Major Legislature changes expected; few primary races
March 21, 2016
The 2016 election is expected to bring dramatic changes to the make-up of the Nevada Legislature.
There are two factors in play.
First, the Republican wave in 2014 installed conservative GOP lawmakers in districts that have Democratic voter majorities. With a much larger Democratic voter turnout expected this year, political observers expect the party to reclaim enough of those seats to flip control of the Assembly back to Democrats and possibly the state Senate as well.
Second, Tea Party candidates are challenging incumbent Republicans over their support for Gov. Brian Sandoval's education budget and the $1.3 billion worth of taxes approved to pay for it.
The elections also could result in two more Senate vacancies. Republican Majority Leader Michael Roberson and Democrat Ruben Kihuen are both running for Congress. If they lose, they each have two more years on their Senate term. If they win, those seats will be filled by appointment.
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One of those seats is Carson City's Assembly District 40 where incumbent Republican P.K. O'Neill has drawn five opponents, three of them Republicans who will face him in the primary.
Sam England, of Reno, is in the race as is fellow Republican Chris Forbush, who filed just before 5 p.m. Friday.
But longtime former Carson City Treasurer Al Kramer is considered O'Neill's biggest threat.
O'Neill has incumbency on his side along with support from a hefty block of state workers who, as part of that controversial tax package, got their first raises in nearly a decade.
Also, Independent American candidate John Wagner is expected to draw off some of those anti-tax voters.
Kramer is well known after 20 years as Carson City's elected treasurer and has a strong reputation among conservatives.
The remaining candidate in the race is Democrat Michael Greedy.
District 39 Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, R-Gardnerville, will avoid a primary, but has a general election challenge.
Carson City resident Alexander Dunn filed against Wheeler. Dunn does not list a party.
Genoan Mark Lera filed as a Republican, but withdrew on March 14, according to the Nevada Secretary of State's website.
The biggest primary is the statewide race to claim retiring U.S. Senator Harry Reid's seat.
There are 18 candidates — including, at the last minute, Sharron Angle — so there will be a primary in both major parties. The odds-on front runners are Democrat — and former Attorney General — Catherine Cortez Masto and Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev.
Also on Carson City's primary ballot will be the Democratic contenders who want to unseat Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., in Nevada's District 2.
Vance Alm and Chip Evans of Reno along with Rick Shepherd of Sparks have all filed. Evans, former Washoe Democratic Central Committee Chairman, has Reid's endorsement.
Although no Democrat has ever won that seat since it's creation in 1981, Evans said the demographics of CD2 are changing as more and more people move to the Reno area from out of state.
"The people coming in are largely not rural people," he said adding it's shifting the area more toward the middle away from the right.
Shepherd said he used to be Republican but the party moved away from his beliefs.
He also criticized Amodei's work ethic saying he has one of the House's worst voting records.
Also, John Everhart is running as an Independent American and Drew Knight as a nonpartisan candidate.
Anti-tax candidates are also challenging incumbent Republicans Stephen Silverkraus in District 29, Derek Armstrong in District 21 and David Gardner in District 9. All three, like O'Neill, backed the education funding tax package.
A number of legislative seats are open this time for a variety of reasons.
Assemblymen Pat Hickey and Randy Kirner, both south Reno Republicans, decided not to run again; in significant part because of protests over their support for the tax package. There are five contenders for Hickey's AD25 seat, four of them Republicans. Two Republicans are vying to replace Kirner.
Even a single victory over a Republican-held Senate seat would flip the 11-10 upper house from "R" to "D."
The Assembly flipped from a 27-15 Democrat advantage to 25-17 Republican in 2014.
The primary election is June 14. The general election is set for Nov. 8.