Handful of competitive primaries could shape GOP chances to gain Assembly ground
Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part preview of Nevada’s legislative elections. For a look at competitive state Senate primary races, see the first installment here.
Even with more than half of their members not returning to the Legislature, Assembly Republicans are feeling confident heading toward the 2023 session that they can capture more seats in a chamber historically dominated by Democrats, although a GOP majority looks unlikely.
Democrats in 2021 controlled 26 of the 42 seats in the Assembly, down from a high of 29 seats controlled after the 2018 “blue wave” midterm elections. The magic number in the Assembly is 28 — that’s the number of seats required for a two-thirds majority, which greases the skids for any tax increases or procedural maneuvers requiring a “supermajority” vote.
But 2022 will also see significant turnover in the Assembly — a total of 14 incumbents are not running for re-election, according to Ballotpedia, which is nearly a third of the 42 seats — and top leadership positions among Democrats and Republicans are open. It’s the highest rate of open seats since at least 2010.
Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) is widely expected to be the next leader of the Assembly Democrats following Speaker Jason Frierson’s (D-Las Vegas) confirmation to the post of U.S. attorney. Yeager reported raising more than $93,000 in the first three months of 2022 and has nearly $430,000 in cash on hand.
With most Republican caucus leaders not returning to the Assembly, eyes are turning to newer members such as freshman Assemblywoman Heidi Kasama (R-Las Vegas) to take the reins. Kasama is the frontrunner in Las Vegas’ Assembly District 2 race, with more than $120,000 in cash on hand heading into the primary.
Roughly nine of the 42 Assembly districts feature competitive primary races, including five races where the primary election results will likely determine the general election outcome.
Several Democratic primaries this year feature a mix of Assembly caucus-endorsed candidates running against teacher union-backed candidates.
Only two of the legislative races failed to draw more than one candidate – Assemblywoman Jill Dickman (R-Sparks) and Republican Assemblywoman Alexis Hansen (R-Sparks) will run unopposed for re-election.
Because of their status far down the ballot, legislative races are among the most likely to be affected by a possible red wave in the wake of rising inflation, high gas prices and President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings. With less information available on legislative candidates than those running for higher offices, many people will vote for a candidate based on party affiliation. Party-line voting preferences mean that in Republican and Democratic-majority districts, the primaries will determine the candidate most likely to win in the November general election and indicate whether Republicans are competitive in swing districts.
Here’s a look at what races will be likely decided in the June 14 primary election.
Assembly primaries to watch
Assembly District 13 — Competitive, leans Republican
With nearly 34 percent of active voters registered as Republicans, almost 31 percent registered as Democrats and 27 percent registered as nonpartisans, Assembly District 13 continues to favor Republicans as it has for the last decade, even after redistricting.
Represented by Assemblyman Tom Roberts (R-Las Vegas), the district spanning a portion of the far northwestern corner of the Las Vegas Valley is ripe for the taking as the incumbent makes a bid for Clark County sheriff. Democrats face an uphill battle in a district that former President Donald Trump won handily during the 2020 election.
The crowded Republican primary features dental anesthesiologist Steven DeLisle campaigning against retired detective sergeant Brian Hibbitts, far-right candidate Vem Miller and Nancy Lee Weiss, who does not have an online campaign presence. DeLisle lost a close race in Assembly District 29 in 2020 to Assemblywoman Lesley Cohen (D-Henderson).
With more than $22,000 in contributions last quarter, Hibbitts led the fundraising race of Republican contenders, but the majority of it came from a $16,000 loan to himself. He has a cash-on-hand balance of roughly $7,600 heading into the primary.
DeLisle raised $10,980, and has a cash balance of almost $90,000. His contributors include Republican attorney general candidate Sigal Chattah and the Nevada Dental Association.
Almost matching DeLisle, Miller raised close to $10,900 and spent nearly $4,000. He has a cash-on-hand balance of almost $7,000 and received a $5,000 donation from cryptocurrency entrepreneur and activist Robert Beadles, who has bankrolled campaigns to allege voter fraud in the 2020 election. The Reno Gazette-Journal has connected Beadles to a recent controversial election measure aimed at enacting sweeping changes within Washoe County’s election system.
In the Democratic primary, three candidates are facing off to make it to the general election: educator Daniel Andrews, American Lung Association official and life coach Will Rucker and Hanna Olivas, who has little public campaign presence. Rucker led the fundraising race, raising more than $6,400 in the first quarter.
Assembly District 19 — Likely decided in the Republican primary
Four Republican candidates are duking it out in Assembly District 19 in a primary election that will determine the representative for the district, with no other third-party or Democratic candidates running.
The district includes Mesquite, Bunkerville, Overton and other areas surrounding Lake Mead and extending to the Arizona border. Assembly District 19 continues to have a solid Republican lean even after redistricting, with 42 percent of voters registered as Republicans, almost 27 percent registered as nonpartisan and about 23 percent registered as Democrats.
Assemblywoman Annie Black (R-Mesquite) is not pursuing re-election and instead filed to run for Congressional District 4. A staunch Trump supporter, Black faced criticism for attending the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, 2020, and was censured by the Assembly during the 2021 legislative session for refusing to wear a mask.
Four Republican candidates making a bid for Black’s open seat:
- Teamsters Union retiree Gerald Swanson, who reported raising $84,000 in the first quarter but did not list any campaign donors in his campaign filing report. Swanson reported a balance of more than $63,000 heading into the primary.
- Attorney and former police officer Thaddeus “Toby” Yurek, who received a slew of endorsements, including from Mesquite’s mayor, the Nevada Police Union, Public Safety Alliance and the Henderson Chamber of Commerce. Yurek reported raising more than $68,000 last quarter and having a cash balance of more than $114,000 heading into the primary.
- Charlie Nicole De La Paz, owner of a digital marketing company and co-founder of the conservative parent advocacy group Power2Parent, came next in terms of contributions, raising more than $55,000 and having a cash-on-hand balance of more than $40,400 as of the first campaign filing period.
- Realtor and property broker Amy Groves is also running for the seat as an “Annie Black Republican” and constitutional conservative. Groves reported raising $25,000 during the last quarter and having a cash-on-hand balance of nearly $20,200. Groves previously lost Republican primaries in 2014 and 2016 in a Henderson-area district.
Assembly District 23 — Likely decided in the Republican primary
All eyes are on a three-way Republican primary expected to produce Assembly District 23’s next representative, even though a Democrat and Libertarian have also filed. Incumbent Glen Leavitt (R-Boulder City) left the seat to make a bid for state Senate but later withdrew.
The district covers the southern tip of the state, including Boulder City, Laughlin and Searchlight, and is considered a safe GOP seat with 39 percent of active voters registered as Republicans, 27 percent of voters registered as Democrats and nearly 26 percent registered as nonpartisans.
Real estate professional Danielle Gallant raised more than $19,400 in the first quarter and has a cash-on-hand balance of around $54,400 — more than any Republican contender in the race.
Retired U.S. Air Force veteran and former Department of Energy employee Denise Ashurst raised more than $11,000 in contributions last quarter and has a cash-on-hand balance of roughly $3,500 heading into the primary. Ashurst also founded and serves as the president of Pride in Purity, a Christian ministry focused on girls and women.
Motivational speaker and speech coach Dan Lier trails behind the other two Republican contenders with about $6,800 raised as of the first campaign filing report and almost $2,300 of cash on hand.
Attorney Elizabeth Brickfield is the lone Democratic candidate running for the district, and Libertarian Mercy Manley is the only third-party candidate on the ballot — neither has a website or reported raising any money during the first quarter.
Assembly District 25 — Competitive primaries, leans Democratic
In Northern Nevada’s Assembly District 25, which covers much of southwestern Reno, well-funded Republican and Democratic candidates are making a bid to replace Assemblywoman Jill Tolles (R-Reno), who announced in October that she would not be running for re-election.
