Election 2024

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Democratic assemblywoman, city councilor face off in Reno-area Senate primary

Two established Democrats are vying to take control of a state Senate seat long held by Republicans. Where do they differ on the issues?
Sean Golonka
Sean Golonka
Election 2024Legislature

From Nevada’s longest-serving state Sen. Bill Raggio to outgoing Senate Minority Leader Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno), the state Senate district in southwestern Washoe County has long been home to the Legislature’s most powerful Republicans.

But under boundary lines redrawn in 2021 that shifted the balance of electoral power in the district, Democrats have a prime pickup opportunity in Senate District 15, a seat that, if flipped, could give them their first two-thirds Senate supermajority this century.

First, Democrats have to decide on their own nominee for the seat. The contested race pits Angie Taylor, a former two-term Washoe County School Board member and one-term assemblywoman backed by Democratic legislative leaders, against Naomi Duerr, a Reno city councilwoman first elected in 2014 who is in her final term.

The two Democrats hold similar views on many issues — from opposing the use of public funds to send children to private schools to prioritizing the recruitment of more health care providers. But in recent interviews, Taylor and Duerr pitched themselves as different kinds of thinkers and prospective senators.

Duerr, a geologist and longtime government worker, said she brings a “different style of analysis” because of her background as a scientist and expertise on water issues.

“What informs me in making decisions on any bill, whether putting it forward or voting on it, is the people,” Duerr said. “I view my role as their advocate, a facilitator, an informer and a builder of consensus.”

Taylor leaned on her experience as a lawmaker, saying she is familiar with “how to bring people together” as well as the Legislature’s deadlines and procedures. She also emphasized her background in education, saying her school board experience makes her uniquely positioned to tackle what she described as the most important legislative issue.

“The Senate Democrats endorsed me in my campaign,” Taylor said. “They trust me to be able to work well with them, to continue the work that we did.”

From the start of last year through the end of March, Taylor has reported raising $195,000, compared with $87,000 for Duerr (both launched their campaigns in early September).

The June 11 contest will also feature Johnny Kerns in the Democratic primary, with the victor facing the winner of a three-way Republican primary race between Sharron Angle, Mike Ginsburg and Mark Neumann.

Redistricting has given Democrats a stronger built-in advantage in the seat, with the district now more urban and suburban and less rural than in years past. As of April, Democrats have a 5.3 percentage point advantage in voter registration over Republicans in Senate District 15, compared with a 0.01 point advantage in April 2020. In elections before that, Republicans outnumbered Democrats in the district.

Below, we explore Taylor and Duerr’s views on a variety of key legislative issues:

Economic development

When it comes to the major tax incentive deals that have come to define economic development in Nevada — such as the $380 million public financing deal lawmakers approved last year for a Major League Baseball stadium in Las Vegas — each candidate cautioned restraint.

“There may be certain cases where tax incentives are required, but I would consider those to be very limited,” Duerr said.

Duerr cited the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center as an example that shows the “good and bad” of such incentives. Pointing to Tesla, which established a factory at the industrial center with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tax abatements, she noted the positive of job creation, but expressed concerns about the downstream strain on housing and government services.

Duerr said she believed the first round of incentives that attracted Tesla to Northern Nevada was appropriate, but the second round approved for Tesla last year was not.

“Do we need ongoing tax abatements to support somebody who's already established here? I don't think so,” Duerr said.

Duerr and Taylor both opposed the deal meant to attract the Oakland A’s to Las Vegas. Taylor, one of 15 Assembly members to vote against the bill in a special session last year, said she “wasn't comfortable with the assumptions that were made for the financial projections,” including predictions about the attendance for baseball games at the proposed stadium.

Taylor said she is not “anti-incentives,” however, and cited her experience as a small-business owner (she is CEO of Guardian Quest, which provides organizations with equity, diversity and unconscious bias training) as evidence of her support for businesses. But she emphasized that any incentives offered should provide a “good deal” for the state.

Asked about the proposal to eliminate Nevada’s constitutional prohibition on state lotteries, Taylor said she would support the measure again if elected. She voted in favor of the proposed constitutional amendment in 2023, and lawmakers would need to pass it again in 2025 before it would go before voters in 2026.

“My overall view is that the bill didn’t say we're going to have a lottery. The bill said that it could happen,” Taylor said, adding that she wants to see more research on what impact a lottery could have on the state.

