Titus, Wheeler may face off for state Senate bid in 2022

Assemblywoman Robin Titus walking out of the Assembly

Assembly members Jim Wheeler (R-Minden) and Robin Titus (R-Wellington) are both eyeing a move to the state Senate in 2022.

Sen. James Settelmeyer (R-Minden) is termed out of the Senate after this session, and the two Assembly districts nestled in his sprawling state Senate district are represented by Wheeler (one term left in the Assembly) and Titus (two terms left).

Settelmeyer’s Senate District 17 covers several western and northern Nevada rural counties, and is one of the safest Republican districts in the state — meaning the winner of the primary is essentially assured a Senate seat. Settelmeyer won the 2018 election with nearly 72 percent of the vote over his Democratic opponent.

Both Titus and Wheeler confirmed their interest in a bid when asked by The Nevada Independent. Titus said she would run for the seat, assuming that the boundary isn’t changed too drastically during the 2020 redistricting process, and Wheeler said he has moved beyond “interested” and is definitely running for the seat in 2022.

It’s not unusual for legislators to start jostling for future positions during the legislative session — then-Assemblyman Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) publicly weighed a bid for a state Senate seat held by Don Gustavson in the 2017 session, though the two worked out the issue with Gustavson opting not to run for re-election.

More recently, former Assembly members Ellen Spiegel and Richard Carrillo left their seats to run for a state Senate seat vacated by termed out Sen. David Parks — both lost in a primary to eventual winner, Sen. Roberta Lange (D-Las Vegas).

The two have largely avoided public spats, even as Titus took over as leader of the Assembly Republican caucus from Wheeler after the 2019 session. 

Both lawmakers have taken some preliminary steps to shore up their Republican Party credentials; Wheeler prior to the 2021 session announced formation of an “Assembly Freedom Caucus,” composed of seven fellow Assembly Republicans.

For her part, Titus has adhered closely to the state Republican Party line — including recently publishing an open letter on her Facebook page detailing Assembly Republican efforts to focus on “election integrity” during the session.

Editor’s Note: 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.

Freshman Orientation: Senator Roberta Lange

As in sessions past, The Nevada Independent is publishing a series of profiles featuring all the new lawmakers in the state. This is the sixth installment of more than a dozen. Check back in the coming days for additional stories on new legislators' backgrounds, interests and policy positions.

SENATOR ROBERTA LANGE

  • Freshman Democrat who succeeds Democratic Sen. David Parks
  • Represents District 7, which includes parts of Las Vegas southeast of the Strip and north of Henderson 
  • District 7 leans heavily Democratic (43.5 percent Democratic, 23.8 percent Republican and 25.8 percent nonpartisan in the 2020 election)
  • Lange defeated two other candidates — former Assembly members Ellen Spiegel and Richard Carrillo — in the 2020 Democratic primary with 38.2 percent of the vote.
  • She did not face an opponent in the 2020 general election
  • She will sit on the Education, Legislative Operations and Elections, and Commerce and Labor committees

FAMILY AND EDUCATION

Born in California and raised in Whitefish, Montana, Lange attended and obtained her undergraduate degree from a private Christian college in Southern California on a basketball scholarship (the school is now The Master’s University, but was previously named Los Angeles Baptist College).

After graduating, she moved to Washington state and took a job as a public school teacher. She met her husband, Ken, at a teacher’s conference, and moved to Las Vegas in 1995. She has four adult children.

CAREER

Lange is a retired public school teacher, but is best known for her past involvement with Democratic Party campaign and issues, including serving as chair of the Nevada State Democratic Party from 2011 to 2017.

PROFILE

For a brief period of time in 2016, Roberta Lange was in the center of the national political universe.

The simmering conflict between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary erupted during a raucous Nevada state party convention, filled with accusations of rule-bending and cheating over the awarding of Nevada’s delegates to choose the next Democratic nominee for president.

In the center of the firestorm was Lange — the state party chairwoman, and soon the object of scorn and even death threats from Sanders supporters around the country.

Five years later, Lange said the attacks and attention from her role in the convention have largely evaporated. In talking with Democratic primary voters while running her office, she said she spoke with several Sanders supporters who were at the convention, but was able to have calmer, productive conversations about what had happened.

“People had deep convictions for what they believed in, whether it was Medicare for All, or a progressive agenda, and they want to make sure that that was a part of the overall package moving forward, and that Bernie Sanders was the best messenger for them in that situation,” she said. “I think they still have those convictions. I have my convictions, but now I think we can talk about it.”

With the benefit of hindsight, she said the entirety of the experience re-committed her to involvement in political life.

“After I was able to step away and heal myself, my voice inside of me... said, you still have that conviction, and you can't let it go, you still have to fight for what you believe in,” she said. “And I think it never went away. And it's stronger than ever. And so I think things happen in our lives for a reason, and if we can take those things and grow from it, then we are better in the end.”

Lange’s interest in political issues didn’t begin at an early age — her family largely avoided bringing up the topic, and a similar dynamic awaited her at college. But after moving to Washington to take a teaching job, she joined her teacher’s union and a “whole new world opened up to me.”

She served two terms as president of the Washington State Education Association, spent time as the union’s chief negotiator and lobbied the state legislature on education issues. A memento from that time followed her to Carson City — a framed photo of her (then a teachers’ union lobbyist) sitting at a Washington state senator’s desk, whom she had visited to lobby.

“I remember asking him if I could please sit at his desk,” she said. “And so I'm going to take that picture to Carson City, because I think that's when I first thought that maybe I would like to be in elected office someday. And sometimes those things have a life of their own.”

Lange moved to Nevada in 1995 after meeting her husband at a national teachers convention, taking a job at Durango High School. But her involvement in the political sphere continued apace — taking a position as a deputy campaign manager in U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s 1998 re-election campaign. Additional political stints included work for a congressional candidate (Tom Gallagher), Dina Titus’s gubernatorial campaign in 2006 and state director for former presidential candidate Bill Richardson in 2008.

She then transitioned to party politics, chairing the Clark County Democratic Party for three years and eventually taking over as chair of the Nevada State Democratic Party in 2011 — a role she held for three two-year terms (she also mounted an unsuccessful bid for Democratic National Committee secretary in 2017).

Despite two decades in either behind-the-scenes or party organization roles, Lange said she always had an interest eventually running for office — finally taking the plunge after longtime Democratic Sen. David Parks termed out of office after the 2019 session. She said it was “hard to run against people that are your friends” — Lange narrowly defeated two former Assembly Democrats in the primary — but that she knew it was her time to run for office.

“I felt like I had gathered all my tools,” she said. “And all the years that I had been in political work, that I would be ready to run whenever the opportunity presented itself. And so, this time was the time.”

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

ON THE ISSUES

Ending the caucus and other election issues

While saying that she wants Nevada to remain early or even first on the presidential nominating calendar, Lange said she would support moving Nevada from a caucus to primary election state.

It’s a move being worked on by Nevada Democrats statewide — part of the jostle between the early states on the primary election calendar — and is likely to come up in the Legislature, with Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson proposing a bill that would enable the state to transition away from a caucus to a primary election.

Lange said she liked that the caucus process required presidential candidates to campaign in the community, and hoped that a similar dynamic would continue to exist even if Nevada switched its election process for presidential preference contests.

“Whether we're a caucus state or a primary state, I want the same kinds of things to happen with the candidates, because I think we reflect the fabric of the nation,” she said.

Lange also said she was working on a bill draft that she described as “revisions” to current laws governing political parties, based on her experience as head of the state Democratic Party. She declined to give explicit details as the proposal is still in the works, but said it would include reducing the size of political party conventions and also getting rid of precinct chairs. 

Taxes

Lange declined to stake a position on any of the pending tax issues facing the Legislature, including proposals by the Clark County Education Association to hike the sales and gaming tax rates, measures passed during the 2020 special sessions changing the constitutional limits on mining taxes and any effort to change the property tax formula.

Lange said that she thought teachers should be paid more, but was cautious about pushing for any tax increases given that the state’s economy was still in a recovery phase.

“I'm not a person that thinks we should be governed by petitions,” she said. “I was an educator, where I lobbied and always asked for more money, and more money, and more money to raise salaries, and we never got it. I understand the frustration, and I want to help find a solution. It's just really hard at this time when everybody's getting cuts to talk about how we give more.”