Following redistricting, the formerly red district now leans slightly blue. Almost 36 percent of active voters are registered as Democrats, 32 percent are registered as Republicans and nearly 25 percent are registered as nonpartisan.
The Assembly Democratic Caucus endorsed Goff for the seat, while La Rue Hatch was endorsed by the Nevada State Education Association and Washoe Education Association. The race is one of many featuring a Democratic caucus-endorsed candidate running against a teacher union-backed candidate.
Goff reported raising a little more than $24,000, spending about $4,000 and having a cash-on-hand balance of $26,000 heading into the primary. Goff’s notable donors include incumbent Assembly Democrats.
La Rue Hatch trails Goff with about $5,500 raised, a little more than $5,800 spent and almost $8,500 in cash on hand at the end of the first quarter.
Conservative author, former Reno Gazette-Journal columnist and former Washoe County Republican Party Chair Sam Kumar leads the fundraising race over veteran and assistant Reno High School ski team coach Greg Batchelder and small business owner and retired law enforcement officer Jacob Williams. Williams also serves as a board member of Nevada's largest homeowners association.
Kumar has raised nearly $23,000 — largely supported by a $20,000 loan to himself — and has approximately $33,700 in cash on hand. Both Batchelder and Williams raised less than $1,000 last quarter.
The results of the Republican primary could indicate whether Republican voters in the district swing more moderate or conservative. Kumar has the endorsement of former attorney general and Senate hopeful Adam Laxalt.
Assembly District 26 — Likely decided during the Republican primary
With Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner (R-Reno) making a bid for state Senate, a crowded field of Republican candidates is looking to take her place.
The district, which includes portions of southern Washoe County and borders Lake Tahoe, is a safe Republican district with almost 40 percent of active voters registered as Republican, almost 28 percent as Democrats and nearly 25 percent as nonpartisan.
No Democrats are running for the seat, meaning the winner of the Republican primary will almost assuredly be the district’s next representative.
The Republican primary candidates are:
- Emergency medical physician Greg Juhl, who reported raising more than $50,000 in the first quarter and has a cash-on-hand balance of around $39,500
- Former Washoe County Planning Commissioner Tom Daly, who reported raising $41,000 in the form of a loan from the Daly family trust and having a cash balance of $30,140
- Geologist and natural resource manager Richard “Rich” Delong, who reported raising more than $31,200 and having a cash balance of almost $65,000
- Chief Hydrologist for Kinross Gold Jay Dixon, who reported raising approximately $30,300 (including a $10,000 loan to himself) and has a cash balance of roughly $36,300
- Far-right candidate Bret Delaire, who reported raising $7,000 and has about $1,400 in cash on hand.
Delaire ran for the Washoe County Commission in 2018, but lost in the primary. Daly served as a Washoe County Planning Commission member until he was removed over violations of rules governing his role on the commission and the due process rights of developers.
Libertarian Reed Mitchell is also running for the District 26 seat, but didn’t raise any funds and has no campaign details readily available.
Assembly District 28 — Likely decided during the Democratic primary
As Assemblyman Edgar Flores (D-Las Vegas) runs for state Senate, four Democrats are battling to fill his Assembly seat. The winner of the primary will likely face the lone Republican contender for the seat, Clint Brown.
But with a 31.9 percentage point Democratic voter registration advantage over Republicans (and scant information available on Brown, who only reported raising $100 in campaign funds last quarter), the district that borders Nellis Air Force Base in North Las Vegas is considered a safe Democratic stronghold.
Democrats running for the seat include history teacher and Marine Corps veteran Reuben D’Silva, educator Cindi Rivera, special education teacher Aaron Bautista and Antonio Bowen, district youth president for the Church of God in Christ.
D’Silva reported raising more than $31,000 and has a cash-on-hand balance of a little more than $22,200. Supported by a $5,000 self-loan, Rivera came next in terms of fundraising, raising approximately $13,000 and has more than $11,000 in cash on hand. Bautista raised less than $1,000.
Bowen, who ran for Clark County School District Board of Trustees in 2016 and 2020, did not file a campaign finance report.
