By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Republican candidates have big leads in fundraising in four of five seats considered critical to control of the state Senate in the 2013 legislative session, with a slight monetary advantage in the fifth, according to campaign contribution reports filed this week.
Both Democrat and Republican caucus leaders are fighting hard to win the seats to control the 21-member house where Democrats now lead 11-10.
The first reports of 2012 show contributions through May 18 and were filed Tuesday with the state Secretary of State’s office. Several candidates also raised money in 2011 and these amounts have given the GOP candidates the funding edge early on in the 2012 election season.
Republican caucus leader Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, is optimistic that the GOP can retake control of the Senate in the November general election. Republicans need to win four of the five seats to do so.
Democratic Senate leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, is equally confident Democrats will maintain control.
Roberson said he is pleased with where the Senate candidates are right now, but added that it is a long time until November. Roberson also said he is pleased but not surprised at the level of contributions to the candidates and the caucus.
“I know the caliber of the candidates we have,” he said. “The group of candidates that agreed to run this time on the Republican side, our endorsed candidates, are some of the best candidates either party has seen in 20 years.”
But Senate Democrats point out that two of their candidates, Justin Jones and Sheila Leslie, both had larger numbers of individuals contributing to their campaigns than their GOP counterparts in the 2012 reports, suggesting they have a broader base of support. A third candidate, Joyce Woodhouse, also out-raised her opponent in the 2012 report.
The Senate Democratic Caucus also out-raised its Republican counterpart so far in 2012, $187,000 to $149,000.
“The recent finance reports show that the Senate Democratic Caucus is a very strong position to expand and protect the majority,” said Mike Luce, executive director of the Nevada Senate Democrats. “We have very strong candidates and the registration in these new districts favors Democrats.
“We have been saying all along that the Democratic candidates are running strong campaigns and talking about bringing jobs to this state,” he said. “Our message is working, our campaigns are knocking doors and raising the necessary funds to run competitive races.”
In Senate District 5, where former Henderson city councilman Steve Kirk, a Republican, is expected to face Woodhouse, a former state senator, in the November general election, the GOP has the edge in contributions so far. But Kirk has also spent much of his war chest already.
Kirk reports $131,000 in total contributions and expenses of $67,000. Kirk has a primary battle. Kirk received a $5,000 contribution from the Retail Association of Nevada in the first reporting period this year.
Woodhouse reports raising about $96,000 and spending $18,000. She has large contributions from the Nevada State Education Association, $5,000; outgoing state Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, $5,000; and Nevada Senate Democrats, $5,000; in the first reporting period for this year.
The other Republican in the Senate 5 race, Annette Teijeiro, reports about $28,000 in contributions and $15,000 in expenses. The primary is June 12.
In Senate District 6, where GOP attorney Mark Hutchison is expected to face businessman and Democrat Benny Yerushalmi, Republicans also have a fundraising advantage.
Hutchison reports $185,000 in contributions and nearly $48,000 expenses. Contributions include $5,000 from the Keystone Corp., $5,000 from the Retail Association of Nevada and $10,000 from the Senate Republican Leadership Conference.
Yerushalmi reports $74,000 in contributions and $10,000 in expenses. He has a primary against Thomas Welsh. Yerushalmi, who ran unsuccessfully for a state Senate seat in 2010, has $4,000 contributions from both the Nevada State Education Association and the Clark County Education Association.
In Senate District 9, where Republican Mari Nakashima St. Martin is expected to face Democrat Justin Jones, the candidates are fairly evenly matched. Both face primary opponents. Brent Jones is also a GOP candidate, and Frederick Conquest has filed as a Democrat.
St. Martin reports nearly $114,000 in contributions and $60,000 in expenses. Contributions include $10,000 from the Senate Majority Political Action Committee, $10,000 from the Jobs First PAC, and $10,000 from the Senate Republican Leadership Conference.
Justin Jones reports nearly $112,000 in contributions and $23,000 in expenses. Contributions include $2,500 from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Searchlight Leadership Fund.
GOP candidate Brent Jones has raised nearly $33,000 in contributions.
In the Senate 15 race where incumbent Greg Brower, R-Reno, will face Leslie, who resigned her Senate 13 seat to challenge the attorney who was appointed to fill out the term of the late Sen. Bill Raggio, the Republican is leading in the fund-raising race.
Brower reports $299,000 in contributions and $76,000 in expenditures, with a $7,279 donation from the Las Vegas Sands Corp.
Leslie reports $141,000 in total contributions and $58,000 in expenses. Her contributions include $2,000 from R&R Partners, $5,000 from the Laborers’ Intl Local 169, and $8,700 from the Barbara Buckley Campaign. Buckley is a former Assembly speaker.
In Senate District 18, where Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, is likely to face Democrat Kelli Ross in November, Hammond reports $127,000 in contributions and $70,000 in expenses. Contributions include $2,500 from Station Casinos and $5,000 from MGM Resorts International.
Hammond raised $59,000 in the first 2012 reporting period from Jan. 1 through May 18. He also raised $68,000 in 2011.
Hammond, who is endorsed by the GOP Senate Caucus, and who faces a primary challenge from Assemblyman Richard McArthur, R-Las Vegas, is well ahead in contributions. McArthur reports about $16,000 in total donations. Republican Conrad Vergara, has also filed.
Ross, who has a primary against Democrat Donna Schlemmer, reports $47,000 in contributions and $5,500 in expenses. She received $10,000 from the Committee to Elect Steve Ross and $5,000 from the Committee to Elect Tom Collins.
Schlemmer has raised about $7,000.
Democrats have a voter registration edge in three Clark County races: Senate 5 by 40.6 percent to 37.5 percent for Republicans; in Senate 6 by 41.4 percent to 38.2 percent; and in Senate 9 by 39.6 percent to 35.3 percent, based on registration numbers through April.
Republicans lead in Senate 15 in Washoe County, 40 percent to 38 percent, and in Senate District 18 in Clark County, 40.7 percent to 37.6 percent.
Sen. Michael Roberson says he is pleased with where the Senate candidates are but that it is a long time yet to November:
Roberson says the GOP Senate candidates are some of the best in the past 20 years: