(Jim Clark) – The political race of the century is shaping up this November and it’s happening right here in Northern Nevada. Former Democrat Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, now a state senator, resigned her safe Democrat Senate seat a few months ago and announced she was moving into State Senator Greg Brower’s district to run against him.
This was reported by the Las Vegas Sun with a story headline that read: “State senator resigns in an effort to preserve Democratic majority.” The Democrats currently have a bare one seat edge in the Nevada Senate, and there are at least two Democratic Senate seats in Clark County where the GOP candidates are competitive.
A change in the senate’s majority party would be a huge boost for Governor Brian Sandoval’s legislative program because the GOP would control all the committee seats and could initiate and pass legislation implementing Sandoval’s reforms.
State Senator Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, who is leading the GOP effort to retake the Senate, tersely remarked: “Desperation makes people do crazy things. I wish Senator Leslie well with her de facto retirement from politics”.
But was she crazy or crazy like a fox? Brower was appointed to the West Reno seat long held by Nevada power house Bill Raggio after his retirement from the Senate and has never actually run for election from Senate District 15. The recent court-ordered reapportionment of Nevada’s legislative districts has produced some surprises including a whittling down of the historic GOP voter majority in this district.
As of this month, the district has 28,182 registered Republicans (40%) and 26,782 registered Democrats (38%). Since Leslie and Brower are the only two on the ballot there are an additional 3,215 registered Independent Americans (4%) and 501 Libertarians (1%) who would likely vote for Brower and 279 Greens (1/2%) who would likely vote for Leslie. The race hinges on the hearts and souls of the district’s 11,244 registered independents (16%).
In making her announcement, Leslie observed that Senate District 15 includes much of her old Assembly District, so hers will be a familiar name to voters. Leslie has a reputation as a fierce campaigner and is also known as one of the most liberal Nevada legislators; she has been outspoken in her belief that Nevada needs to raise taxes to better fund education and other services.
Following the 2000 redistricting, the Assembly Democrat majority gerrymandered then Assemblyman Brower into the same Assembly District as Assemblywoman Sharron Angle (which included Incline Village) for the 2002 election. Angle reportedly walked every precinct in that district three times and edged Brower in the primary election. Some Republicans have expressed concern that Leslie may out campaign Brower the way Angle did, but early indications are that Brower is waging a fierce grass roots campaign.
Last week, candidates had to file their contribution and expense reports with the Secretary of State’s office. Leslie’s showed she has raised just under $120,000 in cash.. The largest source of Leslie’s contributions ($47,000) came from other Democrat office holders (including $2,500 from the Searchlight Fund of Sen. Harry Reid [D-NV]), which underscores the importance of this race. Unions collectively contributed $30,000.
Brower’s report showed cash receipts of $203,000, with $27,000 coming from casinos, $13,000 from mining, $27,000 from small businesses and $10,000 from Incline’s former State Senator James Settelmeyer.
Many Incline Republicans remember Brower from his representation of this community in the Assembly and are planning fundraisers for him this summer in Incline Village and Crystal Bay.
This race is too important to lose.
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates and has served as a member of the Washoe County & Nevada State GOP Central Committees; he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)