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Nevada Legislature 2021: What's Ahead For The Primaries?

The Nevada State Legislature building.
Alexa Ard
Nevada will be choosing all 42 of its assemblymembers and 10 of its 21 senators in November. On June 9, the primaries will filter out other candidates, usually by party.

Amid the pandemic, it’s election season. The Nevada Legislature is expected to gavel in early 2021, and right now, we are headed into the primaries. Paul Boger spoke with KUNR’s Bree Zender, to give an outlook on the June 9 primaries.

Boger: Can you give us a rundown of who is going to be on the ballot?

Zender: So when it comes to Nevada’s Legislature, we are selecting all 42 assembly members, and about half of the 21 senators in November. This primary is just whittling down the number of candidates running for a particular seat, usually by party.

Looking at Northern Nevada, there’s Assembly District 31, a race with an incumbent and a former incumbent. That district starts in Northeast Sparks and then kind of follows a hook shape around the eastern side of Sun Valley to Lemmon Valley. Democrat Skip Daly is the current incumbent. He’s the Business Manager for Laborers Union Local 169. Daly was first sworn into this seat in 2011. Well, except between 2015 and 2016, when Republican and business owner Jill Dickman assumed the seat. Both Daly and Dickman have signed on for the race again. But for the primary, Dickman has a battle against a couple of other Republicans: Sandra Linares, who is a teacher and Air Force veteran according to her website, and business executive David Espinosa.

Boger: What about Assembly District 30? Can you break down what’s happening there?

Zender: So this is Democrat Mike Sprinkle’s assembly seat, which represents much of Sparks and a good portion of Reno, near the airport. If you remember last session, Sprinkle resigned, sending out a statement saying that there were growing sexual harassment claims against him. He was then replaced by Greg Smith, who isn’t running for the seat in 2020.

So in terms of the Democrats in this race, there’s Natha Anderson, who is the president of the Washoe Education Association, [as well as] Lea Moser, who is a former Peace Corp member and policy analyst. Whoever wins that primary will be on the general ballot against Republican Randy Hoff, who is a non-paid military veteran lobbyist. On the ballot as well as will be Independent American Party Member Charlene Young.

Boger: We also have a fair number of candidates who are running unopposed, not just in the primary, but also in the general election. What are some of the unopposed races in our region?

Zender: Looking at the other side of Reno, Democrat Sarah Peters is running unopposed in Assembly District 24. Republican Jill Tolles from Assembly District 25, west of Reno, is unopposed as well. Over in Assembly District 33, which covers Elko, White Pine and Lincoln Counties, Republican John Ellison is also unopposed.

According to the Nevada Secretary of State’s office, those three will only appear on November’s general ballot, as will anyone else who isn’t running against another person in their party or race.

Boger: And what about the senate?

Zender: Most seats in the senate aren’t yet up for reelection in Northern Nevada since they have staggered four-year terms. In fact, all the state senate seats representing the North aren’t even having primaries this year, because one person filed per party for each of the seats that are up for grabs. But of the people who will be on the ballot this November is Republican Heidi Seevers Gansert. She used to be Chief of Staff to Governor Brian Sandoval. She’s running in district 15, which represents areas west of Reno and Sparks, [from] Verdi to the California border.

She’ll be running against Wendy Jauregui-Jackins, a Democrat who has worked for the Washoe County Assessor’s office. That area is largely seen as a swing district, as Democrats and Republicans are neck and neck in terms of voter registration there. However, in 2016 Gansert beat her opponent, Democrat and current city of Reno Vice Mayor Devon Reese, by more than 11 points.

In Eastern Nevada, Republican and Rancher Pete Goicoechea is again running for district 19, which he’s held since he was sworn in in 2013. He’s being challenged by Tiffany Seeback from the far-right Independent American Party. That’s for this big, big district that runs nearly all north and south in the eastern part of the state.

Boger: So with a primary, that gives a chance for some people to presumptively win the election on June 9. Tell me more about that.

Zender: So this happens when all the candidates who have filed to run for a seat are from the same party. Two of these races are groups of Democrats competing for seats in and around Las Vegas, Senate District 7 and Assembly District 20. On the Republican side, in Southern and Central Nevada, there’s District 36. In this past session, Pahrump Utility Company Manager Gregory Hafen II was appointed to Brothel Owner Dennis Hof’s seat; Hof died shortly before the election. Hayfen’s own name will be on the ballot this time in June against addiction and chronic pain doctor Joseph Bradley.

Boger: Last year, Nevada had the nation’s first female-majority state legislature. Is there any chance that will happen again?

Zender: I mean, it’s certainly possible. But there’s still a lot up in the air ahead of the primaries, especially with a mostly mail-in election. That’s totally unprecedented. So the margins are pretty wide. We’ll have a better idea if that will happen or not after June 9.

Bree Zender is a former host and reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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