Published Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 | 4 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 | 1:04 a.m.
State Senate Democrats narrowly held off Republican efforts to retake the state Senate, beating back a well-financed GOP effort for the state’s upper house.
Former state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse beat Republican Steve Kirk; and Democrat Justin Jones beat Republican Mari Nakashima St. Martin.
Republicans won three of five of the competitive state senate races, one short of what they needed to take the majority.
But the Democrats’ victory didn’t come without a cost. Former Democratic state Sen. Sheila Leslie, who resigned her safely Democratic seat to challenge incumbent Sen. Greg Brower, lost the race by 266 votes.
Brower raised more than $700,000 to beat Leslie, who raised $500,000.
State Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, who headed the Democrats’ campaign effort, said it might not be over in the Leslie-Brower race.
“We are not conceding it,” he said.
Asked specifically if they’d request a recount, he said, “We’ll sleep on it and decide what to do in the morning.”
“We’re excited to be able to hold onto the majority,” Denis added.
He said he was watching to see if Republicans campaign promises to work with Democrats, particularly on education funding and taxes, would hold.
“Words are one thing, actions are another,” he said.
Early Wednesday morning, Republican Mark Hutchison narrowly beat Democrat Benny Yerushalmi; and Republican Assemblyman Scott Hammond also narrowly beat Kelli Ross, 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent.
For the third consecutive session, Democrats will enter the 2013 Legislature in control of both the Assembly and Senate. But since it takes two-thirds to pass taxes, a top priority for Democratic interest groups, it’s unclear how much of an agenda they'll be able to push.
Additionally, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval wields a veto pen.
Sandoval, who mostly stayed out of the presidential race, went all in for Senate Republicans, hoping to gain a foothold for GOP policy priorities next session.
Republican candidates out-raised Democrats. Led by Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, the GOP tried to take a page from Democrats’ professionalized campaign operation, getting involved in Republican primaries for the first time to back more moderate candidates.
Democrats, meanwhile, relied on the Democratic turnout machine and advantages in voter registration, as well as independent expenditure help from unions and other allies.
Roberson put the best face on the election night outcome. He said he was happy that Republicans didn't lose seats, given the performance of Gov. Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket.
"We held serve," he said, noting that other candidates outperformed Romney at the top of the ticket.
But he also said the Republican Party needs to develop.
"Our party doesn't compare — and I know that's an understatement — to the Democratic machine," he said. "We've got to get to work developing the type of machine that Harry Reid and Democrats have."
He also said: "We have got to do a better job appealing to Hispanic voters in Nevada. ... We have to do a better job of outreach to the Hispanic community. If we don't, it'll be increasingly difficult to win elections in Clark County."