Other legislative proposals

Lange’s list of bill draft request topics cover a wide range of subjects, including:

  • Updating planned unit development laws for counties or cities to streamline the process for businesses to make “minor changes” without going through the normal zoning or code process
  • Education changes, including allowing for college credits if high school students get certain seals on their diplomas, and a civics program that includes community service projects and recognizing “schools of distinction” in civics education
  • A measure related to energy storage
  • Health care changes, including allowing cancer patients to access drugs typically reserved for more serious cancer cases earlier in their treatment, and a measure related to female privacy and medical examinations

Freshman Orientation: Assemblywoman Venicia Considine

As in sessions past, The Nevada Independent is publishing a series of profiles featuring all the new lawmakers in the state. This is the fifth installment of more than a dozen. Check back in the coming days for additional stories on new legislators' backgrounds, interests and policy positions.

ASSEMBLYWOMAN VENICIA CONSIDINE

  • Freshman Democrat who replaces Democrat Richard Carrillo, who left the seat to mount an unsuccessful bid for state Senate
  • Represents District 18, which lies in southeast Las Vegas
  • District 18 leans heavily Democratic (44 percent Democratic, 23 percent Republican and 26 percent nonpartisan in the 2020 election for active voters)
  • Considine won the four-way Democratic primary for her district by securing 39.4 percent of the vote after initially trailing Lisa Ortega, a master arborist and owner of Great Basin Sage Consulting, in early primary results
  • She then defeated Republican Heather Ann Florian in the general election by carrying 61.4 percent of the vote
  • She will sit on the Commerce and Labor, Government Affairs and Revenue committees

FAMILY AND EDUCATION

Considine was the first person in her family to graduate from college and holds a bachelor’s, master’s and a law degree from UNLV. Originally from New York, the assemblywoman has called Las Vegas home for the last 30 years.

CAREER

Considine is an attorney and the director of development and community relations at the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. 

PROFILE

Considine grew up in New York City but spent most of her teenage years traversing the U.S. in an RV.

The transition to life on the road came when Considine's father retired from firefighting and realized that his pension could no longer support his family living in their home on Long Island.

"My parents' solution [to the loss of income] was to sell everything that we owned and eventually bought an RV and we drove around the country," Considine, 51, said.

By the time Considine graduated from high school, she had lived in four states and attended six high schools. The constant moving shaped her worldview, but finances were tight.

Determined to pursue higher education, Considine decided to move to Las Vegas, where she put herself through college by working various jobs, often studying late into the night.

"I thought if I could build something, if I could go to college, if I could start a life, Las Vegas would be the place to do it," Considine said. "Whether it was timing, whatever it was, I was able to get a job, sometimes a full-time job and a part-time job. I was able to pay my way through UNLV."

At UNLV, Considine studied American history, earning her bachelor's degree in 1997 and then her master's degree in the same field in 2002.

When her daughter turned five years old, Considine said she knew she needed to find a more sustainable career path than academia, leading to her decision to attend law school through UNLV's part-time night program.

"Ten-year-old me would probably be in shock with what I'm doing and not recognize me. I was a very shy child," Considine said with a laugh. "I went to law school because I thought it would open more doors than not going to law school."

In 2008, Considine began working at the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, eventually joining the organization as an attorney in 2009 for the recently formed foreclosure unit. In her new role, she saw firsthand the effects of the great recession and the experience shaped her decision to run for office.

"Working with people to try to just keep them afloat will stick with me forever, especially comparing that to living in campgrounds and RV parks. It's kind of the same experiences in my life over and over," Considine said. "I wanted to try to do something and the Assembly seat was open ... and in my life, if there's a door, I'm always curious about going through it and seeing what I can do and if I can help."

In her free time, the assemblywoman enjoys reading history books and watching films from a list that she consistently adds to with movies made between 1911 and the present.

"I'm kind of a nerd," Considine said.

As the legislative session gets underway, Considine said that she would love to expand access to health care and education. Still, the session might be more focused on budgets, and perhaps in a second term, she can focus on some "bigger" initiatives.

"Everything that I think that I will need to vote on or work on, I will look through that prism of 'how does this help somebody to build a better life?'," she said.

From left, Assemblywomen Brittney Miller, Elaine Marzola and Venicia Considine on the first day of the 81st session of the Legislature in Carson City on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

ON THE ISSUES

Education

As a first-generation college graduate, Considine said she knows the value of education. With budget cuts on the table, she added that protecting education is of the utmost importance.

With many students still learning remotely, lawmakers have to assess the importance of internet connectivity and find ways to keep students and teachers safe while ensuring learning can still take place.

"We have to protect our teachers. We have to protect kids going back to school. We have to graduate students that are able to move ahead in life," Considine said.

Election integrity

Since she was elected, Considine said she has received emails from constituents questioning Nevada's election integrity. In her replies, she said she linked news articles debunking any claim of electoral fraud.

She added that she supports the Legislature's changes during the 2020 special sessions and believes that the new laws helped people vote during a dangerous time.

"The right to vote is sacred. So to encourage people to vote is, to me … a given and I was really proud of Nevada for doing that," Considine said. "I believe it was a free and fair election. And I believe that if it wasn't, we would have heard about it from our secretary of state, from our Legislature, from everybody."

Taxes

As a new legislator, Considine said that she is open to hearing different tax reform proposals, but she does not want to put more of a burden on Nevadans.

"As an attorney, I'm really aware of unintended consequences and I don't want to do anything that would put families who are barely making it into a worse position than they would be," Considine said. "So I want to learn more about the pros and cons of all of the things that I've been hearing, and seeing what can work best and what we can do."

Climate change

Considine said that renewable energy is the future, and tapping into that future can help diversify Nevada's economy. 

"I also think that we need to encourage the education in high schools and community colleges and universities, so that we have the brain power to continue moving towards a better renewable future," she said. "And it's not just something that we plan, we do, and we forget … we continuously expand on that."

Nevada grows majority-female Legislature after 2020 election, with more than 60 percent of seats to be filled by women

Assembly Majority Floor Leader Teresa Benitez-Thompson, right, speaks with Deputy Minority Whip Robin Titus, on Friday, July 31, 2020 during the first day of the 32nd Special Session of the Legislature in Carson City.

Two years after Nevada made history as the first U.S. state to have women compose a majority of its state Legislature, lawmakers will return to Carson City in 2021 with nearly 60 percent of the seats filled by female legislators — by far the largest percentage of any statehouse in the country.

Though Democrats lost three seats in the Assembly and one in the state Senate after final vote totals were released over the weekend, one of the most notable changes heading into the 2021 Legislature will be the gender makeup; female lawmakers will now represent 38 seats in the 63-member body.

In total, the 42-seat state Assembly will have 27 female lawmakers and 15 male lawmakers, including 19 female Democrats and eight female Republicans. In the 21-member state Senate, men will hold 10 seats and females will hold 11 (two Republicans and nine Democrats). Women held 33 of the 63 seats in the 2019 Legislature, hitting the majority mark after two female Assembly members (Rochelle Nguyen and Bea Duran) were appointed to vacant positions by the Clark County Commission in December 2019.

The increase in female lawmakers can be attributed to a variety of factors, including several retiring or termed out male legislators being replaced by women and both parties running female candidates in several major races, including three close state Senate seats. That means substantial turnover — roughly a quarter of legislative seats will be filled by newcomers — will result in Nevada again having the nation’s highest percentage of female lawmakers.

Democratic Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, first elected in 1999, said the gender balance was closer to 70-30 male dominated when she entered the Legislature, but that gradual cultural shifts over the next 20 years helped drive the shift to first gender parity and later a clear female majority in the statehouse.

“Women realize that we've got to be at the table,” she said. “We've worked very hard for that. We've educated folks. We've gotten them involved. And they've seen what's at stake, and they want to be part of the conversation. I think that's fantastic.”

Regardless of gender make-up, lawmakers entering the 2021 legislative session will have an immediate and pressing agenda: constitutionally-mandated redistricting; a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and likely additional major budget cuts to the state general fund; and a host of potential tax issues, including efforts by the Clark County Education Association to qualify a sales and gaming tax initiative, and proposals brought during the 2020 summer special session to hike the cap on mining taxes in the state constitution.

But Jill Tolles, a Republican Assemblywoman entering her third term, said that growing ranks of female lawmakers also have helped bring more legislation to the forefront on previously under-addressed issues, including measures aimed at preventing sexual assault or sex trafficking.

Tolles said it was special to be a part of history as part of the first female majority Legislature, but that it will be more important when reaching gender parity isn’t newsworthy.

“It's still exciting, and it's still wonderful to see, but I think that one of the things that we saw in 2019 was we very quickly after the celebrations, just rolled up our sleeves and got to work on policy,” she said. “And not just policy on some of those issues that we hadn't traditionally given as much light to or given as much time to in the past, but all policies that impact men and women equally.”

Nationwide in 2020, only about 29.3 percent of lawmakers in state legislatures are female, according to a tally by the Center for American Women and Politics.

