LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — Nevada has a chance to make history Tuesday, potentially electing the country’s first woman-majority state legislature.
Right now, Nevada has one of the highest percentages of women in its state legislature in the country at 38 percent. Only Vermont and Arizona, with 40 percent, have more equitable representation.
Though unlikely, considering the difficulty of some of the races in which women candidates are running, it’s possible that the Silver State could become majority woman-led, along with electing its second woman senator.
“Out of our 42 assembly seats we have women running in 31 of them,” Paul Selberg, the executive director of Nevada Assembly Democratic Caucus, told ThinkProgress on Monday. “Whether or not they’re running in districts that a Democrat could theoretically win is kind of beside the point. I think that in and of itself is pretty historic.”
According to The Nevada Independent, there are 12 seats to which women are guaranteed to be elected, either because the woman is the only candidate or because only women are running. There are six other seats for which women are likely to be elected because their party has a significant voter registration advantage.
The Independent calculated that that leaves eight seats that women candidates could could potentially pick up, although, according to the paper, just two of them are real toss-ups: A majority-woman lower chamber could come down to Democrat Shea Backus, who’s running against Republican incumbent Jim Marchant in Assembly District 37, and Democrat Connie Munk, who is running against Republican incumbent Richard McArthur in Assembly District 4.
A majority-woman state Senate is a longer shot, though still technically possible.
Currently, 10 men and seven women are guaranteed to be elected. Two more seats are ultimately likely to go to Republican men because their party has a heavy registration advantage. Another seat is likely to go to a woman, and just a single seat, according to The Independent, is a true toss-up.
Ultimately, the most realistic path to a woman majority in the upper chamber, is appointments, since two male state senators are running for higher office.
“There’s a big difference when you have representation that is equal to the population,” said Michelle White, the state director of the progressive group For Our Future Nevada, who previously worked in the state legislature.
“Just the dialogue and conversation that takes place about policy, whether it is parental consent around abortion or, you know, economic justice or equal pay, there is such a more balanced conversation and considerations and different perspectives.”
The possibility of a woman-majority legislature, White said, is something tangible and exciting for women, particularly those who have gotten involved in politics in the last two years.
“It is a really exciting result of the work that they’ve put in on these elections,” she said.
How, precisely, Nevada has gotten even within reach of a majority woman legislature, even if it’s a long shot, is a chicken-or-egg question, White and Selberg both said. The state, and mountain west more generally, have a long tradition of electing women to office.
“Whenever a woman runs, she shows to other young women and girls that this is an achievable and realistic goal,” Selberg said. “And I think that that is going to be something that will change the course of our future.”
Coupled with the #MeToo movement and the kick of the 2016 election, White said women in the state jumped at the opportunity to run for office or support other women. Additionally, the state bucked the Trump train two years ago, and White says she believes voters want to continue that trend.
“We’ve been kicking so much ass when it comes to female representation,” she said. “I don’t know all the reasons behind that, besides these candidates really great leaders.”