their candidacy and have started campaigning. Judicial candidates had a separate filing period in January.

The primary election is June 9, and early voting runs from May 23 to June 5. The general election is Nov. 3, with an early voting period that runs from Oct. 17-30.

Below are highlights from the candidate filing period, as well as a spreadsheet of filed candidates. Check back over the next two weeks for updates.

Teresa Benitez-Thompson, Natha Anderson and Skip Daly after filing to run as Democrats in the Assembly on March 2, 2020. Photo by Jazmin Orozco-Rodriguez.

9:10 p.m.: Assembly candidates from rural, Northern Nevada file for office

Candidates filing for legislative seats in Northern Nevada took a less charitable view than their southern counterparts of the Clark County teacher union’s efforts to hike sales tax rates and gaming tax rates by statewide ballot initiative.

While legislative leaders in Las Vegas avoided direct criticism of the Clark County Education Association’s proposal to raise more than a billion dollars through the two tax increases, northern Democrats were more blunt in their assessment.

“I'm not a big fan of constitutional amendments or ballot measures,” said Skip Daly, who filed to run for his Assembly seat. “I'm not saying that they're off base and that it may not be needed, but I think you should give the Legislature a chance to do his job.”

He said lawmakers would have the chance to weigh the pros and cons of various tax increases more than the average citizen would with a ballot measure. And he suggested mining might be a better route than a dramatic increase on the gaming tax.

“It's easy to pick on gaming,” he said. “The miners have been getting a free ride for 50 plus years now.”

Assembly candidate Natha Anderson, a teacher and lobbyist for the Nevada State Education Association — the state union from which CCEA split — also opposed the proposed ballot measures. She said she learned from a 2014 tax hike ballot measure that failed by a 4-to-1 margin, and also a 2010 measure promoted by her union in 2010 — IP1 — whose revenue has since been diverted to pay for other state needs aside from education.

“I've got problems with it … there's no guarantee it's going to education. We don't know where else it's going to go,” she said. She pointed out that factors, such as coronavirus, that could affect casino revenue. “Another concern I have is with gaming being so dependent upon so many other areas that are outside the control of people in Nevada.”

Teresa Benitez-Thompson, the Democratic majority leader who has served in the Assembly for a decade, said she learned the challenges of promoting a sales tax increase when she worked to enact one a few years ago in Washoe County.

“The polling at that time told us that the appetite was very, very low for such increases. So it took a coalition of business, community members, private community members and electeds coming together to work on that ballot initiative, and ultimately to see it succeed,” she said.

“And so that's absolutely one of the things I'll be watching for. Is this going to be something that's supported equally by the people and by the business community?”

Skip Daly filing to run as a Democrat in the Assembly on March 2, 2020. Photo by Jazmin Orozco-Rodriguez.

Assembly members Benitez-Thompson and Daly filed for re-election at the Washoe County Government Center. Anderson filed for the seat held by Greg Smith, who was appointed during the 2019 session but is not seeking to retain the seat.

Republican Sandra Linares filed to run against Daly, and Republican Barb Hawn filed to challenge Benitez-Thompson.

Republican Lisa Krasner filed for re-election, and Democrat Wendy Jauregui-Jackins, whose sister is an assemblywoman, filed to run for the seat held by Republican Sen. Heidi Gansert.

In rural districts, Assembly members John Ellison, Jim Wheeler, Al Kramer and Gregory Hafen filed for re-election with the Nevada Secretary of State. Democrat Derek Morgan also filed for Assembly District 40, which is currently held by Kramer.

Republican Sen. Pete Goicoechea, who represents a vast rural district, is also seeking re-election.

Rep. Steven Horsford also filed to run for re-election to the 4th Congressional District. Four people challenging Horsford or 2nd Congressional District Rep. Mark Amodei also filed.

“Despite the many distractions taking place in Washington, I remain focused on the issues that matter most to my constituents,” Horsford said in a statement. “I take my responsibility to serve the people of Nevada seriously.”

— Michelle Rindels

Nevada Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, center, addresses the media and public with fellow democrat assembly candidates outside Clark County Government Center Monday, March 2, 2020, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Ronda Churchill for The Nevada Independent)

4:25 p.m.: Assembly, Senate candidates file in Clark County

Democratic leaders from the Assembly and Senate posed for photos, hugged and caught up with their fellow state lawmakers — along with those hoping to become their colleagues — Monday afternoon at the Clark County Government Center.

The quasi-reunion happened on the first day of candidate filing, kicking off a campaign season that will see Democrats try to hang onto their majorities in both houses of the Legislature. But Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson and Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro painted an optimistic portrait of that quest heading into the election cycle.

