Republicans have achieved statewide power like nothing they’ve seen since the Depression, and the combination of a GOP-controlled Nevada Senate, Assembly and governor’s seat promises outcomes unlike any other in recent memory.
Newly minted Assembly members say they plan to seize upon their unexpected — and potentially fleeting — majority status, which came as discontented voters helped flip the lower house’s 27-15 Democratic majority to a 25-17 balance favoring Republicans.
“This hasn’t happened since 1929. It’s a very unique opportunity,” said Stephen Silberkraus, a Las Vegas Republican who, like five of his new colleagues, won his Assembly seat from a Democratic incumbent. “I think you’re going to see a lot of hard work.”
But things could go very wrong, warned Sheila Leslie, a former Democratic state lawmaker and columnist for the Reno News and Review. The party could take the state too far right, enraging voters and re-energizing Democrats, or it could get stymied by conflict between its moderate and more conservative wings.
“When you’re in the majority, you’d be surprised at how much intra-party fighting there is,” Leslie said. “This whole thing could disintegrate.”
Several new Assembly members have run on platforms of school vouchers, repealing President Barack Obama’s health care laws and opposing any new taxes.
That could put them at odds with their more moderate Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, whose budget included extending temporary “sunset” taxes that were meant to expire.
“Some people got elected saying we’re not going to extend sunset taxes,” said Richard “Skip” Daly, a two-term assemblyman who just lost his Northern Nevada seat to Republican newcomer Jill Dickman. “I think they’ll give him fits over some things.”
Brent Jones, a newly elected Las Vegas assemblyman, said his agenda will be guided in part by his experience as owner of a business that sells alkalized drinking water.
“It’s getting so hard as a business owner, with government regulators constantly breathing down your neck,” he said.
Jones also predicts there won’t be a significant legislative push for gun control, as there was in the 2013 legislative session.
Republican lawmakers say they’re keenly aware that the next election — one with a presidential candidate on the ticket — will attract more Democrats to the polls and jeopardize their newfound power.
“Being in the minority, we can complain and say what the Democrats are doing wrong,” Jones said. “Now that we’re in the majority, we need to show leadership and actually walk the walk.”