Democrats Narrowly Maintain Control Of State Senate

CARSON CITY – The Nevada state Senate will remain in Democratic control following Tuesday’s election after three Republican candidates won victories in five closely contested races, one short of the number needed for a change of power.

Democrats won two of the five races in play for control of the Senate, maintaining the 11-10 status quo over Republicans.

Republicans needed to win four of the five contested seats to achieve an 11-10 edge and win control of the Senate. Democrats have controlled the Senate since 2008.

But Republicans won only three of the five races, all of which were closely contested.

The results ensure that both the 21-member Senate and the 42-member Assembly will remain in control of Democrats in the 2013 session, requiring GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval to work with the opposing party in both houses to push through his education reform agenda in the 2013 legislative session.

There were 12 Senate races in the Tuesday election, but only five were considered in play by the two parties.

Mark Hutchison, Republican victor in Senate District 6.

In Senate District 5, former state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, defeated Republican and former Henderson city councilman Steve Kirk for the four-year term. The final vote had 52 percent for Woodhouse to 48 percent for Kirk. Woodhouse served previously but had lost a re-election bid in 2010.

In Senate District 6, GOP attorney Mark Hutchison narrowly defeated Democrat businessman Benny Yerushalmi, 50.8 percent 49.2 percent.

In Senate District 9, Democrat Justin Jones defeated Republican Mari St. Martin by a margin of 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent.

In Senate District 15 in Washoe County, a closely watched race that pitted Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, against former state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, Brower eked out a narrow victory. Leslie had resigned her previous seat to face Brower, but lost the hotly contested race 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent. More than $1 million was spent on the race by the two candidates, with Brower winning by a mere 266 votes.

In Senate District 18, GOP Assemblyman Scott Hammond defeated Democrat Kelli Ross, 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent.

Both GOP caucus leader Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, and Democratic leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, had high hopes for their slate of candidates.

In the Assembly, Democrats picked up a seat to take a 27-15 edge over Republicans, although there were some significant developments in a handful of the races.

Assembly Majority Leader Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, expected to be the next Assembly Speaker, lost a fiercely contested race to GOP newcomer Wes Duncan, by a margin of 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent.

Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas.

Conklin’s loss opens up the leadership post among Democrats for the 2013 session.

In Assembly District 20, Democrat Ellen Spiegel, who lost a re-election bid in 2010, won her election bid over Republican Eric Mendoza.

And in a race sure to cause some difficulties for Democrats, candidate Andrew Martin won over Republican Kelly Hurst, despite being found ineligible for the seat by a Clark County District Judge on Monday due to a residency issue. Evidence presented at a court hearing resulted in a ruling that Martin did not actually live in the district.

In other races, President Obama’s strong showing in the Silver State did not have the coattail effect that Rep. Shelly Berkley, D-Nev., needed in her challenge to Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev. Heller narrowly defeated Berkley to keep the Senate seat for the GOP, even though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will maintain his position in the U.S. Senate with victories elsewhere across the country.

In the state’s four House races, former Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., won election in the 1st Congressional District. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., won a full term to the 2nd District, and Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., defeated challenger John Oceguera for a second term in the 3rd District. The most closely watched race, in the new 4th Congressional District, saw state Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, defeat GOP candidate Danny Tarkanian.

Horsford will be Nevada’s first African American member of Congress.