NEWS

Nine Assembly incumbents unopposed for election

BY ED VOGEL
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL CAPITAL BUREAU
Posted: Mar. 16, 2012 | 6:41 p.m.
CARSON CITY -- Challenging incumbent legislators, particularly in districts where their party has decided registration advantage, clearly was not popular this year in Nevada.

In all, nine Assembly members -- five Republicans and four Democrats -- became winners at 5 p.m. Friday when no opponents filed to challenge their bids for re-election.

In Clark County, these uncontested winners were Democrats Marilyn Kirkpatrick in District 1, Harvey Munford in District 6, Olivia Diaz in District 11 and Richard Carrillo in District 18, along with Republican John Hambrick in District 2.

Assembly Democrat Caucus leader Marcus Conklin said he is not sure why so many seats went uncontested, but suspects because of redistricting potential candidates were not sure about their chances so did not file. He added it has been tough to find quality candidates and Democrats did not field candidates in some largely rural Republican districts.

"At the end of the day we were looking for quality candidates in every race that made sense to us," Conklin said.

Assembly Republican Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, had much the same view.

"Down south there were districts with very large Democrat majorities after redistricting and candidates did not step forward," he said. "We didn't try to field candidates just for the sake of fielding candidates."

Technically uncontested candidates don't win until after the November election, but all they have to do is vote for themselves. Even more promising for their political parties is they won't have to gather campaign contributions, and party leaders can work to raise money to send into the most crucial contested races.

That is important in a year when the Senate Republicans are trying to recapture the Senate after four years of Democrat dominance. Democrats hold a narrow 11-10 lead, and Senate Republican Caucus leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, wants to regain the majority. Democrat Senate leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, hopes to take enough Republican seats to give his party a veto-proof 14-7 majority. Denis was the only candidate two years ago to win without opposition.

Hickey isn't as hopeful as Roberson about gaining a majority since Democrats hold a 26-16 lead in the Assembly. But he thinks they can pick up seats, including a significant one in Assembly District 37 seat in Clark County. That seat has been held for the last 10 years by Conklin, who likely will become Assembly speaker in 2013 if he can win again.

Hickey thinks he has the dream candidate to beat Conklin in former Air Force lawyer Wesley Duncan. Because of redistricting, Democrats now have less than a 500 registered voter advantage in the district.

Conklin said he thanks Duncan for his service to his county, but he expects to win.

"This is about voters and their concerns and what they would like to see," he said. "Having a tough race potentially will give me an opportunity to reconnect with the public."

Other Assembly incumbents who will win without opposition are Republicans Hickey in District 25 , Ira Hansen, of Sparks, in District 32; John Ellison, of Elko, in District 33; and Tom Grady, of Yerington, in District 38.

Contact reporter Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.