(Chuck Muth) – There’s a pro-Republican tide sweeping that nation, and if it lifts the GOP’s boat here in the Nevada the 2011 legislative session could be a lot better for Republicans – and, thus, Nevada’s citizens and taxpayers.
Unless Nevada Republicans blow it, they should pick up a net of at least four seats in the state Assembly next week, and possibly as many as 8 (which would give them the majority – not that they’d know what to do with it).
Incumbent Assembly Republicans Returning – 7. Pete Goicoechea, Lynn Stewart, Melissa Woodbury, Tom Grady, Ed Goedhart, John Hambrick, Richard McArthur.
Incumbent Assembly GOP Seats They Should Hold – 7. John Ellison (33), Scott Hammond (13), Randy Kirner (26), Pat Hickey (25), Jodi Stephens (32), Crescent Hardy (20), Kelly Kite (39).
Democrat Assembly Seats They Should Pick Up – 4. Tim Williams (5), Dan Hill (29), Pete Livermore (40), Mark Sherwood (21).
Democrat Assembly Seats They Could Pick Up if the “Wave” is Big Enough – 4. Randi Thompson (31), Bob Irwin (16), Jan Porter (41), Tyler Andrews (10).
Worst case scenario is they lose Chad Christensen’s seat (13) and pick up Bonnie Parnell’s seat (40), which would keep Republicans in the super-minority with a total of 14 seats. But that’s highly unlikely.
The GOP absolutely should pick up enough seats to deny the Democrats a veto-proof majority – but there’s a catch (isn’t there always?).
You see, much like after Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, even if Republicans pick up, say, a net of four seats in the Assembly – giving them a total of 18 – there’d still be at least a half-dozen go-along-to-get-along, wishy-washy Republicans in the group who would side with Democrats to pass a tax hike or overturn a Gov. Sandoval veto (yeah, I’m avoiding the Christmas rush and starting to call him governor now rather than after Tuesday).
Recall that seven Republicans in the Assembly voted for that $292 million tax hike on tourists – including Goicoechea, Stewart, Grady and Woodbury – and another, Carpenter, actually voted for the $800 million tax hike later at the end of the session (but he did have a good excuse; he said God told him to raise taxes).
So from painful experience and history, we know that it’s not enough to just elect more Republicans; you need to elect better ones, as well. Unless you get to 15 principled conservatives in the Assembly, Gov. Sandoval still has to worry about tax hikes and veto overrides.
At the very least, Republicans in the Assembly need a new caucus leader who understands that his role is to be the opposition party, not the minority party, fighting for principled, philosophical beliefs instead hoping to feast on some legislative table scraps while singing Kumbaya with the Democrats.
Which, not coincidentally, brings us to the state Senate.
The Democrats presently enjoy a 12-9 majority. Which means they’ll need two GOP votes to extend the sunsetted tax hikes and/or impose any new tax hikes next session.
Also at present, they have those two votes in the form of Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio and Sen. Dean Rhoads – both of whom are proud members of “Republicans for Reid.”
Both are also term-limited out after this session, which makes it less likely that any fellow GOP senators who are not term-limited will attempt to commit political suicide by voting with them for tax hikes next year.
As long as Democrat Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford has a 12-9 advantage or better, all he needs are Raggio and Rhoads. But if his majority shrinks to 11-10 by losing one seat, all bets are seemingly off.
And that’s what’s at stake next Tuesday. Democrats will not pick up any net seats this time around – and the GOP’s best hope is to pick up one.
Republican Sen. Barbara Cegavske, once thought to be in danger, is now looking like a lock for re-election. The Democrats’ hopes of knocking off Republicans Don Gustavson and/or Joe Hardy are now pipe dreams. And GOP hopes of picking up Sen. Bernice Mathews’ seat is a crack-pipe dream.
So the entire game next Tuesday will be played out in Senate 5 and Senate 9.
Senate 5 pits Republican challenger Mike Roberson against the thoroughly unimpressive teachers’ union shill, Sen. Joyce Woodhouse. If Roberson knocks the Democrat incumbent off, which now seems likely, that would cut Horsford’s majority to the problematic 11-10 razor thin advantage.
Which makes the Senate 9 seat crucial. Conservative GOP upstart Elizabeth Halseth, who knocked off incumbent RINO state Sen. Dennis Nolan in the primary, is facing a well-funded, highly-regarded Democrat named Benny something-or-other (no one’s exactly sure how to pronounce his last name, which, alas, is a problem for any candidate in the voting booth with some voters).
Despite being held by Nolan for years, the district has not only grown, but grown more Democrat. Nolan, a mushy moderate who sometimes leaned loony left, was able to hold the seat. The question is whether a young newcomer with no name ID and can overcome the voter registration advantage the D’s enjoy.
If she does, that diminishes both Horsford’s power and Raggio’s power – while enhancing the power of a handful of GOP senators who could provide Raggio with the third Republican vote needed to pass any tax hikes or override any vetoes by Gov. Sandoval (again, that race is over).
That crucial third vote for Raggio would likely come from either Sen. Mike McGinness, the only other GOP state senator who will be term-limited out after the next session, or Joe Hardy who, as a state assemblyman, rarely met a tax he didn’t hike, or freshman Ben Kieckhefer, the HHS spokesman who owes his election almost entirely to the influence and assistance of Raggio.
And with re-districting on the agenda next session, as well, you can bet Raggio, a master legislative poker player, will have plenty of cards to play with all three. If Raggio needs and wants a third vote to raise taxes, odds are he’ll get it.
Bottom line: Even under the best of electoral circumstances for Republicans next Tuesday, Nevada taxpayers will still have a lot to fear from the 2011 Legislature.