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Republican-turned-independent state senator could soon turn Democratic

Riley Snyder
Riley Snyder
Legislature
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Nevada’s only independent state senator says she’ll decide whether to run for re-election sometime in the next two weeks.

Sen. Patricia Farley, who was elected as a Republican but switched party affiliation and began caucusing with Democrats during the 2017 legislative session, said in an interview Monday that she plans to meet with Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford in the near future and discuss her potential candidacy as a Democrat on the 2018 ballot.

“Obviously I need to have a discussion with what my thoughts and beliefs are and how that aligns with where caucus is going, and make a decision,” she said. “I’m not trying to be the governor, not trying to be the next party leader. I really feel like I’d have to be able to accomplish something on a personal level — that I feel like I’m doing something that’s good for the state.”

Farley said Ford — who remained tight-lipped on whether Democrats would continue to support her after the 120-day session — told her she needed to re-register as a Democrat to receive the backing of the caucus. A spokeswoman for the caucus confirmed that Farley would have the support of the caucus if she changed parties and ran for re-election.

If Farley decides to run for re-election, it will lend more clarity to one of the most competitive state Senate districts on the ballot in 2018, as well as play an outsized role in efforts for both Republicans and Democrats in efforts to take control of the state Senate, where the Democrats, with Farley, have a 12-9 edge.

Farley defeated former Democratic Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero Loop on a 57 to 39 percent margin during the 2014 general election. Despite the lopsided margin, the district is evenly divided in voter registration breakdown — 35.7 percent Republican and 37.2 percent Democratic according to the latest available voter registration numbers.

Despite her nonpartisan status, Farley joined Democrats on all but a handful of votes and even took over duties as chair of the Transportation Committee after Democratic Sen. Mark Manendo relinquished the role amid a sexual harassment investigation.

Farley left the 2017 session with mixed results, though several of her bills were signed into law including measures creating new restrictions on the labeling and packing of marijuana products, funding public school gardens and regulating the sale of dextromethorphan — a common ingredient in cough syrup — to children.

Several of her priorities ended up fizzling out, including tweaking the legislatively-approved agreement for the state to chip in and build a stadium for the Oakland Raiders and several attempts to undercut trash giant Republic Services’ monopoly in southern Nevada. Another measure aimed at establish tax credits for employers who offer child care died without ever receiving a vote in the senate.

Farley said if she ran again, her top priorities would center around child welfare, including focusing on access to day care and general child care.

“As a public policy, I would like to continue to work on that because we are failing as a state on that issue,” she said. “I think it got a good amount of conversation but I really believe that people still don’t understand how terrible we are at funding that.”

Republican Senate Leader Michael Roberson declined to comment on the race or Farley’s prospective candidacy, though he tweeted in January that he was “looking forward to electing a Republican to Senate District 8 in the upcoming election.”

And Democrats have built up a slightly larger bulkhead of registered voters in the district, adding 4,340 voters since the close of registration in 2014 compared to 3,101 for Republicans over the same time period.

“My hope is that in that district I’ve only gained support, not lost any,” she said. “So if there’s negative stuff it’s only going to be in their own echo chamber, and they weren't going to vote for me anyways.”

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