Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Future of Nevada Democrats is Female

Cross posted from Turn Tahoe Blue. Might this translate into success for Sen. Hillary Clinton in the Nevada Caucus?

Women are clearly on the rise in Nevada politics. Especially so on the Democratic side. Consider the following: in the 2006 elections Democrats nominated women in all three congressional districts, four out of six candidates for statewide office were women, including Governor.

While Jill Derby (NV-02) and Tessa Hafen (NV-03) didn't win their respective races, they did come pretty close and it's quite possible that Dean Heller and Jon Porter will have to run against female candidates again in 2008.

Women have captured high offices in Nevada in the past, though they were mostly Republican: former Congresswoman Barbara Vucanovich (NV-02, 1983-97), former Treasurer Patty Cafferata (1983-87), former Lt. Governors Sue Wagner (1991-95) and Lorraine Hunt (1999-2007), Secretary of State Cheryl Lau (1991-95). The only Democratic women previously elected to statewide office were Superintendent of Public Instruction Mildred Bray (1937-51) and Frankie Sue Del Papa who was Secretary of State (1987-91) and Attorney General (1991-2003). There has not been a female US Senator yet, the only Democratic nominee was Mary Gojack in 1990.

Recently female Democrats were much more successful in being nominated and elected than their Republican counterparts. Currently, three out of four Democratic (six total) constitutional officers in Nevada are women: Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, State Treasurer Kate Marshall, and State Controller Kim Wallin. Las Vegas is represented in Congress by Shelley Berkley. The Nevada State Democratic Party has recently elected a woman, Jill Derby, as its chair. Among the five-person leadership are three more women: 2nd Vice Chair Teresa Benitez-Thompson, Secretary A'shanti Gholar, and Treasurer Jan Churchill.

In the State Assembly, Barbara Buckley was recently elected Speaker, the first woman in that position in Nevada's history. Majority Whip Sheila Leslie and Assistant Majority Whip Debbie Smith are among the five person Majority Leadership in the Assembly, while the Democratic leadership team in the State Senate is entirely comprised of women: Minority Floor Leader Dina Titus, Minority Whip Valerie Wiener, and Assistant Minority Floor Leader Bernice Mathews. As far as I could find out, no other legislatative body in the country has an entirely female leadership, at least on the Democratic side.

10 out 27 Democratic Assembly members are women (37%) and 5 out of 10 Democratic State Senators are women, making up 50%.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that in a recent poll at Helluva Heller, asking who should run against Heller on the Democratic side, out of the seven mentioned possibilities five were women: Kate Marshall, Debbie Smith, Jill Derby, Sheila Leslie, and Teresa Benitez Thompson and the female candidates were in the lead at last count.

When you consider all this, it is only a matter of time when Nevada will send another woman to the House, the first woman to the US Senate and elect its first Governor.

You can read more about the history of women in Nevada politics here.

Go to Turn Tahoe Blue to see photos of the women mentioned.

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