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Women Could Soon Outnumber Men In Nevada Legislature

Casey Morell

Chris Giunchigliani won’t be our next governor, but we’re likely to see more women take office in the next year.

That’s because women are running for every state assembly seat that’s open, and more than half of the state senate seats that are available.

Depending on how the elections go in November, Nevada could become the first state in history to have a majority-female legislature.

Rebecca Gill, the director of the Women's Research Institute of Nevada, says the more women are entering politics for several different reasons, including the results of the 2016 presidential election and the efforts by groups around the country to recruit female candidates.

For Sondra Cosgrove with the League of Women Voters of Southern Nevada, it is not just about getting women elected. It is about making sure those women have a say in how the elected body is run.

“Just getting women elected to the Legislature would be a milestone, but then I want to see that they’re given the opportunity to set the agenda, to be in leadership positions and that they’re not going to have to worry about harassment,” she said.

Women in elected office tend to introduce more bills addressing women's issues, children and social welfare, but a New York Times report found that only about 1 percent of those bills introduced by women in Congress have actually passed.

So, even with a majority female legislature, will women actually be able to address issues important to them? Cosgrove says it depends.

“I think it's going to be important on who is the majority leader in the Senate and who the speaker is going to be in the house,” she said.

Cosgrove said there is a good chance that those positions will be held by men of color, who might be more likely to advance women into important positions.

“I think Nevada could be kind of an example for the country that you’ve got two men of color who could very well be [empowering women] to have authority and to lead and to not be told what to do,” she said.

However, Gill points out that legislators in Nevada tend to be less powerful because it's a part-time legislature that meets every other year.

"This is the kind of position that women tend to do well in," she said. "Women tend to get more representation in positions that are less prestigious."

So, although they may be a majority in the legislature, the position is not as prestigious as that of a full-time legislator. 

Cosgrove does believe there is a chance that more women will be elected to the state senate and assembly, and if they are, she believes they'll push an agenda of improving health care and education.

Sondra Cosgrove, president, League of Women Voters of Southern Nevada; Rebecca Gill, director, Women's Research Institute of Nevada

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Kristy Totten is a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada. Previously she was a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly, and has covered technology, education and economic development for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She's a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.