Assembly Republican caucus leader Pat Hickey said he expects to pick up seats for the GOP in the upcoming election, but declined to predict today exactly how big a dent his candidates will make in the 26-member Democratic majority on Nov. 6.
Hickey, R-Reno, said he does expect to see an increase from the 16 seats Republicans have now in the 42-member Assembly. The party has opportunities because of the new political boundaries drawn by a panel of special masters as a result of the 2010 census, he said.
Hickey, interviewed on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, said he is optimistic about the chances of victory for David Espinosa, the GOP candidate challenging Democrat Skip Daly in Assembly District 31 in Sparks, and for Wes Duncan, who is challenging Assembly Majority Leader Marcus Conklin in District 37 in Las Vegas, among others.
"Conklin's race is certainly one where it went from a district that was 17 percent Democrat to now roughly even in registration, and having a very attractive candidate like Wes Duncan, Marcus is in for the race of his life," Hickey said. "But we're close in quite a number of our races."
Hickey said he won't make any firm predictions however, given the unpredictability of the individual races.
"So I'm not going to give you a number of how many we might win but we think we're going to increase our numbers and we might be very happy on election night depending on how well (Mitt) Romney and the upper ticket folks do in Nevada," he said.
While party officials and observers are closely watching the state Senate races to see which party will have a majority in the 2013 legislative session, the Assembly contests have received less media attention because Democrats are expected to maintain control.
But some of the races have generated controversy.
The Conklin campaign team was criticized by Hickey and Assembly Republicans last week after one of Conklin's campaign workers was photographed removing Duncan campaign materials left at district homes.
"It's one thing to be competitive; it's another thing to, if you will, steal another opponent's literature," Hickey said.
There was no claim made that the theft of the literature came at the direction of Conklin, Hickey said.
The Conklin campaign did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.
Not all of the 42 Assembly races are in contention, however. Nine Assembly incumbents, five Republicans and four Democrats, have no opponents at all and will win automatically on Tuesday.
Hickey said he remains optimistic about the chances for Republican candidates to win their races despite the strong Democratic voter registration edge statewide, especially in Clark County. Party candidates are using the hands-on approach by walking the districts and talking to voters face-to-face, he said.
"You walk, you win; you don't, you may not," Hickey said.