Posts Tagged ‘Hutchison’

State Senate Candidates Await Fate

By Sean Whaley | 2:46 pm November 5th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The precincts have been walked, the issues debated and the media campaigns run. Now many Nevada voters will get to weigh in on five critical races to determine whether Republicans or Democrats will control the state Senate after the polls close tomorrow.

The 21-member Senate currently has an 11-10 Democratic edge.

Gov. Brian Sandoval and many of his Republican colleagues are working to change this by winning at least four of five of the races in play between the two parties on Election Day tomorrow.

Sandoval, who is expected to push for further education reforms and other changes in the 2013 session, would love to have the leverage a Republican Senate would provide to help win passage of his agenda.

State Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas.

Democrats meanwhile, are working hard to hold on to or even increase their majority in the Senate, where they have been in control since 2008. The 42-member Assembly is expected to remain under Democratic control following the election.

Races to watch

Four of the five Senate seats in play are in Southern Nevada and the fifth is in Reno:

Senate 5, where Republican and former Henderson city councilman Steve Kirk is facing Democrat and former state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse;

Senate 6, where GOP attorney Mark Hutchison faces Democrat businessman Benny Yerushalmi;

Senate 9, where Republican Mari Nakashima St. Martin faces Democrat Justin Jones;

Senate 15 in Reno where Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, is running against former state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno; and,

Senate 18, where Republican Assemblyman Scott Hammond faces Democrat Kelli Ross.

Republicans have a voter registration edge in Senate 15 and 18, while Democrats lead in the other three. There are a large number of nonpartisan voters in all five districts as well, however. How they vote could determine the outcome of the races.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said the top drawer candidates recruited by the Republican Senate caucus are all in a position to win on Tuesday.

State Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas.

“We’re right where we want to be, we’re right where we expected to be,” he said today. “We’re positioned to win all of these races. Whether we do or not the voters will tell us tomorrow.

“All of our races are very close,” Roberson said. “Some of them could certainly go either way. But we feel like we’ve done everything we can to put us in a position to be successful.”

The Republican candidates have been successful in attracting both Democrat and nonpartisan voters, he said.

“So I think you’re going to see a lot of ticket splitting; I think you’re going to see a lot of people who are registered Democrat or registered nonpartisan that come over and vote for our candidates,” Roberson said.

Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, was equally optimistic about the outcome for his Democratic candidates.

“Our take has always been that we were going to maintain and expand our majority,” he said today. “We went out and recruited some great folks and we’ve been out working hard on the ground since February, knocking on doors.”

The candidates and the caucus have raised the funds needed to fund competitive campaigns, and polling shows they are doing well with voters, Denis said.

“The registration numbers were great for us, and the early vote has been great for us,” he said. “So I feel real confident about our folks and how they’re going to do tomorrow.”

Early voting results statewide did favor Democrats, with 307,877 votes cast compared to 259,913 for Republicans. Not all of those votes came in the five Senate districts.

Republicans out raising Democrats in all five races

But the campaign funding race has favored Republicans, according to the Campaign Contribution and Expense forms filed with the Secretary of State’s office updated through Nov. 1.

Even so, all of the candidates have brought in and spent large sums since the beginning of the year, showing just out important both parties see the races.

The Brower-Leslie race alone has generated nearly $1.2 million in contributions combined since January.

In Senate 5, Kirk has raised $336,000 since the beginning of the year, but has spent $392,000. This compares to $243,000 for Woodhouse with nearly $267,000 spent.

In Senate 6, Hutchison has brought in just over $572,000 while spending nearly $520,000. Yerushalmi has raised $292,000 while spending $290,000.

In Senate 9, St. Martin has raised over $388,000 and spent $376,000, while Jones has raised nearly $313,000 and spent $297,000.

In Senate 15, Brower has almost $704,000 and spent $718,000, with Leslie bringing in nearly $483,000 and spending $500,000.

In Senate 18, Hammond has raised $214,000 and spent 208,000, while Ross reported just over $201,000 in contributions and $186,000 in expenses.

Roberson said a Republican majority in the Senate will bring more balance to the Legislature.

“And that’s going to encourage more bipartisanship, more cooperation, more collaboration,” he said. “And I think the end result will be better legislation, better public service for the people of Nevada, coming out of Carson City.”

Denis said he has a track record of working across the aisle with Republicans, and that his leadership will ensure bipartisanship and balance with the GOP.