Assembly District 36 — Likely decided during the Republican primary
With no Democratic candidates running in Assembly District 36, the Republican primary will decide who will represent the district, which includes the northeastern part of unincorporated Clark County and the city of Pahrump.
Only 23 percent of voters in the district are registered as Democrats, which is low compared to the nearly 28 percent registered nonpartisan and close to 41 percent are registered as Republicans.
Hafen’s website touts his record of defending Second Amendment rights, stopping the “democrat socialist takeover of Nevada,” and says he wants to pass legislation to protect elections and expand school choice opportunities. In campaign materials, Sadler has presented himself as the “real Constitutional Conservative” and says he is looking to defend conservative values at the state level.
Anti-mask advocate and political activist Melissa Blundo announced she would be making a bid for the seat in November, but did not file citing personal reasons. She is the wife of Republican Nye County Commission Vice Chair Leo Blundo, who is under investigation for alleged domestic battery.
As of the first campaign filing deadline, Hafen reported raising nearly $30,000 and having more than $171,000 in cash on hand. Sadler reported raising approximately $14,260 and having a balance of about $6,000 heading into the primary.
Assembly District 38 — Likely decided during the Republican primary
In the Assembly District 38 election, only two Republican candidates are making a bid to replace Assemblywoman Robin Titus (R-Wellington), who announced in December that she would be running for state Senate District 17.
The rural district, which includes Fallon, Hawthorne and the Walker River Indian Reservation, is considered a safe Republican district with almost 48 percent of active voters registered as Republicans, a little more than 28 percent registered as nonpartisan and 16 percent registered as Democrats.
Two-term Lyon County Commissioner Vida Keller is facing off against Churchill County Commissioner Gregory Koenig for the chance to represent the district. Keller is a broker and owner of Priceless Realty in Silver Springs. Her opponent, Koenig, works as an optometrist and has served for 12 years on the Churchill County school board.
Heading into the primary, Koenig reported raising more than $11,500 ($10,000 in the form of a self loan), spending around $3,400 and has $8,000 in cash. Keller comes close behind with $9,000 in reported contributions (almost $900 of which is a self loan) and a cash-on-hand balance of $10,500.
Keller reported receiving a $5,200 donation from Robert Beadles, the cryptocurrency entrepreneur and GOP activist.
Neither Keller nor Koenig has a campaign website.
Assembly District 39 — Likely decided during the Republican primary
Recognized as a safe Republican seat, Assembly District 39 — which includes Minden and Gardnerville — has two Republican candidates: research analyst and longtime Republican legislative staffer Blayne Osborne and Lyon County Commission Chairman Ken Gray.
Nearly half of all voters in the district are registered as Republicans, compared to a little more than 22 percent registered as nonpartisan and less than 20 percent registered as Democrats. Assemblyman Jim Wheeler (R-Minden) represents the district but is making a bid for state Senate District 17.
Osborne holds the endorsement of the Assembly Republican Caucus, while Gray was endorsed by Wheeler.
Though Osborne is a strong conservative, endorsed by former attorney general Adam Laxalt and state Sen. James Settelmeyer (R-Minden), Gray is considered to be a more right-wing candidate and headed the initiative to rename Lyon County’s justice building in honor of former President Donald Trump.
Gray reported raising $25,400, spending approximately $13,600 and having about $17,700 heading into the primary, with $5,000 of Gray’s funding comes from Beadles. Osborne reported raising more than $17,400, spending a little more than $13,800 and having a cash-on-hand balance of close to $19,500. Osborne’s notable donors include the Nevada Mining Association ($500), Nevada Realtors ($5,000) and Assemblywoman Jill Tolles ($1,000).
Nonpartisan Charles Holt and Democrat Janice Noble also filed in the district, but do not yet have campaign websites or other information available.
Correction: May. 4, 2021. A previous version of this article misstated the number of Assembly seats needed for a supermajority. The correct number is 28.
This story was updated on May 27, 2022, at 12:50 p.m. to include additional information about Jacob Williams, a Republican candidate in Assembly District 25.