“We’re going to fight hard for it,” Frierson said of maintaining the Assembly’s Democratic supermajority. “We realize we have a couple of tight races, and I think that we are committed to managing the advancement of good policies.”

Before heading in to file the candidacy paperwork, Frierson and Cannizzaro rattled off a list of Democratic accomplishments from the 2019 Legislature and vowed to move the needle forward in 2021. They cited progress with climate change, surprise medical billing, prescription drug pricing, minimum wage and education funding as some examples.

At least some of those issues, though, likely will re-emerge during the next legislative session. The Clark County Education Association already has filed two initiative petitions that seek to increase the gaming tax and sales tax to significantly boost K-12 education funding.

The Democratic leaders have largely avoided directly addressing the union-led effort, and they did so again Monday.

“I’m not in charge of ballot initiatives,” Frierson said. “What I support is us doing the right thing in the Legislature to advance good policies. And, as I said earlier, I think the responsible thing to do for us is to put pressure on our colleagues who have not quite gotten there yet to say, ‘This is worthwhile, and we need to do our jobs and provide for our basic community’s needs.’ That’s going to be our focus.”

Cannizzaro echoed that sentiment, saying the conversation surrounding education funding is far from over despite increases to the per-pupil amount and more money for school safety. 

“Education funding remains something we’ll continue to talk about as we go into this election cycle and well into this next session,” she said.

But the first hurdle is the general election, which could be affected by the presidential race and turnout. Presidential elections can have a coattails effect, inspiring voters to select candidates of a certain party all the way down the ballot, or a balancing effect, in which people cast votes for the opposite party on down-ballot races as a hedge to prevent too much of an ideological lean.

Frierson said it’s too early to tell what the effect might be this year, but he urged voters to look at the larger picture.

“I think that folks who are concerned about which candidate ultimately prevails need to remember, unlike four years ago, where it was largely unknown what would happen, we’ve now seen that it’s not just about your candidate,” he said. “It’s about the makeup of the federal bench. It’s about climate change. It’s about things that we have to live with for generations.”

The following Democratic candidates backed by the Nevada Senate Democratic Caucus filed in Clark County on Monday afternoon: Pat Spearman (Senate District 1); Chris Brooks (Senate District 3); Dina Neal (Senate District 4); Kristee Watson (Senate District 5); Nicole Cannizzaro (Senate District 6); Roberta Lange (Senate District 7); and Dallas Harris (Senate District 11.)

Likewise, these were the Democratic candidates endorsed by the Nevada Assembly Democratic Caucus who also filed Monday in Clark County: Daniele Monroe-Moreno (Assembly District 1); Selena Torres (Assembly District 3); Connie Munk (Assembly District 4); Brittney Miller (Assembly District 5); Shondra Summers-Armstrong (Assembly District 6); Cameron Miller (Assembly District 7); Jason Frierson (Assembly District 8); Steve Yeager (Assembly District 9); Rochelle Nguyen (Assembly District 10); Bea Duran (Assembly District 11); Susie Martinez (Assembly District 12); Maggie Carlton (Assembly District 14); Howard Watts (Assembly District 15); Clara Thomas (Assembly District 17); David Orentlicher (Assembly District 20); Elaine Marzola (Assembly District 21); Edgar Flores (Assembly District 28); Lesley Cohen (Assembly District 29); Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod (Assembly District 34); Michelle Gorelow (Assembly District 35); Shea Backus (Assembly District 37); Alexander Assefa (Assembly District 42.) 

It wasn’t just Democrats heading to the Clark County Government Center for filing. Andy Matthews, past president of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, announced in a news release that he had filed as a Republican for the Assembly seat in District 37.  

“Today marks an important milestone in our campaign to fight for Nevada’s future,” Matthews said in a statement. “I continue to be overwhelmed and honored by the incredible support our campaign is attracting, and I’m thrilled today to take this crucial step toward victory this year.” 

Assembly Republicans also tweeted a photo of several incumbents — Melissa Hardy (Assembly District 22), Chris Edwards (Assembly District 19), Glen Leavitt (Assembly District 23), Tom Roberts (Assembly District 13) and Gregory Hafen (Assembly District 36) — filing for candidacy Monday in Clark County.

For a full list of candidates who filed in Clark County on Monday, click here

— Jackie Valley and Shannon Miller

Indy 2020: Biden leads in Nevada poll; Democratic hopefuls prepare to return to the Silver State

Your Nevada 2020 election newsletter. Please read, forward and subscribe.