“I think the balance has to come from leadership, and I’ve show that,” he said. “I know Sen. Roberson has said he wants to do that; he’s going to have to prove that with his actions. And so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he’ll want to do that.”

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Audio clips:

Sen. Michael Roberson says the Senate GOP candidates are positioned to win on Tuesday:

110512Roberson1 :23 to be successful.”

Roberson says Republicans will draw Democratic and nonpartisan voters:

110512Roberson2 :10 for our candidates.”

Roberson says a GOP Senate will encourage bipartisanship:

110512Roberson3 :18 of Carson City.”

Sen. Mo Denis says Democrats are poised to hold on to and even expand their Senate majority:

110512Denis11 :19 knocking on doors.”

Denis says he is confident the Senate Democratic candidates will do well Tuesday:

110512Denis2 :13 to do tomorrow.”

Denis says he has a track record of working with Republicans:

110512Denis3 :24 to do that.”

 

Republicans Lead In Fundraising In Critical State Senate Races But Democrats Argue They Have Broader Support

By Sean Whaley | 3:27 pm May 23rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – Republican candidates have big leads in fundraising in four of five seats considered critical to control of the state Senate in the 2013 legislative session, with a slight monetary advantage in the fifth, according to campaign contribution reports filed this week.

Both Democrat and Republican caucus leaders are fighting hard to win the seats to control the 21-member house where Democrats now lead 11-10.

The first reports of 2012 show contributions through May 18 and were filed Tuesday with the state Secretary of State’s office. Several candidates also raised money in 2011 and these amounts have given the GOP candidates the funding edge early on in the 2012 election season.

Republican caucus leader Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, is optimistic that the GOP can retake control of the Senate in the November general election. Republicans need to win four of the five seats to do so.

Democratic Senate leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, is equally confident Democrats will maintain control.

Roberson said he is pleased with where the Senate candidates are right now, but added that it is a long time until November. Roberson also said he is pleased but not surprised at the level of contributions to the candidates and the caucus.

“I know the caliber of the candidates we have,” he said. “The group of candidates that agreed to run this time on the Republican side, our endorsed candidates, are some of the best candidates either party has seen in 20 years.”

But Senate Democrats point out that two of their candidates, Justin Jones and Sheila Leslie, both had larger numbers of individuals contributing to their campaigns than their GOP counterparts in the 2012 reports, suggesting they have a broader base of support. A third candidate, Joyce Woodhouse, also out-raised her opponent in the 2012 report.

The Senate Democratic Caucus also out-raised its Republican counterpart so far in 2012, $187,000 to $149,000.

“The recent finance reports show that the Senate Democratic Caucus is a very strong position to expand and protect the majority,” said Mike Luce, executive director of the Nevada Senate Democrats. “We have very strong candidates and the registration in these new districts favors Democrats.

“We have been  saying all along that the Democratic candidates are running strong campaigns and talking about bringing jobs to this state,” he said. “Our message is working, our campaigns are knocking doors and raising the necessary funds to run competitive races.”

In Senate District 5, where former Henderson city councilman Steve Kirk, a Republican, is expected to face Woodhouse, a former state senator, in the November general election, the GOP has the edge in contributions so far. But Kirk has also spent much of his war chest already.

Kirk reports $131,000 in total contributions and expenses of $67,000. Kirk has a primary battle. Kirk received a $5,000 contribution from the Retail Association of Nevada in the first reporting period this year.

Woodhouse reports raising about $96,000 and spending $18,000. She has large contributions from the Nevada State Education Association, $5,000; outgoing state Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, $5,000; and Nevada Senate Democrats, $5,000; in the first reporting period for this year.

The other Republican in the Senate 5 race, Annette Teijeiro, reports about $28,000 in contributions and $15,000 in expenses. The primary is June 12.

Author: David Ball, via Wikimedia Commons.

In Senate District 6, where GOP attorney Mark Hutchison is expected to face businessman and Democrat Benny Yerushalmi, Republicans also have a fundraising advantage.

Hutchison reports $185,000 in contributions and nearly $48,000 expenses. Contributions include $5,000 from the Keystone Corp., $5,000 from the Retail Association of Nevada and $10,000 from the Senate Republican Leadership Conference.

