For the first time in two decades, a Democrat has assumed the highest elected office in Nevada now that Steve Sisolak has been sworn into office. As KUNR's Paul Boger reports, during his first speech as governor, Sisolak promised to improve schools, healthcare and create jobs, but, perhaps, most importantly, Sisolak also promised to build upon the foundation of his predecessor, Republican Brian Sandoval.
Despite gray skies, sharp winds and the remnants of an overnight snowstorm, hundreds of supporters, lawmakers, state officials and former governors gathered to watch Nevada's Supreme Court Chief Justice James Hardesty administer the oath of office to former Clark County Commissioner, and incoming governor, Steve Sisolak.
Sisolak, who will now serve as the state's 30th governor, is the first Democrat to hold the position since the 90's.
And while political and partisan tensions ran high during last year's election, Governor Sisolak used his inaugural address to remind voters that he looks to serve the entire state, regardless of party.
To do that, Sisolak says he will follow the example of the state's outgoing leader, Republican Brian Sandoval.
“I take my responsibility seriously—to fight for kids, educators, for every Nevadan, not just rural or urban, not just Democrat or Republican, all of us," Sisolak said.
While Sisolak praised his predecessor's leadership, he also acknowledged the state's need to improve on key areas, most specifically, education.
Nevada's public school system has struggled to see gains in national rankings, and while improvements have been made over the past eight years, the incoming governor says more needs to be done.
“First things first: we’ve got to get our education system back on track because we know that’s the bedrock of a thriving economy… and the pathway to a better life for our families, “ said Sisolak. “We have so much to offer out-of-state businesses, but we can’t expect talented workers to stay here if we can’t guarantee their kids a quality education.”
The Democrat also highlighted the need to improve the state's healthcare system, a topic that was a major contributing factor to Democratic wins up and down the ticket in Nevada's 2018 election.
“I’m committed to cracking down on the rising cost of prescription drugs, blocking any effort to roll back protections for pre-existing conditions, protecting access to women’s health care and defending a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions,” Sisolak said.
Sisolak spoke for a little over 15 minutes to an audience made up mostly of Democrats, like state Senator Julia Ratti of Sparks. She says the governor's remarks will set an agenda that is in line with the will of the voters.
"I'm very excited that the top priorities are education, jobs and healthcare" said Ratti. "When I was out talking to voters as I was running for my re-election, that is the top priority of most people that I talked to in Nevada. So, I think he's right on track and we've got a lot of work to do to make sure we are making progress in those three areas."
Overall, Sisolak has earned a reputation as a moderate Democrat, one who may be willing to at least work with the GOP. Assembly Minority Leader Jim Wheeler of Minden says he's encouraged by Sisolak's priorities but remains cautiously optimistic.
"I think the Democrats and the Republicans all want the same thing; it's how we get there that we differ on," Wheeler said. "We hope to be able to not move the state hard, hard left. This is a very independent state, a very Libertarian-type state, and I would like to keep that going."
Ultimately, though, Sisolak has yet to unveil many of the specifics of his plans. Those will likely be tackled during his next major address, the State of the State, next week.