Seven legislative districts are going from male to female representative, including:

  • Assembly District 2, where Republican Heidi Kasama will take over a seat held by termed-out Assemblyman John Hambrick
  • Assembly District 6, where Democrat Shondra Summers-Armstrong will take the seat held previously by William McCurdy (elected to the Clark County Commission in 2020)
  • Assembly District 18, where Democrat Venicia Considine will take the seat of former Assemblyman Richard Carrillo. Carrillo left the seat to mount an unsuccessful bid for state Senate
  • Assembly District 19, where Republican Annie Black defeated incumbent Chris Edwards in the June primary election. Black did not face a general election opponent
  • Assembly District 21, where Democrat Elaine Marzola will represent the seat formerly held by Democrat Ozzie Fumo (who ran and lost in a bid for state Supreme Court)
  • Assembly District 30, where Democrat Natha Anderson will represent a district previously held by Democrat Greg Smith. Smith was appointed to the seat after the resignation of former Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle amid accusations of sexual harassment
  • State Senate District 7, where Democrat Roberta Lange takes the seat of termed-out state Sen. David Parks. Lange won a narrow primary victory over incumbent Assembly members Ellen Spiegel and Richard Carrillo, but did not face a general election opponent

Three districts previously represented by female lawmakers will now have a male representative, including:

  • Assembly District 7, previously held by Democrat Dina Neal but that now will be represented by Democrat C.H. Miller
  • Assembly District 20, previously held by Democrat Ellen Spiegel but that now will be represented by Democrat David Orentlicher
  • Assembly District 37, where Republican Andy Matthews ousted Democratic incumbent Shea Backus

The tally of female lawmakers has increased since the start of the 2019 session, owing to vacancies (several resignations and a death) of seats held by men but filled by female appointees. Ahead of the 2020 election, the 63-member body was composed of 34 female lawmakers and 29 male lawmakers. 

Carlton said she has enjoyed working with an increasingly diverse group of female lawmakers of both parties during the legislative session, saying that the legislative process is improved when more diverse viewpoints are brought to the table. While female lawmakers aren’t a monolith — she noted that many come from different career fields and range from retirees to those just starting their careers — Carlton said that their outlook and approach to the legislative process yield beneficial results.

“We have a tendency more to want to wrap our arms around something and try to solve all the pieces of the puzzle, while I think the guys sometimes want to dissect it and see what's wrong, and then put it together,” she said. “We come at things in a different viewpoint with all the different life experiences that we have.”

Special session draws to a close as lawmakers pass COVID liability bill exempting hospitals, schools

Lawmakers ended the second special session of the summer shortly after midnight on Wednesday after passing a heavily lobbied bill that shields many businesses from COVID-19-related lawsuits but ultimately exempted school districts, hospitals and other health care facilities from receiving the additional protections.

Members of the Assembly, after a five-hour hearing Wednesday night, voted 31-10 to grant final approval to SB4, the last major piece of legislation to advance in the special session. It mandates certain health and safety protections for hospitality workers, in addition to granting broad liability protections to nearly all businesses, governmental bodies and nonprofit groups in the state so long as they follow required local, state and federal health protocols. 

Several lawmakers described the vote as one of the most difficult of their legislative career, saying it was born of backroom deals and seemed to arbitrarily cut out important segments of the workforce. But supporters said they ultimately settled on the bill out of recognition that gaming is the lifeblood of the Nevada economy.

"Ultimately it comes down to one thing: I don't want to be back here in a few months trying to figure out where to find money on the backs of the most vulnerable among us to fill another $1.3 billion budget hole,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod. “We talk all the time about how we need to diversify our economy but the fact remains we are still a one trick pony — gaming and tourism fuel our economy.”

Four Democrats — Selena Torres, Edgar Flores, Richard Carrillo, and Brittney Miller — and six Republicans — John Ellison, Greg Hafen, Alexis Hansen, Al Kramer, Robin Titus and Chris Edwards — opposed the bill, which was approved by the Senate on a 16-5 vote earlier in the day.

In effect, the bill means that most regular businesses will be relatively protected from lawsuits if a customer contracts COVID-19 on the premises, so long as the company is following local, state and federal health mandates, such as ensuring that patrons are wearing masks. Customers will still be able to sue, but they’ll have to meet a much higher threshold for a court to allow their case to move forward.

The legislation also establishes protections for casino industry workers and outlines enhanced cleaning policies that large casino companies must follow, provisions the politically powerful Culinary Union has been long pushing for. Adolfo Fernandez, a Caesars Palace utility porter and Culinary Union member, died after contracting the virus in June, and his daughter, Irma, tearfully testified that she was carrying on a mantle of worker protection at his direction.

The two proposals were married together as SB4 in order to ensure that businesses — including gaming companies — and casino workers alike received the protections they wanted. 

However, while that mechanism ensured buy-in from some of the most politically powerful interests in the state, others were excluded from the process of drafting the bill. Hospitals and other health care facilities bemoaned their exclusion from the bill, schools argued against a last-minute amendment excluding them from liability protections and local health districts questioned why they weren’t consulted over new provisions that give them an enhanced oversight role over hotels.

“I share, like many of my colleagues, sentiments that this bill picks winners and losers and gives preferences to some special interest groups,” said Assembly Minority Leader Robin Titus. “I am very disappointed and hope that future legislatures will be able to right the wrongs that are being done today.”

Hospitals protest exclusion

During a lengthy public comment period, hospitals and health care workers warned that excluding health care facilities from liability protections would lead to them having to exclude vendors and visitors to hospitals, as well as think twice about transferring patients to lower-level facilities and threaten their ability to keep beds open during a pandemic.

“If we are following clear rules from the government, and in our case CDC guidelines, we should not be excluded,” said Bill Welch, CEO of the Nevada Hospital Association. “By excluding medical facilities from this bill, access to patient care will be impacted.”

Representatives of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office tried to point to an emergency directive from April extending additional immunities from liability to providers of medical care engaged in the state’s COVID-19 response as justification for why hospitals and other health care facilities were excluded from the bill’s liability protections. 

However, Legislative Counsel Bureau General Counsel Kevin Powers told lawmakers Wednesday night that whether those additional immunities extend to health care facilities — not just their workers — is an “open question.”

“We cannot say that [the directive] provides medical facilities with the same immunity that their workers enjoy under [state law],” Powers said.

It also remained unclear as of Wednesday night who was responsible for health care facilities being excluded from the bill’s liability protections. During a hearing on the bill in the Senate early Tuesday morning, Brin Gibson, Sisolak’s interim general counsel, said the legislation was a byproduct of “some of the most important members of Nevada’s economy,” a point that several Assembly members asked about during the hearing on the bill.

Pressed during Wednesday’s hearing on who those “important members” were, Gibson demurred.

“There were myriad interests that were involved in the negotiation of this bill, from the travel and tourism industry, primarily, but there were a number of different interests,” Gibson said. “I don’t have a list.”

Sisolak’s staff, on Wednesday, acknowledged that the move was a policy decision from the governor’s office but offered no explanation as to why exactly hospitals had been excluded, other than that they believed that the facilities have enough existing protections.

At another point, the governor’s office suggested that putting in place liability protections would have been too difficult.

“This bill is around health and safety for public accommodations and also for businesses,” said Francisco Morales, a governor’s office staffer who presented the bill alongside Gibson. "To try and tackle liability protections for hospitals and medical providers ... would’ve been extremely complex, and I just want to go back and say that there are already robust protections under (state law).”

School district exemption

An amendment introduced early Wednesday carved out K-12 school districts, including charter schools, from the enhanced liability protections in the bill — a concession celebrated by two of the state’s largest teacher unions, the Nevada State Education Association (NSEA) and Clark County Education Association. 

Democratic lawmakers initially pitched the amendment as a way to ensure school districts would be more cautious about sending teachers back to school without high health and safety standards in place. Democratic Sen. Julia Ratti said it would “put our schools in the position of having to think just a little bit harder about the safety standards that they're providing.”

Legislative legal staff told lawmakers that schools would still be able to use normal litigation immunity offered under existing law, but several school districts said the lack of enhanced liability standards would open them up to liability and that they should be treated the same as other governmental entities.

“If employees and students choose not to follow health and safety standards outside of school, the district shouldn’t be at fault for their actions,” Nevada Association of School Boards President Bridget Peterson said in written testimony. “The potential lawsuits will be costly and put school districts in a financial risk at a time where our budgets are being reduced and expenses are increasing.”

Churchill County School District Superintendent Summer Stephens said districts were working hard to ensure that they could address health and safety issues as they arose and that the enhanced liability protections would put them in a better position in spite of existing liability protections written into law.

