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How The Midterms Could Shape Nevada's Legislative Branch

The Nevada State Legislature Building in Carson City
Alexa Ard

In 2016, Democrats took control of both the Nevada state assembly and the senate. This upcoming November, Republicans will be eager to reclaim control of the legislative branch. Our news director Michelle Billman sat down with reporter Paolo Zialcita to talk about how the legislative branch might shape up in the midterms. 

How does the legislative branch look right now and how many seats are up for grabs in Nevada?

In the assembly, Democrats hold a vast majority. They have 27 seats, Republicans only have 14. All 42 seats will be up for grabs this election.

In the senate, Democrats have a slight majority. Only 11 seats are up for grabs.

In Northern Nevada, there’s only one open Senate seat up for grabs. Can you tell me about that race?

That's District 14, which actually represents a bunch of different counties. We've got Humboldt, Pershing, Lander, Mineral, Esmeralda and parts of Washoe County.

The incumbent, Don Gustavson, is not seeking re-election. So we've got Republican Assemblyman Ira Hansen and Democratic newcomer Wendy Boszak, who are both vying to take his seat.

Both ran unopposed in the primary, so we don’t really have any idea how their polling numbers will look. Despite that, this district usually votes heavily in favor of the Republican candidate.

There are four open seats in Southern Nevada, but the one in District 21 is being watched most closely. Why is that?

District 21 in Las Vegas is the only open seat in this election that has been held by Democrat. The last Senator, Mark Menendo, resigned after an investigation found that he was engaging in inappropriate behavior towards female staff and lobbyists.

We've got Republican Ron McGinnis and Democratic Assemblyman James Ohrenschall as the two candidates looking to fill the vacancy. Republicans will be desperate to win District 21, which might be key to winning the majority in the Senate.

Switching to the assembly, what are people paying most attention to?

Democrats are looking relatively safe. There's a really small margin of error there. They have 21 incumbents running, which means they only have to win one open seat to hold their majority.

Looking at Republicans, they would have to win back seven seats to win back the majority.

How do you think voter turnout will affect these races?

Voter turnout is going to be key.

Nevada has recently set a statewide record for number of registered voters. According to the Secretary of State, there are more registered Democrats than Republicans by about 70,000 people.

If Democrats can bring their voters out to the polls in November, they should be able to hold on to their majority, if not, low voter turnout historically favors Republicans.

Are there any special factors you're seeing with this upcoming election?

Nevada could be home to the first ever female majority state legislature in this nation's history. If we add the assembly and the senate up, females could potentially hold 33 seats, with males holding 30.

In fact, several political experts, including Fred Lokken at the Truckee Meadows Community College, have weighed in, saying it's very likely that a female-led legislature will happen.

Just want to stress this one more time: if this happens, it would be the first time in this nation's history.

Paolo Zialcita is a former student reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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