Yerushalmi reports $74,000 in contributions and $10,000 in expenses. He has a primary against Thomas Welsh. Yerushalmi, who ran unsuccessfully for a state Senate seat in 2010, has $4,000 contributions from both the Nevada State Education Association and the Clark County Education Association.

In Senate District 9, where Republican Mari Nakashima St. Martin is expected to face Democrat Justin Jones, the candidates are fairly evenly matched. Both face primary opponents. Brent Jones is also a GOP candidate, and Frederick Conquest has filed as a Democrat.

St. Martin reports nearly $114,000 in contributions and $60,000 in expenses. Contributions include $10,000 from the Senate Majority Political Action Committee, $10,000 from the Jobs First PAC, and $10,000 from the Senate Republican Leadership Conference.

Justin Jones reports nearly $112,000 in contributions and $23,000 in expenses. Contributions include $2,500 from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Searchlight Leadership Fund.

GOP candidate Brent Jones has raised nearly $33,000 in contributions.

In the Senate 15 race where incumbent Greg Brower, R-Reno, will face Leslie, who resigned her Senate 13 seat to challenge the attorney who was appointed to fill out the term of the late Sen. Bill Raggio, the Republican is leading in the fund-raising race.

Brower reports $299,000 in contributions and $76,000 in expenditures, with a $7,279 donation from the Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Leslie reports $141,000 in total contributions and $58,000 in expenses. Her contributions include $2,000 from R&R Partners, $5,000 from the Laborers’ Intl Local 169, and $8,700 from the Barbara Buckley Campaign. Buckley is a former Assembly speaker.

In Senate District 18, where Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, is likely to face Democrat Kelli Ross in November, Hammond reports $127,000 in contributions and $70,000 in expenses. Contributions include $2,500 from Station Casinos and $5,000 from MGM Resorts International.

Hammond raised $59,000 in the first 2012 reporting period from Jan. 1 through May 18. He also raised $68,000 in 2011.

Hammond, who is endorsed by the GOP Senate Caucus, and who faces a primary challenge from Assemblyman Richard McArthur, R-Las Vegas, is well ahead in contributions. McArthur reports about $16,000 in total donations. Republican Conrad Vergara, has also filed.

Ross, who has a primary against Democrat Donna Schlemmer, reports $47,000 in contributions and $5,500 in expenses. She received $10,000 from the Committee to Elect Steve Ross and $5,000 from the Committee to Elect Tom Collins.

Schlemmer has raised about $7,000.

Democrats have a voter registration edge in three Clark County races: Senate 5 by 40.6 percent to 37.5 percent for Republicans; in Senate 6 by 41.4 percent to 38.2 percent; and in Senate 9 by 39.6 percent to 35.3 percent, based on registration numbers through April.

Republicans lead in Senate 15 in Washoe County, 40 percent to 38 percent, and in Senate District 18 in Clark County, 40.7 percent to 37.6 percent.

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Audio clips:

Sen. Michael Roberson says he is pleased with where the Senate candidates are but that it is a long time yet to November:

052312Roberson1 :14 sure we’re successful.”

Roberson says the GOP Senate candidates are some of the best in the past 20 years:

052312Roberson2 :20 in 20 years.”

 

Carson District Judge Signs Off On New Political Boundaries, Making Only Minor Changes To Special Master Maps

By Sean Whaley | 2:58 pm October 27th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Carson City District Judge James Todd Russell approved a set of maps outlining Nevada’s new political boundaries today, making only modest changes to the lines drawn by a panel of three court-appointed special masters.

Russell, who ended up in charge of the redistricting process after legislative Democrats and Republicans could not come to an agreement in the 2011 session, signed off on the four congressional districts as proposed and made minor changes to several state Senate seats to correct what he said was an irregularly shaped state Senate 8 seat now held by Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas.

The changes to Senate 8 also resulted in modest changes in the percentage of Democrats and Republicans in Senate District 9 held by Sen. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, Senate District 6 held by Sen. Allison Copening, D-Las Vegas, and a new Senate 18 district created in Clark County with the population shift from northern and rural Nevada to the south.

Democrat attorney Marc Elias, left, and Republican attorney Mark Hutchison look over the new maps in Carson City District Court today. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau

Russell also changed the proposed boundaries of Assembly Districts 34 and 37 in Clark County to return Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, to his District 34. Horne had moved and was unintentionally drawn out of his district.

Russell made the changes after consulting this week with the special masters in advance of today’s hearing.