“Adding schools back into the bill does not mean schools will not protect their staff members,” she said.

In the end, NSEA lobbyist Chris Daly testified against the bill, saying that it wanted to show solidarity with workers who did not benefit from the measure.

"An injury to one is an injury to all,” he said.

Health districts excluded from drafting

The heads of Nevada’s two urban health districts said on Wednesday that they were not consulted as the legislation was being drafted, despite the fact that it newly tasks them with regular inspections of hotels to ensure compliance with COVID-19-related protocols and establishes a new enforcement role.

“It’s just another burden being placed upon the health district while we’re already overextended in our response to COVID-19,” Washoe County District Health Officer Kevin Dick said.

The health districts have also raised concerns that, while the bill appropriates additional funding to them, it only makes that funding available through the end of the calendar year. SB4 appropriates $2 million to the Southern Nevada Health District and $500,000 to the Washoe County Health District.

Michelle White, chief of staff to Sisolak, said that the governor’s office understands the health districts’ concerns about the time frame of the funding but that they are “completely confident” that the health districts “understand the critical nature of this work to protect Nevada’s employees and our economy.” She added that health districts already have existing authority and expertise with public accommodations, such as hotels, and so they seemed like an “obvious choice” to take on the new role.

“We are incredibly sympathetic with the health districts that they can do this as an expansion,” White said. “We will be a very strong partner with those health districts as we have been and can’t be more appreciative of the work and partnership that they’ve had thus far with us.”

Assembly passes bills reversing police misconduct protections, addressing unemployment delays

Members of the Nevada Assembly voted 25-17 on Tuesday in favor of SB2, a measure that repeals some elements of a 2019 bill that critics say make it difficult to hold police accountable for misconduct.

Democrats Richard Carrillo, Skip Daly, Edgar Flores and Dina Neal joined Republicans in opposing the bill.

The measure, which passed the Senate Monday on a 13-8 vote, unravels some elements of SB242 — a bill sponsored by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro in 2019. That bill expanded a “Peace Officers Bill of Rights” intended to “provide much needed protections for members of law enforcement to successfully do their jobs.”

She said in a presentation to the Assembly that such provisions started emerging in various states’ laws in the 1980s and are "an acknowledgement of our appreciation and gratitude for the wonderful work of our first responders. They also shield our peace officers from unreasonable treatment and accusations by their employer."

SB242 passed unanimously in the Senate in 2019 and 36-3 in the Assembly in 2019, but has come under significant fire in recent months, especially amid Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Cannizzaro added that "just because this was overwhelmingly supported by the Legislature does not mean that we cannot still be willing to revisit those policies when concerns arise."

Nobody spoke in favor of the bill on Tuesday, with many activists opposing because they said people affected by police shootings were not involved in its creation and arguing that the measure should fully repeal SB242. Some opponents said the language that remains in the law and grants authority to police unions means officers are still insulated from consequences.

"Essentially, in codifying the [police protective associations] collective bargaining agreement, you have delegated legislative authority to a police union and made it impossible for our elected representatives to hold police accountable for misconduct,” said Sarah Hawkins for the Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice.

Police interests, however, pushed back against the measure and urged lawmakers not to paint them with the same brush as the Minneapolis police.

“What has changed in the 12 months to necessitate amending this legislation [SB242]? Are there specific cases that have resulted in unjust results because of this bill?" said Ron Dreher of the Reno Police Protective Association.

Democratic Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno said that while she voted for SB242 in the past, she realized the legislation had unintended consequences and said the Legislature needed to realize when it made a mistake.

“For those of you that say we didn’t go far enough and say that you were not listened to, that we didn’t hear Black and brown people, I’m a Black woman that worked in law enforcement and was proud of it,” she said. “But I’m also the mother of Black and brown children, and I know that as a community, as a nation, as a state, we can do better.”

Unemployment bill advances

Members of the Assembly voted 41-1 on Tuesday for a bill that gives the state more flexibility in addressing backlogged unemployment claims, with Republican Chris Edwards the lone opposition.

Edwards said the bill doesn’t address a litany of complaints that Nevadans have brought to legislators, including website glitches, not enough adjudicators and not enough knowledgeable customer service staffers.

“It’s not effective, and it will solve nothing. It simply doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t do right by our people who have been hurting for all these months,” he said. “I simply cannot support a bill that would be this derelict in what we should be doing for our constituents.”

Democratic Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, however, pushed back, highlighting the bill’s provision to secure seven more weeks of federally funded benefits for claimants and restructuring eligibility so those who are going back to work part-time in the hard-hit hospitality industry can keep drawing benefits. That way, she said, going back to work won’t hurt them more than it helps them.

“I believe that’s an extremely important part of this bill and I thoroughly disagree with the gentleman that just spoke,” she said. “These are good steps forward. It’s not perfect. We have more to do, but the flexibility that we have given the administration, with oversight from the Legislature … will make sure that we are part of the discussion and our constituents’ voices will be heard.”

The bill, which passed unanimously in the Senate, awaits consideration by the governor.

Legislative candidates raised $1.8 million over last three months, campaign finance reports show

The Nevada Legislature Building

It’s been more than a month since races were called in Nevada’s June primary election, but campaign finance reports showing who helped legislative candidates win their contests have only just been published.

Under a state law approved in 2019 and taking effect this election cycle, local and state candidates for elected office are required to file reports detailing their contributions and political spending every three months, similar to requirements for federal candidates. 

But unlike federal candidates, who are required to disclose their donors and political spending ahead of primary and general elections, no such requirement was made in Nevada law for statewide or legislative candidates — leaving voters and the public in the dark on the last two months of fundraising before the state’s primary election.

Reports were required to be submitted to the secretary of state’s office on Wednesday, July 15, and cover the period between April 1 and June 30.

In total, legislative candidates reported raising more than $1.8 million and spending $1.9 million during that three-month reporting period. Candidates ended the period with a combined $4.7 million in the bank, led by Democratic legislative leaders Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro ($692,000) and Speaker Jason Frierson ($442,900).

Although only one incumbent legislative candidate lost re-election in the primary (Republican Chris Edwards), the fundraising reports shine a light into the breadth and scope of political fundraising that occurred ahead of some of the state’s most hard-fought primary contents.

Campaign finance reports also provide an inside look into what races each political party thinks will be the most competitive come November, as well as a sense of how much influence certain groups, businesses or other politically powerful interests may have come the 2021 legislative session.

Democrats currently control 29 of 42 seats in the Assembly and 13 of 21 seats in the Senate. A seat flipped in the Senate would give the party a two-thirds majority in both legislative houses.

Fundraising totals reported on Wednesday are significant for another reason: it marks the last time for several weeks that lawmakers will be able to fundraise because of blackout rules around the ongoing special legislative session. State law prohibits any legislator from collecting campaign contributions during a special session and for at least 15 days afterwards — meaning many incumbents in tough races will be at a temporary disadvantage while their opponents can continue fundraising.

Here’s a look at how the fundraising battle played out in some of the state's top legislative primaries, and the state of play in competitive districts a few months before the November general election.

COMPETITIVE PRIMARIES

Senate District 7 

Former Nevada State Democratic Party Chair Roberta Lange claimed a narrow victory of 132 votes over Democratic Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel and, with no general election opponents, will take the seat, which covers parts of eastern Las Vegas and Henderson.

Lange, who was endorsed by the Nevada State Democratic Caucus, trailed far behind Spiegel in spending and fundraising in the first quarter but dominated in both areas in the second quarter, spending $136,000 and raising $66,000, $5,000 of which came from an in-kind donation of a poll from Nevada State Democrats. 

Her long list of donors included several Democratic senators, including $5,000 each from Cannizzaro's campaign and PACs connected to Mo Denis, Yvanna Cancela and Joyce Woodhouse. Other top donors included $5,000 from the Nevada Hispanic Leadership Fund and $5,000 from Citizens for Justice PAC, a PAC formed to combat the influence of big business and the insurance industry in politics.

The majority of her spending went to advertising. She also spent more than $18,000 on polling and gave $2,500 to Cannizzaro's campaign.

Lange ended the second quarter with just $2,600 in cash on hand, more than $139,000 less than Spiegel's war chest, and will join the Legislature in 2021. 

Assembly District 2

In a Republican primary saturated with candidates, former Nevada REALTORS president Heidi Kasama emerged victorious, with 47.9 percent of the vote. To represent the Southern Nevada district, Kasama will go toe-to-toe with Democrat Radhika “RPK” Kunnel, a law school student and former cancer biology professor.

During the three-month fundraising period in the second quarter, Kasama reported raising $16,385 and spending about $57,000 on expenses related to advertising, consultants and other costs. She ended the second quarter with about $63,600 in cash-on-hand, largely supported by $56,000 she gave her campaign in the first quarter.

