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October 22, 2014

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Nevada Sen. Michael Roberson sees Republicans rising to power in statehouse

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L.E. Baskow

State Sen. Michael Roberson speaks during the Nevadans for the Common Good second community convention at Cashman Center on Tuesday, May 13, 2014.

Sen. Michael Roberson sees a red wave coming in the Nevada Senate.

Roberson is the Senate’s top Republican lawmaker and strategist.

He’s hoping to break the Democrats’ 11-10 majority in the chamber. As an incumbent vying for his second four-year term, Roberson will battle Democrat Teresa Lowry for Senate District 20.

The race for District 20, which includes Henderson and parts of Green Valley, will be one of three that define which party controls the Senate when the Legislature meets in 2015.

All signals, Roberson said, point to a Republican takeover.

Republicans control two of those three contested seats: Roberson’s and the seat vacated by Secretary of State candidate, Republican Sen. Barbara Cegavske, in District 8 that covers west Las Vegas and parts of Summerlin.

Sen. Justin Jones is the lone Democrat in one of the three hotly contested races. He won the District 9 seat on southwestern edge of Clark County by 312 votes in a special election two years ago.

Democrats maintain a voter registration edge in all three districts, but Roberson is banking on weak Democratic turnout in a non-presidential election year.

But money will also play a role.

Roberson, the Senate minority leader, is a rainmaker who drew big bucks during his first election in 2010 and for his Republican peers in 2012. He will likely command a flood of campaign cash for his race and the two other hot races.

Roberson, 44, is riding high off a 17-point primary victory over his far-right candidate, Carl Bunce. Bunce slammed Roberson for his votes to extend a tax package and proposal of a mining tax bill.

But the attacks didn’t faze the incumbent.

Roberson, a business lawyer by day, has an ally in the man who championed the tax package, Gov. Brian Sandoval. Sandoval is sailing to a second term this year and Roberson is already vowing to tow the governor’s policy lines if re-elected.

Roberson talked with Sun about his future plans, Republican infighting and his love of “Liberty.”

Q. You are the Senate’s most powerful Republican. Do you feel it is incumbent on you to help topple the Democrats’ majority in the chamber outside of your race?

A. The answer is that it is my job to make sure Senate Republicans win and that we take a majority in the state Senate next session to help Governor Sandoval advance his legislative agenda. I think we have the best opportunity we’ve had in many, many years.

Why is this a good opportunity?

Structurally, when you look at an off presidential year when you would expect Republicans to have a turnout advantage, we have three great candidates that are working very hard. I think structurally the dynamics are right for the Republicans to take the state Senate this year.

Aside from your own race, what’s the most important race for Republicans on the general election ballot?

The one that is going to be most closely watched is the Senate District 9 race, which was decided by 312 votes two years ago. The incumbent, Justin Jones, is not popular in his district. His opponent, Becky Harris, is by far the hardest working candidate I’ve ever met.

If re-elected, what will your pet bills be in the upcoming session?

We have a lot of unfinished business because the Democrats did not support Gov. Sandoval’s agenda sufficiently. Senate Republicans will be working hand in hand with Gov. Sandoval to strengthen education and the economy.

The whispers around town are that you will receive a windfall of PAC money to defeat your opponent. So far you’ve only received $500,000. When is the money really going to start coming in?

The money I am raising, I am raising myself in talking to community leaders, voters and people in this state who know me well and know my record. That’s why I’ve been so successful in raising money.

You were born in Missouri and went to law school in Kansas. Why did you leave the Midwest for the wild west?

In 2000, I had come out here with friends on vacation and I thought it was a wonderful place.

Was it destiny that you married a woman named Liberty? Or was it part of the attraction?

It is a pretty good name politically, isn’t it. I don’t feel like it was destiny. Though, it certainly was that I met my wife. It wouldn’t be any different if her name were Mary. She was born on the bicentennial in 1976. That’s why her name is Liberty.

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