Attorneys for Democrats and Republicans reserved judgment on whether they will appeal the new political boundaries, required as a result of the 2010 Census, after reviewing the changes. The new political boundaries could potentially be challenged both to the Nevada Supreme Court and the federal courts.

Republican Party attorney Mark Hutchison had argued for changes to Senate seats 6, 8 and 9 to make them more competitive for Republicans, but Russell made only minor changes to the districts.

Democrat Party Attorney Marc Elias had asked for no changes to the maps drawn by Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover, Las Vegas attorney Thomas Sheets and former legislative Research Director Bob Erickson.

Elias said he could propose a laundry list of changes to the maps to improve Democrat political changes in the 2012 election, but that absent any serious errors that needed fixing, the political demands of the two parties should not be accommodated by Russell.

Russell said he tried to address the concerns of rural Nevada, which saw a Senate district drawn all the way into Clark County to reflect the population shift, but could find no way to do so. He noted that both the redistricting plans proposed by Republicans and Democrats moved the district into Clark County as well. The map as drawn by the special masters encompasses less of Clark County than the plans proposed by the parties, Russell said.

“We tried to accommodate these people . . . but there’s no way to work it out,” he said.

The rural district could have been kept whole only if the Legislature had voted to expand its size from the current 21 Senate and 42 Assembly seats, but it did not do so. The state constitution allows the Legislature to be expanded to as many as 75 seats in total.

The congressional maps, which include a new fourth seat due to Nevada’s population growth over the past decade compared to other states, has a central urban Las Vegas District 1 that is 42.8 percent Hispanic.

“I think overall we can live with the congressional maps, particularly based on the court’s decision to accept the special masters’ finding that there was no white block voting that precluded minorities from being elected or choosing candidates of their choice,” Hutchison said.

Elias said he does not believe the new congressional districts violate the federal Voting Rights Act and so no federal court challenge looks likely.

“It doesn’t seem to me that there is any basis at this point for a federal court action,” he said. “We’ve said, literally from the first day here, that the Voting Rights Act does not compel the creation of a majority-minority congressional district.”

Russell said he also considered the idea of returning the redistricting process to the Legislature in a special session, but rejected the idea. A two-week special session would have cost about $550,000, he said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval is the only one with the authority to call a special session of the Legislature, and he had previously rejected the idea, saying he had confidence in the court process to resolve the impasse.

Russell also found that the districts as drawn do not violate the federal Voting Rights Act.

The Nevada Supreme Court still has a hearing scheduled for next month on the issue of whether the Legislature has the responsibility to draw the state’s new political boundaries, not the courts.

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Audio clips:

GOP attorney Mark Hutchison says Republicans can lives with the new congressional districts:

102711Hutchison :15 of their choice.”

Democrat attorney Marc Elias says he does not believe there are federal issues with the new districts:

102711Elias :16 majority-minority congressional district.”

Nevada Republican Party Opposes Emergency High Court Intervention In Court-Run Redistricting Process

By Sean Whaley | 7:26 pm October 24th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Attorneys for the Nevada Republican Party today filed a brief with the Nevada Supreme Court opposing Secretary of State Ross Miller’s emergency petition seeking to intervene on the question of the authority of the courts to decide the state’s political boundaries instead of the Legislature.

The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for Nov. 14 on questions raised by Miller on whether it is the responsibility of the Legislature to draw the political boundaries, not the courts.

In a brief in opposition to Miller, Republican Party attorney Mark Hutchison called the petition moot since the special masters appointed by Carson City District Judge James Todd Russell worked quickly to submit proposed maps redrawing the state’s congressional and legislative districts.

Special redistricting masters, from left, Bob Erickson, Thomas Sheets and Alan Glover. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

“In short, the District Court action is proceeding apace, and the court will be in a position to issue final plans during, and perhaps even before, the beginning of November 2011,” the filing says. “This timeline provides ample time for any appeal to be heard and decided by this court well in advance of upcoming election deadlines. As such, petitioner’s original grounds for seeking this writ effectively are moot in light of subsequent events and, for this and other reasons set forth more fully below, the emergency petition should be denied.”

Russell will hold a hearing Thursday to consider the maps submitted Oct. 14 by the three special masters.

Hutchison, in a late filing by the deadline today to the proposed political districts submitted by the special masters, identified a few concerns in the proposed maps.