Kasama’s top contributions included $3,000 from Republican Assemblyman Glen Leavitt’s campaign fund, $2,500 from Republican Assemblywoman Jill Tolles’s campaign, $1,000 from Assemblyman Tom Roberts’ campaign and $1,000 from the Business Leaders for Ethical Government PAC, which also contributed to Sen. Julia Ratti in 2018.

Kunnel’s contribution totals for the second quarter are much lower than the donations Kasama received. During the three-month donation period, Kunnel received $5,518 in contributions, $2,000 of which are demarcated as in-kind donations. She also received a $900 donation from former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s campaign fund.

The 2 percentage point Republican voter registration advantage in the district indicates Kasama could have the advantage.

Assembly District 4

Democratic Assemblywoman Connie Munk ran unopposed in the primary and is set to face former GOP Assemblyman Richard McArthur in the northwest Las Vegas Valley Assembly district’s general election. 

Munk, who eked out a narrow victory against McArthur in 2018 with a 120-vote margin out of nearly 30,000 votes cast, reported raising $18,154 during the second quarter, with about $280 in in-kind donations. 

Her largest contribution was $3,000 from the Citizens for Justice PAC (trial lawyers). She reported spending about $2,800 on mostly advertising and some office expenses, ending the second quarter with more than $87,000 cash on hand.

Fundraising for McArthur lagged behind Munk for the first two quarters. McArthur reported $700 in contributions during the second quarter, spending roughly $12,500 on expenses related to advertising and ending the second quarter with about $15,500 cash on hand.

McArthur defeated Donnie Gibson, the owner of a construction and equipment rental company, in the primary by securing 51.2 percent of votes to Gibson’s 48.9. That comes in spite of Gibson outspending him by more than $43,000 in the first quarter and almost $83,000 in the second quarter.

McArthur served three non-consecutive terms in the Assembly, including two terms between 2008 and 2012 and one term from 2016 to 2018. In a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by less than 1 percentage point, the race between Munk and McArthur could be close.

Assembly District 19

Republican Chris Edwards was the only lawmaker to lose in a primary election this cycle, after being outraised in the most recent fundraising quarter by opponent and Mesquite City Councilwoman Annie Black.

Black, who easily defeated Edwards in the primary election with 61 percent of the vote, reported raising more than $67,700 during the three-month fundraising period, including $9,000 in personal loans, $5,000 in in-kind contributions from a graphics company and nearly $6,000 in contributions under $100. She reported spending roughly $30,700, including repayment of loans, and ended the period with about $27,900 in cash on hand.

Her top donors included several family members, the holding company of Planet 13 marijuana dispensary in Las Vegas, the Nevada REALTORS PAC and a PAC run by Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore, a former legislative colleague of Edwards who once famously told him to “sit your ass down” on the Assembly floor.

Edwards reported raising $17,800, including sizable sums from Assembly Republicans Robin Titus, Al Kramer, Glen Leavitt and a PAC affiliated with Tom Roberts. He reported spending just over $28,300 and ended the period with $7,100 in cash on hand.

As no Democrats or other candidates filed to run in the race, Black will automatically be elected to the Legislature at the general election.

TOP 2020 GENERAL ELECTION RACES

Assembly District 29

Democratic incumbent Lesley Cohen will face Steven DeLisle, a dentist with several offices in Southern Nevada, in November. Cohen represented the Henderson Assembly district, a swing district, from 2012 to 2014 and lost her re-election bid to Stephen Silberkraus before reclaiming the seat in 2016.

Cohen leads DeLisle in fundraising and cash on hand at the end of the second quarter. Her $17,500 raised was boosted with a $5,000 contribution from Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton's campaign and donations from unions, including $1,500 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, and several PACS connected to firefighters in Nevada.

After spending $1,900 mostly on office expenses, she ended the period with more than $83,000 in available cash.

DeLisle, who took 63 percent of the vote in his Republican primary, raised $11,300 this period. His biggest donor was the conservative Keystone Corporation PAC with a $5,000 donation. He also received $1,000 from the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and $500 from Republican Assemblywoman Alexis Hansen, who represents part of Washoe County and several rural counties. 

DeLisle spent nearly $18,000 more than Cohen in the second quarter on a mix of advertising, consultants and office expenses. He has nearly $55,000 in available cash.

Assembly District 37

In one of the swingiest Assembly seats this election cycle, the Democratic incumbent Shea Backus is squaring off against Republican challenger Andy Matthews, former president of the conservative Nevada Policy Research Institute. 

Backus won the seat from Republican Assemblyman Jim Marchant by 135 votes in 2018, and Matthews beat out the three other Republicans in the primary election by carrying 49 percent of the vote.

During the second quarter, Matthews reported raising $39,182. His largest donations came in three $5,000 contributions — one from Assemblywoman Jill Tolles’ campaign, another from William Brady, owner of hospitality industry supplier Brady Industries, and the third from Keystone Corporation, a PAC supporting Nevada conservatives. 

Matthews spent more than $113,000 on expenses related to travel, advertising, consultants and office supplies, ending the second quarter with a cash-on-hand balance of $40,457. 

Though Matthews’ spending far outstripped that of any other candidate in the district, Backus has a higher cash-on-hand fund of $136,421 heading into the general election. During the second quarter she reported receiving $28,496 in contributions with top donations amounting to $8,000 from Citizens for Justice PAC, $2,500 from Southwest Gas and another $2,500 from the International Union of Operating Engineers, a union of heavy equipment operators.

Backus’ expenses for the second quarter amounted to $4,600, which went toward advertising and office expenses.

Senate District 5

There are three candidates on the ballot for the general election in Senate District 5, which includes portions of Henderson and southeastern Las Vegas. The district is currently represented by Democrat Joyce Woodhouse, who cannot seek re-election because of term limits.

Democratic candidate Kristee Watson led contributions in the district this period, reporting donations of $53,303, while Republican Carrie Buck reported $34,202 and Libertarian Tim Hagan reported none. All three candidates ran unopposed in their June primaries. 

Watson, the program facilitator for literacy nonprofit Spread the Word Nevada, saw major contributions from the Women’s Empowerment PAC, AFSCME, the Nevada Service Employees Union and Citizens for Justice. She also received $2,500 from the Committee to Elect Sen. Dallas Harris. 

Watson reported only $740 in spending and a cash on hand balance of just over $169,000. Buck has a lower reported cash on hand balance at $95,519, and the Republican candidate has been spending far more, reporting $12,386 during the same period, with nearly $12,000 of that going towards consulting.

Buck received a $10,000 contribution from the Keystone Corporation in April and $5,000 from the campaign of Republican Sen. Ben Kieckhefer. She has also received large donations from the PAC Nevadans for Integrity in Politics and Associated General Contractors.

Hagan has reported $0 in spending and $0 cash on hand.

Senate District 6

Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro narrowly won her first bid for office in 2016, and appears headed to another close contest against Republican attorney April Becker in one of the most important legislative races on the ballot.

Cannizzaro raised more dollars during the fundraising period than any other candidate — $114,000 — and ended June with more than $692,000 in cash on hand, with reported spending less than $8,800.

Her top donors included 13 entities giving $5,000, including many labor groups; AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Nevada Service Employees Union, and firefighter unions in North Las Vegas and Henderson. She also received $5,000 contributions from the Nevada REALTORS PAC, Eglet Adams law firm, the leadership PAC of Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, and the Majority 2020 PAC (which is run by Cannizzaro).

Her largest reported spending was a $5,000 contribution to Democratic state Senate candidate Roberta Lange.

On the Republican side, Becker reported raising nearly $51,700 and spending close to $58,000 during the reporting period, ending with nearly $150,000 in the bank. 

Her top contributions including $10,000 from the conservative Keystone Corporation, and $5,000 each from Republican Sen. Ben Kieckhefer’s campaign and a construction company owned by former casino executive William Richardson. 

Senate District 15

Republican Sen. Heidi Gansert emerged as one of the top fundraisers of the cycle, reporting nearly $79,000 in contributions and sitting on the biggest pile of campaign cash of any legislative Republican ($271,000) in her first re-election bid for this Reno-area district. 

Her top donors included $10,000 each from the company operating the Stratosphere and a PAC operated by former Lieutenant Gov. Mark Hutchison, as well as $5,000 from Reno Assemblywoman Jill Tolles and $2,500 from her own PAC (NV First).

She reported spending just over $74,000 during the fundraising period, which primarily went to consultant and advertising expenses.

But Democrats have endorsed and rallied around Wendy Jauregui-Jackins, a county appraiser and the sister of Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, who both easily beat back a primary challenge in June and reported raising more than $72,000 (including $13,000 in in-kind contributions) during the fundraising cycle.

