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August 31, 2015

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Cow counties’ threaten stampede over legislative maps

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Senate District 19, covering most of eastern Nevada (shown in green), would also extend into Clark County, making it more difficult for a rural Nevadan to win.

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The loudest protests about the new political boundaries are coming from Nevada’s hinterlands.

Rural lawmakers expressed dismay Tuesday with the latest redistricting maps that would add a big chunk of northern Clark County to the rural state Senate District 19.

While Washoe County would likely be represented by four state senators, the same number it currently has, rural Nevada would go from three representatives to two if not one.

“It dilutes the ‘cow counties,’ ” said Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka. (He’s a rancher, and therefore allowed to use the sometimes-pejorative vernacular for the state’s less-populated counties.)

“The rurals are entitled to be represented like any other minority.”

Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, also a rancher, represents Senate District 19. The new boundaries would cover the counties of Elko, Eureka, White Pine, Nye and Lincoln, but also take up a chunk of northern Clark County.

“I’m not in love with the maps, no,” said Rhoads, who is not able to run again because of term limits. “It’s going to be difficult for a rural legislator to get elected there.”

Goicoechea and Rhoads made the comments after a meeting of the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee.

During the redistricting fight, which officially began with the 2011 Legislature in February, both Democrats and Republicans believed that Sen. Bill Raggio’s old Washoe County Senate seat would be moved down south to reflect the population growth in Las Vegas. He had resigned before the session started, and Greg Brower was seen as a caretaker.

Instead of eliminating the Washoe seat, the court-appointed special master combined the seats of Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, and James Settelmeyer, R-Minden.

In court filings made on Monday, Democrats expressed no major objections to the maps filed.

Eureka County objected to the Senate maps. Former Elko Assemblyman John Carpenter, who served 24 years in the Legislature, also lodged the same complaint, saying Elko County would also include parts of Clark County including west of North Las Vegas and Mount Charleston.

Carpenter said, “My greatest fear is that someday the northern rural counties, the cow counties, would be represented by a senator from Southern Nevada.”

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