Good morning, and welcome to Indy 2020, a biweekly newsletter focused on the 2020 presidential election in Nevada. A reminder that email subscribers get early access to this newsletter, so be sure to subscribe and tell your friends. It’ll be peachy.

There’s an image that I haven’t been able to get out of my head for the last 24 or so hours, and that’s of former Vice President Joe Biden as Schrödinger’s cat. (Thanks to this Atlantic article by Edward-Isaac Dovere.)

It neatly puts a bow on some of the things I’ve been mulling over the last week: How Biden seems to be flailing in Iowa and New Hampshire but has a sizable lead (at least so far) in Nevada, according to our poll and another released by Emerson last week. How Nevada might not really be a battleground state if Biden wins, but maybe it could be if Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren does. How with 102 days until Nevada’s caucus it seems like everything — Democratic candidates winning and losing, Trump winning and losing, Nevada being a battleground state and not — is at the same time happening and not happening inside that box.

The good news is that (eventually!) we get to open the box.

As always, a reminder to reach out to me with any tips, story ideas, comments, suggestions, and your favorite thought experiment — am I the only one still stuck on Maxwell’s demon (especially as it was used in The Crying of Lot 49)? — at megan@thenvindy.com.

Without further ado, a download of the recent 2020 happenings in Nevada.


TOP OF MIND

The Indy poll: I had many thoughts on our latest Indy Poll — most of which are summed up in this story and thread — but I’ll briefly note some of them here. The overall takeaway is that former Vice President Joe Biden leads Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by 10 points in Nevada, though his backers reported being less strongly committed to him than Warren and Sanders supporters are to their candidates. Warren was also the top second choice candidate, with 21 percent support, followed by Sanders at 19 percent.

The caveat: Only 44 percent of respondents said they were certain of their first choice pick, with 55 percent saying they still might choose someone else.

Filing deadlines: It’s all good and well to be campaigning in the Silver State, but candidates still have to actually file with the Nevada State Democratic Party in order to participate in the caucus process. I’m told that only South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, billionaire Tom Steyer, Biden, California Sen. Kamala Harris, and Sanders have filed so far.

Candidates have until Jan. 1 to file, which means that it isn’t too late for a late bloomer(berg) to get into the race here. (For what it’s worth, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has indicated that he’ll skip the four early states, Nevada included, if he gets into the race.)

Sound and fury, signifying nothing: Last week, the Las Vegas City Council passed a controversial ordinance that makes sleeping or camping in downtown Las Vegas a misdemeanor crime, but not before several Democratic presidential hopefuls had a chance to weigh in with their opposition to the measure.

I noted in the last newsletter that Warren and Steyer had joined former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro in opposing the proposed ordinance. On Monday, two days before the hearing, they were joined by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker

The following day, Sanders joined in, with his campaign promising to use its email list to encourage its supporters to turn out to oppose the ordinance outside City Hall on Wednesday, soon followed by Biden, who tweeted that he was “proud to stand with folks in Las Vegas fighting against a proposed ordinance that effectively criminalizes homelessness” and Harris, who said “criminalizing homelessness is not the answer.” Castro also urged residents to call their city councilmembers.

Then, the morning of the vote, Buttigieg also came out against the ordinance with a statement: “Homelessness is a moral crisis that defies easy solutions, and the best way to address it is with smart investments in housing, supportive services, and health. I stand with members of the homeless community and advocates in opposing this ordinance."

But it was ultimately to no avail. The City Council passed the measure 5-2. (One of the “no” votes was Councilman Brian Knudsen, who backs Harris.) Warren, Castro and Sanders all came out right after the City Council’s vote, condemning it. Booker and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet criticized it the day after the vote.

The state of the #WeMatter state: Castro, appearing on MSNBC on Sunday, called for changing the order of the early nominating states.

“I actually believe that we do need to change the order of the states because I don’t believe that we’re the same country we were in 1972,” Castro said. “That’s when Iowa first held it’s caucus first, and by the time we have the next presidential election in 2024 it’ll have been more than 50 years since 1972.”

By my math, if Iowa is no longer first and New Hampshire is no longer second, that would leave a certain #WeMatter state with the first nominating contest in the nation.

Staffing up (and down): It’s been nearly two weeks since Harris’s campaign announced that it would be laying off or redeploying staff from headquarters, as well as New Hampshire, Nevada and Iowa. But Nevada still hasn’t seen what New Hampshire has, with the campaign essentially halting all activity there.

I asked Harris while she was here over the weekend whether she still plans to redeploy staff from Nevada to Iowa. She gave me two non-answer answers.