Her biggest donors included $10,000 from the federal Teamsters PAC, $5,000 each from AFSCME and labor-backed Nevada Republic Alliance, as well as donations from other Democratic elected officials and affiliated PACs; Joyce Woodhouse, Marilyn Dondero-Loop, Dallas Harris, Yvanna Cancela, Melanie Schieble, Attorney General Aaron Ford and even U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s federal leadership PAC.

Jauregui-Jackins reported only $4,500 in spending and has $117,500 in cash on hand.

Senate District 18

Republican incumbent Scott Hammond will compete against Democratic challenger Liz Becker in November in an effort to maintain his Senate District 18 seat. Hammond has held the seat, which represents the northwestern portion of Las Vegas, since 2012. 

Hammond has reported contributions of $25,000 in the second period of 2020 including $5,000 from the Keystone Corporation, and $2,000 each from District 22 Assemblyman Keith Pickard, the Nevada REALTORS PAC, Enterprise Holdings Inc PAC and Cox Communications. Hammond has reported $69,394 in spending, mostly on consulting and special event costs. He has a reported cash on hand of $23,383.

Becker, who dominated the Democratic primary with 88 percent of the vote, is a former teacher and environmental scientist who previously worked with Southern Nevada Water Authority. Becker has reported raising $23,501 during the three-month period including $5,000 from AFSCME, who also endorsed the candidate in her primary. 

Becker reported spending far lower than her opponent at $1,918.13 in the same period, with the majority going towards office expenses. While her contributions for the period were lower, Becker’s reported total cash on hand is higher than her opponents at $30,268.14.

Primary election turnout exceeds 480,000, sets up major races for November

After more than a week, Nevada’s unique, mostly mail 2020 primary election is finally in the books and will end as one of the highest-turnout primary elections in state history.

Final results from the state’s June 9 primary election are updated as of Thursday, ahead of the legal deadline for votes to officially be canvassed on Friday. More than 480,000 ballots were cast in the election, or around 29.5 percent of registered voters.

The long delay in reporting was a result of Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s decision to hold a mostly all-mail election in an effort to mitigate potential spread of COVID-19, with limited in-person voting sites in each county. Most voters opted to use a mail-in ballot, with only around 7,800 people opting to cast their ballot in-person.

The delay in reporting results also saw delayed victories by several legislative caucus-backed candidates who appeared behind opponents after initial results were published last week. Most notably, former Nevada State Democratic Party head Roberta Lange won a close victory over Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel in a state Senate primary, after Spiegel appeared ahead in initial results. 

But in several heated races in the state’s congressional districts, the slow count left few surprises. Republican primaries in Districts 3 and 4 were won easily by former professional wrestler Dan Rodimer and ex-Assemblyman Jim Marchant, respectively, while a competitive race among Democrats in ruby-red District 2 fell decisively to one-time legislative candidate Patricia Ackerman. 

They will now go on to face incumbents who, across the board, easily secured their own renominations. Across all four districts, only one incumbent — Democrat Steven Horsford — received less than 80 percent of the vote. 

Check out our summary below on the status of major races heading into the November general election. Full results are available here.

U.S. House

  • In District 4, former Republican Assemblyman Jim Marchant will take on incumbent Democrat Steven Horsford. Marchant emerged from a crowded primary field with 34.8 percent of the vote, while Horsford won nearly 75.1 percent in the Democratic primary. 
  • In District 3, incumbent Democrat Susie Lee will face one-time legislative candidate and ex-wrestler Dan Rodimer in the general election. Lee cruised to victory in a non-competitive primary, securing 82.7 percent of the vote, while Rodimer won 49.8 percent in a bitter, often-combative three-way Republican race. 
  • In District 2, Republican incumbent Mark Amodei also enjoyed a wide margin of victory, winning 80.8 percent of the vote. He will go on to face Democrat Patricia Ackerman, who secured 48.9 percent in a hotly contested primary. 
  • In District 1, incumbent Democrat Dina Titus also easily secured her renomination, winning more than 82.6 percent of the vote. She will go on to face Republican Joyce Bentley, who challenged and lost to Titus in the 2018 general election. Bentley emerged from a field of five Republicans with 35.7 percent of the vote. 

State Senate

  • In District 7, former Nevada State Democratic Party Chair Roberta Lange won this three-way Democratic primary against two current lawmakers. Lange secured 38.3 percent of the vote, followed by Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel at 36.9 percent and Assemblyman Richard Carrillo at 24.9 percent. Lange is all but guaranteed a victory in November as she faces no challengers in the general election.

State Assembly

  • In District 2, former Nevada REALTORS president Heidi Kasama won this crowded Republican primary. She secured 47.9 percent of the vote, followed by commercial real estate agent Erik Sexton with 27 percent of the vote and Jim Small, a retired member of the U.S. Senior Executive Service, with 19 percent. She faces Democrat Radhika “RPK” Kunnel, a law school student and former cancer biology professor, in the general election. Kunnel won her primary with 35.9 percent of the vote over Jennie Sherwood, a journeywoman electrician, with 31.5 percent.
  • In District 4, former Republican Assemblyman Richard McArthur will face a rematch in November against Democratic Assemblywoman Connie Munk after winning his Republican primary. He defeated Donnie Gibson, the owner of a construction and equipment rental company, with 51.2 percent of votes to Gibson’s 48.9 percent.
  • In District 16, community activist Cecelia González won this four-way Democratic primary with 50.1 percent of the vote. González is likely to win the general election against the one Republican in the race, Reyna “Alex” Sajdak, because of the overwhelming voter registration advantage Democrats have in the district. 
  • In District 18, Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada attorney Venicia Considine, who ran with the backing of the Assembly Democratic Caucus, won this four-way Democratic primary. She secured 39.4 percent of the vote after initially training Lisa Ortega, a master arborist and owner of Great Basin Sage Consulting, in early primary results.
  • In District 19, Republican Assemblyman Chris Edwards lost his re-election bid in the primary to Mesquite City Councilwoman Annie Black. Black won with 61 percent of the vote to Edwards’ 39 percent. Black is essentially guaranteed to go on to win the general election in November, as there are no Democrats or third-party candidates in the race.
  • In District 20, UNLV law professor David Orentlicher, who was running with the backing of the Assembly Democratic Caucus, won this Democratic primary with 46.5 percent of the vote after initially trailing in early results. No Republican candidates filed to run in this Paradise-area seat, meaning Orentlicher is essentially guaranteed a victory come November.
  • In District 31, former Assemblywoman Jill Dickman won this three-way Republican primary with 51 percent of the vote. She goes on to face a rematch against Democratic Assemblyman Skip Daly after losing the seat to him by fewer than 50 votes in 2016.
  • In District 36, Assemblyman Greg Hafen defeated challenger Dr. Joseph Bradley in the Republican primary in this rural Nevada Assembly district with 54.9 percent of the vote. Hafen is essentially guaranteed to go on to win the general election as no Democrats or candidates from other parties filed to run for the seat.
  • In District 37, Andy Matthews, former president of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, defeated former television reporter and congressional candidate Michelle Mortensen with 49 percent of the vote. He goes on to challenge the incumbent, Democrat Shea Backus, in the general election.
  • For more information on the outcomes of primary races, check out our legislative results story.

Board of Regents

  • In District 3, Byron Brooks will face off against Swadeep Nigam in the general election. Brooks garnered 31.4 percent of the votes, while Nigam secured 23.8 percent.
  • In District 4, Patrick Boylan and Nick “Doc” Spirtos will head to the general election. Boylan captured 37.6 percent of the votes, and Spirtos received 33.3 percent.
  • In District 10, the general election will feature a contest between Kevin Melcher and Joseph Arrascada. Melcher earned 28.4 percent of the primary votes, while Arrascada garnered 21.9 percent.

State Board of Education

  • In District 1, Tim Hughes will face off against Angelo Casino in the general election. Hughes received 37.7 percent of the primary votes, while Casino captured 24 percent.
  • In District 2, Katie Coombs ran unopposed and, thus, won the election outright.
  • In District 3, incumbent Felicia Ortiz won the seat after securing 63 percent of the primary votes. If a candidate receives the majority of votes in this primary race, he or she automatically wins the seat without running in the general election.
  • In District 4, incumbent Mark Newburn will compete against Rene Cantu in the general election after a neck-and-neck primary race. Cantu captured 35.8 percent of the primary votes, while Newburn secured 35.3 percent.