Duerr said she “would be generally supportive of the state lottery,” noting that the state needs new ways to generate revenue.


Taylor, who holds a doctorate in educational leadership from UNR, touted her part in supporting a historic increase in K-12 education funding approved during the 2023 session. But she noted that legislators “should continue to be mindful that [the increase] doesn't get us to the national average” in terms of per-pupil spending.

Duerr’s main priorities for K-12 education include reducing class sizes and providing additional support staff who can work with students who have behavioral issues. 

Duerr also supports technical schools, including providing students a way to begin technical education earlier in high school and coordinating with labor unions on such efforts.

Both candidates said they support students having a choice on their education but that they do not support using public funds to pay for children to attend private school. That is a key friction point between the state’s Democrats and Republicans, such as Gov. Joe Lombardo, who has pushed to increase funding for school choice programs.


Although both candidates are confident in the state’s existing election laws, Duerr said she hoped to see additional election support provided to rural and Native American communities.

Duerr, who spent years as a poll manager in Reno, said she supported Democratic Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar’s efforts to increase the state’s presence in election administration.

“He's trying to make the elections more secure,” she said.

Taylor highlighted her support for increasing protections for election workers, building on work done in the 2023 session. 

She also said she believes there should be criminal penalties for “fake” electors because “protecting our democracy is critically important.” Taylor was among the lawmakers last year to support a bill that would have criminalized the act of submitting a false slate of presidential electors, but Lombardo vetoed the measure.


Duerr, who previously worked as the Nevada state water planner and director of the Truckee River Flood Management Project, said “there's a lot to be done” when it comes to environmental policy.

Duerr said she hopes to pursue efforts to expand the tree canopy in Las Vegas and Reno, which rank as two of the fastest-warming cities in the country. Duerr previously spearheaded a program called ReLeaf Reno that seeks to expand Reno’s urban forest and mitigate warming.

Duerr also supports the transition to renewable forms of energy, with a focus on solar and geothermal energy. She has 36 solar panels on her own roof, but said more work needs to be done to make solar an affordable option.

Though Taylor said she is not an expert on climate, she said Nevada is uniquely positioned in terms of energy because of the amount of wind and sun in the state. Taylor also said she hopes to see the state do a better job of securing federal matching funds to support programs in the state. 

Health care

Duerr and Taylor said they’re focused on the affordability of health care and access to care, as well as the shortage of providers in the state.

Duerr said providers struggle with a “lack of reimbursement” and inadequate pay. Duerr also wants to address the stigma that surrounds seeking help for mental health issues. She said that her father was a psychologist and her stepmom was a psychiatric nurse.

Citing her experience as a breast cancer survivor, Taylor said she supports capping prescription drug costs in line with AB250, a bill supported by Democratic lawmakers last year and vetoed by Lombardo that would have capped costs for prescription drugs at the maximum fair prices negotiated by Medicare.

“We pay more for prescription drugs in our country than just about any other developed country, so we know they don't have to be as high as they are,” Taylor said.

Duerr and Taylor said they would protect a woman’s right to an abortion and both support a proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to enshrine a “fundamental right to reproductive freedom” in the Nevada Constitution. Enacting the amendment would make it more difficult to overturn protections for abortion that currently exist in state law and that can only be overturned by a majority vote of the people.

“I believe that unless it is enshrined in the Constitution, it's going to always be at risk,” Duerr said.


To address the state’s housing crisis — and a lack of affordable housing units to meet the current demand — Taylor said the state needs to focus on incentivizing builders to develop more supply.

She cited AB310 from the 2023 session as an example. The bill allocated $32.2 million for a supportive housing grant program, and moving forward, Taylor said she hopes to continue to create similar incentives for building more housing.

Duerr said that because affordable housing is often tied to the area median income, housing costs can rise quickly in a place such as Reno, where wages have risen significantly with the growth of high-paying manufacturing and technology jobs.

In response, Duerr supports capping rent increases for seniors. Last year, Taylor voted for AB298, a measure vetoed by Lombardo that would have implemented temporary rent caps for seniors and those living on Social Security.

Asked about the state’s unique summary eviction process, which requires a tenant to make the first filing in an eviction case rather than the landlord, Taylor highlighted her own experience as a landlord (she has reported owning two rental properties) and said she sees why the landlord should be the one to initiate such a proceeding.

Duerr called the existing process “wrong” and “backwards.”


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