“I care deeply about this state, I have worked closely with this state years before I ran and decided to run for president and I'll continue to focus resources on the state of Nevada,” Harris said, followed by, “I'm focused on Iowa, to be sure, there's no question. It's the first in the nation primary, and I'm all in on Iowa. I'm leaving Nevada to fly back to Iowa but Nevada is going to always be a priority for me.”

This comes as Castro has also announced that he is shifting his resources, with an increased focus in the coming weeks on Iowa, Nevada and Texas.

Ramping up before the first-in-the-West dinner: Buttigieg’s campaign here tells me that they plan to knock 10,000 doors as part of a weekend of action ahead of the Nevada State Democratic Party’s first-in-the-West event Sunday, where 13 Democratic hopefuls, including the South Bend mayor, will appear. (More on that below.)

Staffers and office count survey: I reached out to all the campaigns with a presence here to find out their latest staff and office census. Not all responded, but here’s what I got from those who did:

  • Biden: About 40 staff, with the campaign in the process of actively trying to hire more, and five offices.
  • Booker: About 20 staff, with plans to add more in the next few weeks, and two offices in Las Vegas and Reno.
  • Buttigieg: 46 staff, with plans to add more to the team over the next week, and 10 offices. (That includes six organizers full time in rural Nevada, and offices in Pahrump, Fallon and Elko.)
  • Castro: four staffers, and one office.
  • Harris: 26 staffers, and four offices.
  • Sanders: 72 staffers, and eight offices, with plans to open an Elko office soon.
  • Steyer: More than two dozen staffers and two offices.
  • Warren: More than 50 staffers, and nine offices.
  • Yang: 14 staffers, and two offices.

Michael Bennet was also here: The Colorado senator recently made his second trip to the state to speak at the HLTH Conference here in Las Vegas. “I’m running because I think I’ve got an agenda I think can not just unite Democrats but also win back some of the 9 million people who voted twice for Barack Obama and once for Donald Trump and that’s what it’s going to take to win purple states like Colorado and Nevada and Iowa and win not just the presidency but the Senate as well,” Bennet told CBS News’ Alex Tin outside of the conference.

Medicare for all delegates: Activist Christine Kramar, who was a Sanders national delegate from Nevada in 2016, has started a new PAC focused on electing delegates who support Medicare for all to the Democratic National Convention. It’s called the Medicare for All Delegates Network. (Thanks to my colleague, Riley Snyder, for spotting the FEC filing.)

Kramar told me the goal is to get half of the delegates elected from each state to support Medicare for all.

“The project is about beating the second ballot in the Presidential nomination process at the national convention,” Kramar said in a text. “We may end up helping to elect delegates from multiple Presidential candidates who become no longer bound to those candidates as all delegates are on the second ballot to unite around the candidate with the best Medicare for all plan.”

What she’s talking about here is if no candidate has enough delegates at the Democratic National Convention to clinch the nomination, all delegates that were bound at the state level become unbound and can support whichever candidate they want. The goal here would be that those candidate could pool their power to back a candidate who supports Medicare for all.


ON THE INDY

Nevada’s battleground status may depend on Biden: Republicans here in Nevada are gearing up for the general election. But several Republican operatives on the ground say that whether Nevada is actually in play may come down to whether the Democrats choose Biden as their nominee.

Harris campaigns with Culinary: The California senator was the first to be invited by the politically powerful Culinary Union to a town hall. There, she threaded the needle with her union-friendly Medicare-for-all plan.

Nevada still a battleground, DNC says: My colleague Humberto Sanchez was at a DNC briefing last week, where one party official said that Trump faces “historic headwinds” here. “There’s not a lot of evidence that he can successfully compete and win there,” he said.

Yang and Steyer join the pod: My colleague Jacob Solis sat down with tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang recently to talk about universal basic income and Yucca Mountain. I chatted last week with Steyer, who called Warren’s health care plan a “huge risk” and weighed in on contamination associated with the Anaconda Copper Mine.

Steyer stumps in Nevada: While in town last week, Steyer hosted a town hall in Henderson where he talked about health care and veterans. Indytern Shannon Miller was there.


CAMPAIGN NUGGETS

Staffing changes and office openings

  • Booker Campaign Manager Addisu Demissie opened the campaign’s Reno office on Oct. 29, in addition to participating in a housing clinic tour.
  • Warren opened a new office in Southwest Las Vegas on Nov. 2. (Former Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani was there and also to kick off the campaign’s weekend of action.) Her campaign also opened its Elko campaign office on Nov. 9, its eighth campaign office in the state, with plans to open a ninth in the near future.
  • Steyer opened his Nevada headquarters in person on Nov. 3. On Wednesday, his son, Sam Steyer, attended the grand opening of the campaign’s Reno office.