Clark County School Board of Trustees

  • In District A, Lisa Guzman and Liberty Leavitt will be heading to the general election. Guzman received 26.1 percent of the primary votes, while Leavitt captured 19 percent.
  • In District B, Katie Williams will face off against Jeff Proffitt in the general election. Williams secured 23.9 percent of primary votes, while Proffitt snagged 18.7 percent.
  • In District C, Tameka Henry will compete against Evelyn Garcia Morales in the general election. After a close primary race, Henry emerged with 21.1 percent of the votes, while Garcia Morales secured 20.3 percent.
  • In District E, incumbent Lola Brooks will face challenger Alexis Salt in the general election. Brooks, who currently serves as the board president, received 21.6 percent of the primary votes, while Salt garnered 17.5 percent.

Washoe County School Board of Trustees

  • In District A, Scott Kelley will compete against Jeff Church in the general election. Kelley snagged 33.4 percent of the primary votes, while Church garnered 23 percent.
  • In District D, Kurt Thigpen became the outright winner of that seat after securing 52.9 percent of the votes. His victory comes with added significance because he will be the board’s first LGBTQ school trustee.
  • In the At-Large District G, Diane Nicolet and Craig Wesner are heading to the general election. Nicolet received 43.6 percent of the primary votes, while Wesner captured 24.5 percent.

Election results: Several caucus-backed candidates prevail in primaries; one legislator loses re-election bid

One lawmaker lost his re-election bid, while several caucus-backed candidates eked out narrow victories when the final results from the June 9 primary election trickled in on Thursday.

Final but still unofficial results updated Thursday morning show that Democratic caucus-backed Senate candidate Roberta Lange and Assembly candidates David Orentlicher and Venicia Considine won narrow victories after initially trailing in the early results. Lange and Orentlicher are guaranteed victories in November because they face no opponents in the general election, while Considine is all but guaranteed a victory in her overwhelmingly Democratic district.

The results also show Republican Assemblyman Chris Edwards has lost his seat to Mesquite Councilwoman Annie Black. An incumbent losing in a legislative primary is relatively rare; only three incumbent legislators have lost their seats in a primary over the last two election cycles.

The results will become official when they are certified on Friday. Until then, here’s a look at who prevailed in each legislative primary.

State Senate District 7

Former Nevada State Democratic Party Chair Roberta Lange defeated Democratic Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel by a narrow 131-vote margin in this eastern Las Vegas and Henderson Senate district. Lange faces no challengers in the general election.

Lange won 38.3 percent of the vote, with Spiegel at 36.9 percent and Assemblyman Richard Carrillo with 24.9 percent. More than 9,500 votes were cast in the race.

Lange's victory represents a win for the Nevada Senate Democratic Caucus, which had endorsed her. Spiegel significantly outraised both Lange and Carrillo in the race in the first quarter and had a massive war chest on hand.

Assembly District 2

Former Nevada REALTORS president Heidi Kasama won this crowded Republican primary to replace termed-out Republican Assemblyman John Hambrick with 47.9 percent of the vote. Erik Sexton, who works in commercial real estate, secured 27 percent of the vote, followed by Jim Small, a retired member of the U.S. Senior Executive Service, with 19 percent.

Kasama ran with the backing of the Assembly Republican Caucus, while Sexton was endorsed by Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore and former North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon. Small had the support of former congressional candidate and businessman Danny Tarkanian and conservative commentator Wayne Allyn Root, among others.

Kasama significantly outraised her opponents in the first quarter, and the Alliance for Property Protection Rights PAC, which is funded by the National Association of REALTORS Fund, inserted itself into the GOP primary in support of her bid.

On the Democratic side, Radhika “RPK” Kunnel, a law school student and former cancer biology professor, won the primary over Jennie Sherwood, a journeywoman electrician. Kunnel secured 35.8 percent of the vote while Sherwood won 31.5 percent. A third candidate, Eva Littman, won 23.7 percent.

Republicans have a good shot of keeping control of this seat come November, given the 2.3 percentage point voter registration advantage they hold in this district. The Assembly Democratic Caucus did not endorse a candidate in the primary.

Assembly District 4

Former Assemblyman Richard McArthur won the Republican primary in this northwest Las Vegas Assembly district with a narrow, 2.3 percentage point victory over Donnie Gibson, the owner of a construction and equipment rental company. McArthur secured 51.2 percent of votes to Gibson's 48.9 percent, a 130-vote margin.

McArthur, a former FBI special agent, has served three non-consecutive terms in the Assembly, two terms between 2008 and 2012 and one term from 2016 to 2018. Gibson, a political newcomer, was endorsed by the Assembly Republican Caucus in the primary.

McArthur will go on to a rematch against Democratic Assemblywoman Connie Munk, who did not draw a primary challenger. She narrowly defeated McArthur in 2018 with a 120-vote margin out of nearly 30,000 votes cast.

Assembly District 16

Community activist Cecelia González won this four-way Democratic primary to replace Democratic Assemblywoman Heidi Swank, who has represented the district since 2012 and opted not to run for re-election.

González secured 50.1 percent of the vote, followed by Joe Sacco, a union trade show and conventions worker with IATSE Local 720 and a REALTOR, with 23.9 percent of the vote. Russell Davis, a two-decade Clark County employee and SEIU member, trailed with 13.7 percent of the vote, and online finance professor Geoffrey VanderPal had secured 12.4 percent of votes cast.

González and Davis had split the endorsement from major Democratic-aligned groups in the race. 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 110. The Assembly Democratic Caucus did not endorse in the primary.

González is likely to win the general election against the one Republican in the race, Reyna “Alex” Sajdak, because of the overwhelming voter registration advantage Democrats have in the district. 

Assembly District 18

Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada attorney Venicia Considine eked out a victory over Lisa Ortega, a master arborist and owner of Great Basin Sage Consulting, in this four-way Democratic primary to replace Assemblyman Richard Carrillo, who lost a primary for state Senate.

Considine won with 39.4 percent of the vote, while Ortega secured 37.4 percent and Char Frost, a former campaign manager and legislative staffer for Carrillo, secured 15.4 percent.

Considine ran with not only with the backing of the Assembly Democratic Caucus but SEIU Local 1107, Nevada State Education Association, Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada, the Culinary Union and the Nevada Conservation League. Considine had also raised nearly one and a half times as much as Ortega during the first quarter of the year.

Assembly District 19

Assemblyman Chris Edwards won't be returning to Carson City next year after he was defeated in the primary by Mesquite City Councilwoman Annie Black. Black won with 61 percent of the vote to Edwards' 39 percent.

Black ran to the right of the already conservative Edwards, who has served in the Assembly for the last three terms. Black's victory represents a significant upset in the race as incumbents rarely lose their primaries.

Black is essentially guaranteed to go on to win the general election in November, as there are no Democrats or third-party candidates in the race.

Assembly District 20

UNLV law professor David Orentlicher, who was running with the backing of the Assembly Democratic Caucus, won this Democratic primary with 46.5 percent of the vote, defeating Emily Smith, the CEO of the Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation, by 7.7 percentage points. The seat is currently occupied by Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel, who lost her primary for state Senate.

Orentlicher ran with the backing of almost all of the major Democratic-aligned organizations, including the Nevada State AFL-CIO, SEIU Local 1107, the Culinary Union, Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada, NARAL Pro-Choice Nevada and the Nevada Conservation League. Orentlicher raised about $5,000 in the first quarter of the year and had about $23,000 in cash on hand, while Smith raised only about $1,000 and had only $700 in the bank.

No Republican candidates filed to run in this Paradise-area seat, meaning Orentlicher will be essentially guaranteed a spot in the Legislature.

Assembly District 21

Attorney Elaine Marzola won the two-way Democratic primary in this race to replace replace Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo, who is running for Nevada Supreme Court.

Marzola received most of the Democratic-aligned endorsement in the primary, including from the Assembly Democratic Caucus, the Nevada State AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada, the Culinary Union and the Nevada Conservation League. 

Her opponent, David 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. He ran with the support of the Nevada State Education Association.

Marzola won 70.6 percent of votes cast, with Bagley at 29.4 percent.

Marzola will go on to face Republican Cherlyn Arrington in the general election, though Democrats hold a significant voter registration advantage in the district. Fumo defeated Arrington by 12.6 percentage points in 2018.

Assembly District 26

Republican Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner successfully fended off a primary challenge from Dale Conner, obtaining more than 83.7 percent of the vote in the Republican primary for this Reno-area district.

Krasner will advance to the general election to face off against Democrat Vance Alm.

Assembly District 31

Former Assemblywoman Jill Dickman won this three-way Republican primary to represent this Sparks-area Assembly district. Dickman secured 51 percent of the vote, followed by Washoe County Republican Party treasurer Sandra Linares with 34.1 percent of the vote and businessman David Espinosa with 14.9 percent of the vote.