“Despite the special masters’ largely successful performance of their duties, the court has charged the parties to identify any legal errors with the proposed maps. Legal errors do exist in the current maps, but they are few,” the filing said.

One concern cited by Hutchison is the Senate District 8 seat now held by Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas. He argues in the filing the district is irregularly shaped and not compact.

There is also a concern cited about Senate District 6, now held by Sen. Allison Copening, D-Las Vegas, as drawn favoring Democrats where it has historically been a Republican seat.

Following two public hearings on Oct. 10 and 11, the court-appointed special masters filed their proposed maps three days later. Before the maps were filed Oct. 14, Hutchison issued a statement that said the party had faith in the panel to submit fair maps.

“Creating fair districts for both elected legislators and the public has been the goal of the Republicans since the beginning of the 2011 legislative session,” the statement said.

As to Miller’s underlying argument that it is the Legislature’s duty to perform the redistricting process, Hutchison said in his filing with the Supreme Court that he agrees the Nevada constitution entrusts the task of redistricting to the Legislature, but that, “if the Legislature fails to fulfill its duty, it may be incumbent upon other branches of government to remedy the situation.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval thus far has rejected any suggestion that he call a special session of the Legislature to resolve the redistricting issue. The Democrat-controlled Legislature passed two redistricting plans during the 2011 legislative session, but both were vetoed by the Republican governor who cited concerns that they violated the federal Voting Rights Act.

Carson Judge Russell Expected To Rule Quickly On Redistricting Guidelines, Sets Public Hearings For Oct. 10-11

By Sean Whaley | 3:14 pm September 21st, 2011

CARSON CITY – Racial gerrymandering, fracturing, packing, nesting – a three-hour hearing today in Carson City District Court over how to draw Nevada’s new political boundaries was full of arcane concepts and obscure terminology.

The much anticipated ruling from Judge James Todd Russell on guidelines for drawing those new districts will have major ramifications, however, for the state’s voters and its two major political parties.

The purpose of the hearing was to decide what factors a panel of three citizens must consider when drawing the state’s political lines for four congressional and 63 legislative seats based on the new population figures from the 2010 U.S. Census.

Attorneys for Democrats and Republicans used the terminology to make their cases for how the new political lines should be drawn. Most of the hearing focused on the four congressional seats that must be drawn for the 2012 general election. Nevada earned a 4th seat due to population gains over the past decade.

Time is of the essence in the dispute, with the election season set to get under way early next year.

Attorney Mark Hutchison, representing the Republican Party, argued that the Hispanic community in central Las Vegas should form the basis for one of the four congressional districts in any new redistricting plan.

Attorney Marc Elias, representing Democrats, argued that while communities of interest should be considered, there is no requirement in the federal Voting Rights Act that a predominantly Hispanic district be created.

Special Master Thomas Sheets, from left, GOP attorney Mark Hutchison and Democrat attorneys Mark Braden and Marc Elias confer after the redistricting hearing today. / Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau.

After the hearing, Hutchison said: “The court is going to take care to make sure this process is fair and from the beginning that’s all the Republicans have wanted, for the process to be fair. We want to start with a level playing field and let the chips fall where they might. We’re just opposed to any sort of a partisan Democratic slant to this process and I think we got that today.”

Hutchison said he will not appeal Russell’s ruling on how the redistricting process should be carried out by the special masters.

Elias declined to say whether he would appeal Russell’s ruling on the guidelines for the special masters on how to draw the maps.

“I always take these things one step at a time,” he said. “I’m here today and I’m going to wait for the ruling.

“Look, you heard the same thing I did – I think he said he was going to take this under advisement, he obviously listened attentively, he said he was going to do some research and then I expect we will hear from him.”

Russell has appointed the three special masters – Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover, Las Vegas attorney Thomas Sheets and former legislative Research Director Bob Erickson – to draw new political districts.

The issue ended up in the courts when a bipartisan plan could not be hammered out between Democrats and Republicans in the 2011 legislative session.

The Democrat-controlled Legislature passed two redistricting plans, both of which were vetoed by GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval.

While not immediately ruling on the Hispanic congressional district question, Russell did announce some developments in his plan to resolve the dispute.

He announced that the special masters will hold two public hearings, one in Las Vegas on Oct. 10 in the Grant Sawyer State Office Building, and the other Oct. 11 in the Carson City legislative building, to take comment from interested parties on what Nevada’s new districts should look like.

