(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – Republican state Senator Michael Robersonsaid today he expects the GOP to retake control of the Senate in the 2012 general election, citing the quality of candidates recruited for two key Clark County races.
His optimism was countered by Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, who said he is confident Democrats will maintain control of the Senate come Nov. 7.
Democrats now hold a narrow 11-10 edge in the Senate, but the dynamics have changed as a result of the redrawing of legislative districts based on the 2010 census.
Roberson, R- Las Vegas, in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television show, said Republicans have recruited strong candidates to run in the Clark 5 seat now held by Democrat Shirley Breeden, who is not seeking re-election, and in Clark 6, now held by Democrat Allison Copening.
Former Henderson City Councilman Steve Kirk has announced as a Republican for Breeden’s seat. Kirk is expected to face off against former Democrat state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, who lost to Roberson in the 2010 general election.
And just yesterday Las Vegas attorney and Republican Mark Hutchison, who is leading Nevada’s challenge to the federal Health Care Law on behalf of Gov. Brian Sandoval, announced he will run for the seat held by Copening.
The Democrat candidate for this seat has not yet been announced by party officials.
“We’ve worked very hard to get the folks that we think are the very best candidates for these competitive seats,” Roberson said.
Both districts favor Democrats in voter registration, however, by more than five points.
Even winning just one of the two Democrat-held seats would likely flip the 21-member state Senate back to Republican control. Democrats have held the Senate majority for two legislative sessions.
Denis said Democrats have also done a great job of getting great candidates who are more in tune with the population as a whole, and who will also become great lawmakers.
“It’s ours to give away and we’re going to work very hard this year,” he said. “We’ve been working very hard to get great candidates and we’re going to work hard to get them elected and we think, if you look at the numbers, and all of the different indicators, that everything points to us maintaining the majority as we move forward.”
Roberson said the Senate GOP caucus is also endorsing freshman Assemblyman Scott Hammond for the new Clark 18 Senate seat created as a result of redistricting, and has Sen. Greg Brower seeking a full term in Washoe 15. Both are quality candidates who are expected to win their races, he said.
The fifth Senate seat in play for Republicans in 2012 is rural Senate 19 being sought by current Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, formerly held by Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, who was termed out of office.
Roberson, who is expected to lead the GOP Senate caucus, also pledged to work across the aisle with Democrats in the 2013 legislative session.
“You’ve got to work with the other side and that is exactly what our caucus is going to do when we’re in the majority next session,” he said.
Roberson has also been named as one of 12 state lawmakers to watch in 2012 by Governing.