Dickman is hoping to reclaim the seat she held for one term and lost by fewer than 50 votes to Democratic Assemblyman Skip Daly in 2016 and again in 2018. Daly did not face any primary challengers in the race.

Assembly District 36

Assemblyman Greg Hafen defeated challenger Dr. Joseph Bradley in the Republican primary in this rural Nevada Assembly district, which covers portions of Nye, Clark and Lincoln counties. Hafen was appointed to the seat after brothel owner Dennis Hof died weeks before the election but still won the seat.

Hafen, a fifth generation Nevadan and general manager of a Pahrump water utility company, won with 54.9 percent of the vote, while Bradley earned 45.1 percent.

Hafen is essentially guaranteed to go on to win the general election as no Democrats or candidates from other parties filed to run for the seat.

Assembly District 37

Andy Matthews, former president of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, has won the Republican primary in his swingy Summerlin Assembly district. Matthews secured 49 percent of the vote, while former television reporter and congressional candidate Michelle Mortensen won 26.3 percent.

Matthews secured a long list of endorsements in the primary, including from former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, several Trump campaign officials including Corey Lewandowski, Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore and several current and former state lawmakers. He also was a top legislative fundraiser in the primary, outraising all other Republican Assembly candidates, including current office holders.

Matthews will go on to challenge the incumbent, Democrat Shea Backus, who won the seat from Republican Assemblyman Jim Marchant by 135 votes in 2018. Democrats hold a narrow 2.2 percentage point voter registration advantage in the district, making it one of the swingiest Assembly seats this election cycle.

Assembly District 40

Former law enforcement officer and one-term Assemblyman P.K. O’Neill appears to be heading back to the Legislature in this heavily-Republican Assembly district after defeating his lone Republican primary opponent, attorney Day Williams.

O’Neill filed to run for the Carson City-area seat on the last day of filing, after incumbent Al Kramer announced he would not run again due to family reasons. O’Neill served one term in the Assembly between 2014 and 2016, but lost to Kramer amid a backlash against Republican candidates who supported former Gov. Brian Sandoval’s large K-12 focused tax increase in 2015.

O’Neill won 54.2 percent of the vote, while Williams won 45.8 percent. O'Neill will go onto face Democrat Sena Loyd in the general election.

Updated 6-10-20 at 6:52 p.m. to correct that Assembly District 20 is primarily in Paradise, not Henderson.

What to watch in Nevada’s 2020 primary election

The first results from Nevada’s unique, mostly mail primary election will finally be released on Tuesday after more than a month of voting, but calling some of the state’s top races could take up to 10 days. 

A substantial number of high-profile races will eventually be decided out of Tuesday’s election, including Republican challengers to Democratic Reps. Susie Lee and Steven Horsford, both who represent swing districts and have attracted a broad field of GOP candidates.

But congressional races aside, several major legislative races will be decided in the primary election, and two state Supreme Court seats could also be decided if candidates achieve more than 50 percent of the vote. Other major races include contests for seats on the Clark County Commission and a hotly contested Reno City Council race.

Polls will close at 7 p.m. on Election Night, with counties expected to turn in their initial vote totals to the state by about 8:30 p.m.

As of Monday, more than 343,000 people had cast a ballot for the primary election, or about 18.7 percent of all registered voters. The vast majority of ballots have been cast by mail (339,853), while around 2,971 people have cast a ballot through in-person early voting.

The change in process is likely to help contribute to a higher turnout than most primary elections. The 2018 primary election saw about 22.9 percent of registered voters cast a ballot, for a total turnout of 329,863. 

But the switch to a primarily mail-only election has a drawback: potential delays in determining the winners of close election contests. Ballots postmarked by Election Day and received by election officials within seven days will be counted, and county election officials have 10 days to certify the results of an election and declare a winner.

Below, check out The Nevada Independent’s preview of the major races up on Election Night. Editors Jon Ralston and Elizabeth Thompson will host a live election show beginning at 7:30 p.m., which can be viewed here.

The Washoe County Registrar of Voters on June 8, 2020. Photo by David Calvert.

NEVADA SUPREME COURT: Two seats are on the ballot: Chief Justice Kristina Pickering is defending her seat amid challenges from lawyers Esther Rodriguez and Thomas Christensen. And in the open seat held by Mark Gibbons, Judge Douglas Herndon faces off against lawyers Erv Nelson and Ozzie Fumo, the latter of whom is a sitting Assembly member.

CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 2: Several Democrats including Clint Koble, who ran unsuccessfully in 2018, are vying for the nomination and chance to face off with Republican Rep. Mark Amodei. The district is safely Republican, meaning even the winner of the Democratic primary enters a long-shot general election contest. Read our preview here.

CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 3: A feisty Republican primary is playing out in this swingy Southern Nevada district held by Democratic Rep. Susie Lee. The GOP field includes former wrestler Dan Rodimer, former state Treasurer Dan Schwartz and pro-Trump actress Mindy Robinson. Read our preview here.

CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 4: A parade of Republicans is vying to face off with Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford in a district that includes North Las Vegas and rural, central Nevada. GOP contenders include businesswoman Lisa Song Sutton, former Assemblyman Jim Marchant and Nye County Commissioner Leonardo Blundo, among others. Read our preview here.

REGENTS: Four of the 13 nonpartisan seats on the board overseeing the Nevada System of Higher Education are up for grabs, and the primary will narrow the field of candidates to two. One district features former Assemblyman Stephen Silberkraus and former state Senate candidate Byron Brooks; another pits former regent Bret Whipple against former Las Vegas City Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian. Read our preview here.

ASSEMBLY: Democrats are all but guaranteed to retain their majority heading into the 2021 legislative session, but the question is whether Republicans can score enough seats to get out of a weak “superminority” status, in which Democrats can pass taxes without a single GOP vote. The most interesting contests include primaries in swingy suburban districts. Read our preview here.

SENATE: One race for state Senate will be decided in the primary — Senate District 7, a seat held by termed-out Democrat David Parks. The Democratic primary pits two Assembly members — Ellen Spiegel and Richard Carrillo — against former Nevada State Democratic Party Chair Roberta Lange, who has the endorsement of state Senate Democrats. Read our preview here.

CLARK COUNTY COMMISSION: Four seats are up for grabs on the powerful Clark County Commission, including incumbents Marilyn Kirkpatrick and Michael Naft running for additional terms. Crowded Democratic primaries in seats held by termed-out Commissioners Lawrence Weekly and Larry Brown have drawn some familiar names, including former Secretary of State Ross Miller (District C) and Assemblyman William McCurdy, state Sen. Mo Denis and North Las Vegas City Councilman Isaac Barron (District D). Read our preview here.

RENO CITY COUNCIL: Four councilmembers are running for re-election in 2020, including Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus who is in a bitter fight with two well-funded opponents, including one endorsed by Mayor Hillary Schieve. Council members Devon Reese, Neoma Jardon and Oscar Delgado are also running for re-election. Read our preview here.

SPARKS CITY COUNCIL: Three seats on the Sparks City Council have attracted 10 candidates, with each race seeing well-funded incumbents try to fend off multiple opponents. Read our preview here.

CARSON CITY MAYOR & SUPERVISORS: Longtime Mayor Bob Crowell is termed out, and with two incumbents not running for re-election, the Carson City Board of Supervisors will have three new faces come 2021. Read our preview here.

DOUGLAS COUNTY COMMISSION: Three of the five seats on the Douglas County Commission are on the ballot, and they’ll be all but decided in the primary because no Democrats filed for the seats. One race features Danny Tarkanian, who has run unsuccessfully for major offices in Southern Nevada before moving north, against incumbent Dave Nelson. Read our preview here

WASHOE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT: Fifteen candidates have filed to run in the four seats up for election for the board overseeing the state’s second-largest school district, including incumbents Scott Kelley and Angela Taylor. Read our preview here.

CLARK COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT: Thirty candidates are competing for four nonpartisan seats on the board that governs the nation’s fifth largest school district. Three seats are open after trustees termed out; in a fourth, Trustee Lola Brooks is seeking reelection. The primary will narrow the field to the top two, although a candidate who wins more than 50 percent of the vote wins outright. Read our preview here.

NEVADA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION: The four elected positions on the 11-member board that works in tandem with the state Department of Education are up for grabs. Felicia Ortiz and Mark Newburn are defending their seats, while five candidates are vying for a spot representing a Las Vegas district and a lone candidate — Katie Coombs — is seeking a seat in a Northern Nevada district. Read our preview here.

JUDGES: Numerous judge positions are on the ballot, including District Court and Family Court hopefuls. Read our guide on Clark County judge races here.