Following those hearings, the special masters will have until Oct. 21 to submit new political maps to the court. Russell said he will then release their report and proposed maps to the public.

Russell said that by Nov. 15 or 16 he will decide whether to accept the maps as drawn by the special masters or send the issue back for any specific revisions he deems necessary.

Regardless of how he rules, the redistricting issue is expected to end up in front of the Nevada Supreme Court, and could be appealed into the federal court system as well.

Elias asked Russell to use Senate Bill 497, the second redistricting measure passed by Democrats but vetoed by Sandoval, as the starting point for the special masters to draw new districts.

Hutchison and other attorneys representing Republicans rejected the idea, saying the maps approved for the 2001 redistricting, along with the many sets of maps proposed this year by lawmakers and citizens, could all be considered by the special masters as a starting point.

Attorney Daniel Stewart, representing Clark County resident Daniel Garza, who opposed SB497, said the congressional districts in the bill inappropriately “fractured” the Las Vegas Hispanic community into three different districts to create three safe Democrat congressional seats.

“This is a perfect example of what I think the masters shouldn’t do,” he said.

But Elias warned that any effort to focus exclusively on creating one Hispanic congressional district could lead to “racial gerrymandering” which would put any plan approved by Russell at risk for a federal court challenge. It is not possible to draw a congressional district in Las Vegas that would have a majority of eligible Hispanic voters, he said.

There is also no evidence of block voting by white residents that has thwarted the efforts of Hispanics to elect candidates of their choice, Elias said, noting the election of Sandoval, who is Hispanic.

One of the experts cited by Republican as evidence of block voting by whites was the election of former state Sen. Bob Coffin to the Las Vegas City Council in Ward 3, defeating Hispanic candidate Adriana Martinez in the process, he said. But the expert failed to note that Coffin is of Hispanic heritage himself, Elias said.

“Nevada is not Mississippi,” he said. “There is no white block voting in Clark County.”

Attorneys also argued their positions on other issues, including whether two state Assembly districts should be drawn to fit exactly within each state Senate seat, a process called “nesting.”

They also argued whether “representational fairness”, or consideration of how many “safe” seats each political party should have, is appropriately before the special masters.

A number of prominent Democrats have either announced or are said to be interested in running for the Southern Nevada congressional seats even though the district lines have yet to be drawn. Already announced candidates include Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, former Rep. Dina Titus who lost to Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., in the 2010 election, state Sen. John Lee of North Las Vegas and state Sen. Ruben Kihuen of Las Vegas. Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford of Las Vegas is also said to be interested in running for Congress.

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Audio clips:

GOP attorney Mark Hutchison says Republicans want a level playing field:

092111Hutchison :25 got that today.”

Democrat attorney Marc Elias says Judge Russell listened attentively and will issue his ruling after conducting some research:

092111Elias :15 hear from him.”

Nevada Redistricting Efforts Remain In Flux After Court Hearing This Week

By Sean Whaley | 1:34 pm July 15th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Efforts to resolve Nevada’s redistricting impasse remain a work in progress after a proposal floated Tuesday by a Carson City judge to use county election officials to draw new legislative and congressional lines ran into some opposition.

The job of redrawing Nevada’s political lines has fallen to District Judge James Todd Russell after two Democrat-approved redistricting plans were vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval. Sandoval vetoed the measures after concluding the proposals did not follow the federal Voting Rights Act.

A close-up of one of the many redistricting maps proposed at the Nevada Legislature / Photo by Elizabeth Crum via iPhone

Russell took the attorneys representing the two major political parties by surprise when, rather than opting to hear the evidence and make a decision, he proposed using the Washoe, Clark and Carson City voter registrars as “special masters” to draw the new political boundaries for his consideration.

The Las Vegas Sun reported that Clark County Registrar Larry Lomax rejected the idea after consulting with County Manager Don Burnette.

Redistricting must be accomplished in time for the 2012 election season, which begins early next year. Redistricting happens every 10 years following the census.

Russell gave the parties until July 20 to come up with their suggestions for special masters to help with the process.

Appearing on the Nevada NewsMakers television program on Wednesday, Republican Party attorney Mark Hutchison said the suggestion caught a lot of people attending the court hearing by surprise.

