GOP Senate leader Heidi Seevers Gansert won’t run for re-election in 2024
After nearly two decades in Nevada politics, Republican Senate Minority Leader Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno) told The Nevada Independent that she will not run for re-election in her competitive Northern Nevada Senate district in 2024, leaving her seat open for the first time since 2016.
Selected as the Senate minority leader for the 2023 legislative session, Seevers Gansert, 60, was among the most powerful Republican lawmakers in Carson City last session, wielding a caucus just large enough to block measures, such as tax increases, that required two-thirds passage.
Her decision not to run for a third term in the Senate comes both as Washoe County has drifted toward the Democratic Party over the last half-decade — and as Democrats in Carson City have vastly expanded their routes to supermajorities through the 2021 redistricting process. That process included redrawing Seevers Gansert’s district to lean more heavily toward Democratic candidates, raising the Democratic voter registration advantage over Republicans from roughly 1 point to more than 6 points.
With her exit from state politics, the district — which includes large swaths of Reno’s northern, western and southern edges — will become one of the most important legislative races in the state in the 2024 election, as Democrats look to flip at least one Senate seat needed to create a veto-proof supermajority that could stymie Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo’s legislative agenda.
Seevers Gansert, an engineer by training and mother of four adult children, said in an interview late Monday that though her decision came for “many reasons,” the “most important one is family.”
Just before the 2023 legislative session began earlier this year, Seevers Gansert learned her daughter was expecting her first child — the senator’s first grandchild.
“That's when I just decided I needed to reprioritize and have more flexibility,” Seevers Gansert said.
To that end, Seevers Gansert downplayed the possibility of any additional runs for office in the near future.
That included when asked if she would serve in Lombardo’s administration — “I’m not looking for anything right now,” she said — or whether she might throw her hat into the increasingly crowded Republican primary for Nevada’s 2024 U.S. Senate race — “I've been asked numerous times whether I was going to run for U.S. Senate and I really am focusing on family.”
“I spent most of the last 20 years in the public arena,” she said. “And there comes a time when you feel like you've done what you wanted to accomplish, and I feel like I've met or exceeded my expectations for public service. It's time to let someone else have a shot.”
Seevers Gansert did not speculate on who might run to replace her in the state Senate. However, she added that she still believed she “would have been competitive” in 2024, and that the “right Republican” could still win her district even under “difficult” presidential election year conditions that traditionally boost turnout.
“My track record demonstrates that I’ve never lost,” she said.
‘The public arena’
First elected to the Assembly in 2004, Seevers Gansert spent three terms in the state’s lower house, including becoming the GOP caucus leader during a tumultuous 2009 legislative session shaped by the Great Recession.
By 2011, she had joined Gov. Brian Sandoval’s administration as the new governor’s first chief of staff, before leaving the public sector a year later for an administrative job at UNR. By 2016, Seevers Gansert returned to the campaign trail, winning the Reno-area Senate District 15 by 11 points. In 2020, she won re-election again — though this time in a much tighter contest, winning by just 3.6 points.
Across decades in public office, Seevers Gansert, in her interview, touted bipartisan work on children’s and women’s issues as some of her proudest accomplishments, including the creation of the SafeVoice app that allows students to report bullying; the state’s early literacy programs and defending existing funding for the Read by Grade 3 initiative; and a dual reporting system for schools, allowing schools to more easily track abusive teachers, coaches or aides across different institutions.
She also touted bipartisan votes on women’s issues, including backing the Equal Rights Amendment in 2017, access to birth control for minors and preventive medicine for STIs — “I voted with women, and for women and for men and for kids,” she said.
Those bipartisan votes frequently made her among the top lawmakers to cross party lines. That includes the 2023 legislative session, where she broke with her own caucus 47 times, according to an analysis last month from The Nevada Independent.
Seevers Gansert also lamented this year’s session as “more difficult” amid rising partisan differences — though she still touted the success of SB375, a bill she sponsored along with legislative leaders in both parties and in both houses that would allocate $20 million in hopes of boosting the state’s nursing graduation rates by up to 50 percent in the next three years.
“One thing that we can do to really improve access to care is to make sure that we support our nurses and the nursing programs,” she said.
As the session closed, Seevers Gansert was at the center of a legislative fight that ended with the implosion of budget negotiations, the scuttling of a major budget bill at the 11th hour and the governor calling an emergency special legislative session less than a day after the regular, 120-day session had ended.
That fight came over a long-running dispute over potential dollars for charter school funding, amid a historic boost to public K-12 schools and the withering of Republican and Lombardo-backed proposals to boost a school choice scholarship program. In the end, it was Seevers Gansert’s caucus voting as a bloc to kill the last budget bill that necessitated the special session — and later finger-pointing as lawmakers came back for a final vote.
But now nearly two months removed from that budget fight, Seevers Gansert said “it was worth it because we needed to bring more attention to the inequity between public charter schools and public school funding.”
“I think there was a lot of frustration over public charter school funding, and driving us to the special session really helped increase awareness of the disparity between the two and I think it was just really important that an exclamation point was added to that,” she said.
Asked if she was left with any regrets or policies left on the table, Seevers Gansert answered, “Not really.”
“I feel like I accomplished more than I ever anticipated, and so I'm just very grateful to have served,” she said.
For more on Seevers Gansert’s life and career, read The Indy’s recent profile.
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