(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – Reno Republican Assemblyman Pat Hickeywas unanimously elected today to be the new GOP Assembly Caucus Leader.
The former minority Leader, Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, stepped down because of his intention to run for the Nevada State Senate in District 19.
Assembly Republicans currently hold 16 seats in the 42-member Assembly, while Democrats control 26 seats. Hickey said he is optimistic the caucus can improve those numbers.
Hickey, who represents District 25 in Reno, returned to the Assembly in 2010 after an absence of several years.
“As a caucus, we sincerely thank Pete Goicoechea for his leadership over the years,” Hickey said. “I am humbled and honored to be selected to follow in his footsteps. As the new leader, I will direct my energy and focus on supporting a strong conservative agenda and electing a dynamic slate of candidates this election cycle.”
Hickey was first elected to the Assembly in 1996 in the Democratic majority District 27. He then took time to focus on his family and business before running for Assembly in District 25 in 2010.
“The 2012 election cycle presents opportunities for our caucus to strengthen and grow,” Hickey said. “I am confident that our conservative message of limited government and fiscal responsibility will resonate with the people of this great state.”
In a telephone interview, Hickey said he believes Assembly Republicans have a chance to capitalize on GOP momentum in the state Senate and pick up several seats. Senate Republicans are optimistic they can retake the majority from Democrats, who now have an 11-10 edge.
“The level of enthusiasm at this moment in Republican state circles has extended from the Senate where they of course are sharing a realistic optimism they that are going to be in the majority,” he said. “And given the quantity and quality of candidates that we have attracted in Assembly races following redistricting, frankly, is giving us a great deal of optimism with respect to the prospects of significantly growing the caucus.”
In a perfect set of circumstances, Republicans could come close to taking the majority, but realistically the caucus could see its numbers increase to the high teens or low 20s, Hickey said.
The caucus is ahead of where it was in the last election cycle with fundraising, he said.
Hickey said he is in a position where he can devote all of his time to getting Assembly Republicans elected in November.
“I mean there are so many ingredients that go into a successful election cycle,” he said. “In the end it’s the quality of candidates and we’re especially hopeful this time because we think we’ve got some very good candidates who will no doubt be extremely competitive and in many cases successful.”
Democrats had a two-thirds, 28-vote veto proof majority in the 2009 legislative session. Assembly Republicans picked up two seats in the 2010 general election to take away the two-thirds advantage in the 2011 session.
Hickey, a small business owner, is a 4th generation Nevadan. He was born in Carson City and grew up in Lake Tahoe. He received his master of arts in journalism from the University of Nevada, Reno.
Hickey and his wife, Shin, have been married for 34 years and have four children.
Hickey’s election comes just days after Assembly Democrats voted to make Majority Leader Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, the leader of their caucus after a contested election.