“We were, I think, a little surprised by the suggestion but I think once you understood why the judge did it, it made all the sense in the world,” he said. “He’s looking for, and he said this, a nonpartisan approach. He wants to do the right thing, follow the law, and he doesn’t want a bunch of politically motivated people there involved in the process.

“Judge Russell has presented a very unique process,” Hutchison said. “He wants to have the parties involved in the process, but he wants to have people who are going to be nonpartisan and have the information so that he can do his job. It’s a very unique process that I don’t know exists anywhere else in the country.”

Hutchison said he does not believe the redistricting process will be resolved in a special session of the Legislature. More likely Russell will present a plan that will ultimately be acted on by the Nevada Supreme Court.

Marc Elias, representing the Democratic Party in the case, was quoted in the Nevada Appeal as suggesting that before special masters propose a new set of political boundaries, that there should first be a decision on whether the Democrat plans violate the Voting Rights Act.

“Maybe if we resolve the voting rights issue, there would at least be a basis for the masters to start,” he said.

Because of Nevada’s population growth, the state is getting a fourth congressional district, requiring a major redrawing of the existing three districts. The 21 state Senate and 42 Assembly districts must also be redrawn to make populations approximately equal.

There is also a mandate to ensure equitable representation of minorities in the process, with Republicans supporting the creation of a majority Hispanic congressional district in Southern Nevada.

Audio clips:

Republican Party attorney Mark Hutchison says the attorneys were surprised by Russell’s plan to resolve the redistricting impasse:

071511Hutchison1 :15 in the process.”

Hutchison says Russell’s plan is unique:

071511Hutchison2 :12 the country, Sam.”

 

 

Federal Appeal In States’ Challenge To National Health Care Law Set For June 8 In Atlanta

By Sean Whaley | 2:17 pm April 28th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Oral arguments in the ongoing legal challenge of the national health care law by 26 states including Nevada are set for June 8 before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Ga.

Lead Special Counsel for Nevada, Mark Hutchison, will represent the state at the hearing, which will consider the federal government’s appeal of a lower federal court ruling out of Florida which found a key provision of the health care law unconstitutional.

Florida Judge Roger Vinson ruled Jan. 31 that the provision of the law that requires all U.S. citizens and residents purchase a private health insurance policy is unconstitutional.

“The federal government’s appeal was expected,” Hutchison said. “We are confident that Judge Vinson’s decision is sound and that at the end of the day the states will prevail. Congress exceeded its authority under the Constitution by compelling Americans to purchase a product, in this case a health insurance policy, from a private company.”

In Vinson’s original ruling he reasoned: “It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place. If Congress can penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain for it would be ‘difficult to perceive any limitation on federal power,’ and we would have a Constitution in name only. Surely this is not what the Founding Fathers could have intended.”

The federal lawsuit was originally filed in federal court in the Northern District of Florida on Mar. 23, 2010. Nevada joined the lawsuit on May 14, 2010 at the direction of former Gov. Jim Gibbons.

Gov. Brian Sandoval supports Nevada’s legal challenge of the law as well.

The state of Virginia filed a separate lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Virginia on Mar. 23, 2010, making a total of 27 states challenging the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Public court documents about the case can be found at www.hutchlegal.com/healthcare. Nevadans can also visit Hutchison’s blog for regular updates and information at www.obamacarelitigation.blogspot.com.

 

Nevada’s Challenge To Health Care Law Could See Ruling By January But Appeal Certain

By Sean Whaley | 1:45 pm November 8th, 2010

CARSON CITY – The private attorney working on Nevada’s challenge to the new national health care law says a federal judge in Florida should rule on the case by January, setting the stage for an appeal that ultimately is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson gave Nevada and 19 other states a victory in October when he rejected the federal government’s efforts to get the lawsuit thrown out of court.

“I think by mid-January we will have a decision out of Judge Vinson,” said Las Vegas attorney Mark Hutchison, representing Nevada without charge in its challenge to the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Vinson is now scheduled to hear arguments on Dec. 16 on two major legal issues: whether Congress can mandate individuals to purchase insurance coverage, and whether the law oversteps the federal government’s authority to tell states how to run their budgets by mandating an expansion of the Medicaid caseload.

The mandate by Congress to individuals to purchase insurance is a key element of the legal challenge, Hutchison said.

“He (Vinson) will decide whether or not, through the commerce clause, Congress can essentially regulate inactivity; that is, my decision or your decision not to purchase insurance,” Hutchison said.