New endorsements

  • Warren was recently endorsed by Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles and Bob Fulkerson, founder of the Progressive Alliance of Nevada.
  • Team Buttigieg on Monday announced the formation of “Nevada Leaders and Military Communities for Pete,” a group of servicemembers, veterans, members of military families and others who are backing Buttigieg in Nevada.
  • As I first told you on Twitter, Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo — who plans to run for Nevada Supreme Court next year — will withdraw all of his endorsements, which include Biden, before the judicial filing period in January "in order to comply with judicial canons."

Upcoming candidate visits

  • Self-help author Marianne Williamson is in town through Wednesday. She’s scheduled to speak to residents of the Siena Retirement Community in Summerlin on Tuesday and host a meet-and-greet at UNLV on Wednesday.
  • Thirteen Democratic presidential hopefuls are slated to appear the Nevada State Democratic Party’s first-in-the-West event at the Bellagio on Friday night. Those who will attend are Bennet, Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, Harris, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sanders, former Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak, Steyer, Warren and Yang.
  • Biden has announced that he will also be in Las Vegas on Saturday and Elko on Sunday before the event. The former vice president will also be back in Nevada on Dec. 10 and 11.

Surrogate stops

  • Biden campaign manager Greg Schultz was in town on Oct. 29.
  • Biden campaign co-chair Rep. Cedric Richmond, the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, attended the Washoe Dems Virginia Demmler Honor Roll dinner in Reno on Nov. 6. The following day, he met with local community members and officials in Las Vegas.
  • Sam Steyer also attended the Virginia Demmler Honor Roll dinner.
  • Chasten Buttigieg, husband of Pete Buttigieg, was in Nevada on Nov. 2, kicking off a canvass in Southwest Las Vegas, meeting with organizers and touring Positively Kids — a nonprofit that focuses on meeting the needs of medically fragile kids and developmentally delayed children — with Assemblywomen Michelle Gorelow and Shea Backus.
  • Several surrogates traveled to Elko on Saturday for the Elko County Democratic Party’s Roosevelt/Kennedy Dinner, including Carolyn Booker, mother of Cory Booker; Valerie Biden Owens, Joe Biden’s sister and longtime political advisor; and Doug Emhoff, Harris’s husband.
  • Carolyn Booker also hosted a meet and greet in Winnemucca on Saturday, as well as a breakfast in Elko and a meet and greet at the campaign’s Reno office on Sunday.
  • Emhoff also made stops in Winnemucca and West Wendover while in northeastern Nevada.
  • Second Lady Karen Pence will be in Las Vegas on Thursday for a Latinos for Trump event at the East Las Vegas Community Center.

Other election news

  • The Nevada State Democratic Party opened its first field office in the Historic West Side on Oct. 29. The opening was attended by Assemblyman Will McCurdy, the party’s chair.
  • The party also hosted a weekend of action over the weekend, with caucus trainings in Las Vegas, Reno and Carson City. The party also plans to host veterans-centered training at Veterans Village on Nov. 13 and a women-to-women phone bank at a party field office.
  • Sanders’ campaign announced that it is “rapidly approaching” 2 million attempted voter contacts in the state.
  • Warren’s team hosted an afternoon tea service event called “Putting the Tea in Persist” with a conversation with leaders of the arts, entrepreneurial, and nonprofit communities. The campaign plans to hold a community information and listening session with Assemblyman Howard Watts, who has endorsed Warren, at Pearson Community Center today focused on issues that impact the Black community.
  • Buttigieg’s campaign plans to hold volunteer summits on Nov. 22 in Las Vegas and Dec. 6 in Reno, with the goal of training of hundreds of volunteers.

DOWN BALLOT NEWS

Reshuffling on the Board of Regents: Clark County Regent Trevor Hayes won’t run for re-election to Board of Regents, Indytern Shannon Miller reports.

Supreme Court changes: Shannon also reports that Associate Chief Justice Kristina Pickering will seek re-election in 2020, while Chief Justice Mark Gibbons will not.

Independent redistricting commission:  The League of Women Voters is pushing for a ballot initiative that would create an independent redistricting commission to combat partisan gerrymandering, my colleague Riley Snyder reports.

Ranked choice voting for state Senate: Riley also talked to a teacher in rural Nevada who is proposing a measure to amend the Nevada Constitution by substantially overhauling the structure of state Senate elections and including elements of ranked choice voting.

SOS to CCC: Former Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller, who lost a high-profile bid for attorney general in 2014, will run for Clark County Commission, Shannon reports.


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