Key Legislative Races Develop

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - The outcome of two state Senate and two
Assembly races, all of them in southern Nevada, could mean big changes in the Legislature and the way in which lawmakers deal with
the executive branch of government.

Ten Senate seats and all 42 Assembly seats are up for grabs this election year - and if Democrats gain one net seat in the Assembly, they'll hold 28, or two-thirds, of the seats. That's the supermajority needed to pass tax increases and override gubernatorial vetoes.

If Democrats pick up one seat in the state Senate, they'd take control of the upper house, where they currently are an 11-10 minority, for the first time since 1991.

The two Senate races, in District 5 and District 6, pit strong Republican incumbents against Democratic challengers. The two Assembly races are for open seats in divided districts, District 5 and District 29, one previously held by a Republican, the other by a Democrat.

Democrats' recent voter registration gains, which have continued since the big boost from the Jan. 19 caucuses, have given them a statistical edge in all four districts.

In Senate District 6, incumbent Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, is seeking a second four-year term. A certified accountant and business consultant, Beers faces Democrat Allison Copening, who works in public relations. The district's registered voters are 41 percent Democrat, 39 percent Republican.

Beers, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006, contends Copening would support higher taxes. Copening says that given the
state's economy that's "the last thing you want to do."

In Senate District 5, incumbent Joe Heck, R-Henderson, an emergency room doctor just back from an Army Reserve stint in Iraq, wants a second term and faces a challenge from Democrat Shirley Breeden, a longtime school district administrator.

Democrats have a slight registration advantage in registration in the district, 42 percent to 41 percent.

Breeden said she hopes to address home foreclosures, the public health crisis related to ambulatory surgical centers, and education.

Heck said he hopes his constituents will re-elect him because he kept his promises, including a pledge to control property taxes. While he said he doesn't favor increasing taxes, he hopes the Legislature can have a broad debate about tax policy.

In Assembly District 29, the incumbent, Susan Gerhardt, D-Henderson, isn't seeking re-election. Running to replace her are Republican Sean Fellows, an Air Force reservist who works at Nellis Air Force Base, and Democrat April Mastroluca, who works for the national Parent Teacher Association. The district's voters are 42 percent Democrat, 38 percent Republican.

In Assembly District 5, which has been represented by Valerie Weber, R-Las Vegas, there now are nearly 1,300 more Democrats than Republicans. Democrats represent 43 percent of the voters, Republicans 37 percent.

The Republican seeking the seat is Donna Toussaint, a retired data management worker. She's opposed by Democrat Marilyn Dondero Loop, a longtime teacher and now a textbook saleswoman. She's the
daughter of University Regent Thalia Dondero.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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