The other issue is whether the mandate that states expand Medicaid coverage under the new law violates the 10th Amendment giving states authority over their own budgets and programs.

The mandate by the federal government is putting tremendous financial burdens on the state, he said.

Gov. Jim Gibbons has estimated the Medicaid mandate will cost Nevada $613 million over six years beginning in 2014 when a three-year federal payment to cover the cost of an increased Medicaid caseload goes away.

While the lawsuit remains active, Hutchison said actions by the next Congress could potentially make the legal challenge moot.

The Democratic majority in the House of Representatives was swept away on Tuesday, and the new Republican majority has made repealing the health care law a top priority.

A repeal of the law would make the challenge moot, Hutchison said. If, in the alternative, Congress refuses to fund the implementation of the law, that too could sideline the challenge, he said. The argument could be made that the states would not have standing to challenge the law because it is not being put into effect, he said.

In his October ruling allowing the case to proceed, Hutchison said Vinson gave some hints about how he may rule. Vinson noted the Congressional mandate is unprecedented, saying in a footnote in his ruling there have been at least six attempts by Congress to implement universal health care in the past 90 years but that this is the first effort at a mandate.

Vinson said there may be a presumption that the mandate under the commerce clause is unconstitutional because it has never been used before despite claims by the U.S. Justice Department that Congress has the authority to do so.

“While the novel and unprecedented nature of the individual mandate does not automatically render it unconstitutional, there is perhaps a presumption that it is,” Vinson said in footnote 21.

“So I think that gives us a clue,” Hutchison said.

The ruling is also interesting in that it rejects an alternative effort by the federal government to justify the mandate under its taxing authority, Hutchison said. The penalty for not purchasing health insurance has always been defined as a penalty, not a tax, he said.

In his ruling, Vinson said: “Congress should not be permitted to secure and cast politically difficult votes on controversial legislation by deliberately calling something one thing, after which the defenders of that legislation take an ‘Alice-in-Wonderland’ tack and argue in court that Congress really meant something else entirely, thereby circumventing the safeguard that exists to keep their broad power in check.”

The opposing motions for summary judgment that will be filed by the states and the U.S. Department of Justice will both say there is no need for a trial, only a ruling on the merits of the case.

Whichever way Vinson rules, the case will be appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and ultimately to the U.S. Supreme Court, Hutchison said

Other challenges, by states and individuals, are proceeding in other jurisdictions. The challenge by Nevada and the other states also includes the National Federation of Independent Business and two individuals.

Hutchison agreed to represent Nevada in the case after Democratic Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto declined to file suit on behalf of the state. The election of GOP candidate Brian Sandoval as Nevada’s next governor ensures the challenge on behalf of the state will continue.

“He (Sandoval) welcomes with open arms the state’s continuing involvement in this litigation,” Hutchison said.

Hutchison said Masto’s argument for declining to challenge the law – that it was frivolous – has been repudiated by Vinson’s ruling allowing the case to proceed.

He called Masto’s decision, “a poor exercise of professional judgment.”

“Now Nevada is one state that is right in the hunt on a very important issue that is going to be proceeding up the process ultimately to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Hutchison said.

Asked for a response, Masto said: “It sounds like Mr. Hutchinson is still trying to justify his involvement in this case. I can understand his concerns considering that two separate federal courts have already dismissed similar actions against the health care law and the judge in the Florida action has dismissed four of the six claims and will make a decision on the remaining claims sometime in December.”

Audio clips:

Las Vegas attorney Mark Hutchison says key question is whether Congress can mandate the purchase of insurance:

110510Hutchison1 :32 on its constitutionality.”

Hutchison says mandate violates 10th Amendment:

110510Hutchison4 :22 without federal interference.”

Hutchison says  Gov.-elect Sandoval wants the challenge to continue:

110510Hutchison3 :18 happy with that.”

Hutchison says Attorney General Masto should have challenged the health care law:

110510Hutchison2 :42 U.S. Supreme Court.”

States’ Amended Complaint in Health Care Reform Case

By Elizabeth Crum | 3:15 pm May 14th, 2010

Your bedtime reading tonight:

STATES AMENDED COMPLAINT FINAL Date Stamped 051410

As Gibbons’ lead attorney M Hutchison said on Ralston’s F2F last night, in addition to seven more states there are also some private parties plus a business group – National Federation of Independent Business – now on the suit.