New players and familiar faces to watch this session — and some farewells
Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson. Roberson started life in the Legislature in 2010 as a bomb-throwing freshman whose idle remarks drove veteran Democrats crazy. He evolved in 2013 into a crafty leader with his eye on the big corner office. Now the energetic Roberson is impatient to get the session underway to fulfill a campaign promise: getting more money into the state’s school system, in partnership with Gov. Brian Sandoval. Will he have more trouble dealing with the new Democratic minority, or his obstreperous Republican colleagues in the Assembly?
State Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas. Jones only served for two years, winning the unexpired term of state Sen. Elizabeth Halseth, who resigned in 2012. Passionate and committed, he shepherded his gun background check bill through both houses, only to see it killed by a gubernatorial veto. Rare is the lawmaker who stands by his principles, even when they might cost him his job. In Jones’s case, that’s exactly what happened.
Assemblyman Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas. Frierson was in line to become the first black speaker of the Nevada Assembly when his career was cut short in November in an ultra-close race decided by just 40 votes. He helmed the Assembly Judiciary Committee with aplomb, moving along lengthy and complicated hearings on lengthy and complicated bills. A graduate of UNR and UNLV’s Boyd Law School, Frierson was a homegrown leader who still tops many insiders’ “They’ll Be Back” lists.
Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks. He may have been forced to step down as speaker-designate under the weight of his own hateful words penned in a Sparks newspaper over a period of nearly two decades, but Hansen is unbowed. His new job — assistant majority leader — isn’t as high-profile as the speaker’s post, but his chairmanship of the Assembly Judiciary Committee puts him in a position to pursue his pet issue (construction defect reform) while also causing problems for longtime adversaries, such as the trial bar.
Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas. In her first session in 2013, Fiore cemented her reputation as a gun rights supporter by championing a bill to allow people to carry guns on university campuses. But the headlines obscured her real political skills, from spaghetti dinners at her home for constituents to lobbying to get the No. 2 leadership position in the lower house (a position she's since lost). Revelations that she’s failed to pay taxes began to dog her last month, leading to her being yanked from chairing the Assembly Taxation Committee. In February, we'll find out if she’s more leader than caricature.
Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison. He served only one regular session and two special sessions in the body he’ll now preside over, but nobody doubts his ability. Hutchison proved himself to be a quick study as a senator, asking good questions in meetings and navigating treacherous political waters like an old pro. (The devout Mormon was key to passing medical marijuana laws.) But his arrival at the front of the chamber means his contributions as a lawmaker will be lost, and in a session where Hutchison’s ability to reconcile a conservative political philosophy with practical realities will be needed more than ever.
See you soon
Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto. Although she was solicited to run for governor and lieutenant governor, Cortez Masto ended up looking like the smartest Democrat in the state when she took a pass on the 2014 election cycle. As a result, her statewide brand was untarnished by the Republican wave. She cemented her position by taking a high-profile job as executive vice chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, a post that will keep her in public view while she mulls which office to seek next. (The U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Sen. Dean Heller is a strong possibility, in 2018.)
See you soon
Secretary of State Ross Miller. In a statewide race, losing by 4,750 votes counts as a photo-finish heartbreaker. Miller — son of former Gov. Bob Miller — had an especially bitter race against Adam Laxalt, the grandson of former U.S. senator and Gov. Paul Laxalt. The loss interrupted Ross Miller’s best-laid plans to succeed his father in the governor’s mansion, but doesn’t end them. Now Miller must find a sinecure that will allow him to return to politics in four years, but one that won’t reinforce the Laxalt campaign picture of Miller as an entitled party guy more interested in attending mixed martial arts events than doing his day job.