Nevada Legislature first in US to be majority female

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Nevada Legislature Building
The Nevada Legislature Building, Carson City. Image: Jimmy Everson, DVM (CC2.0)

The Nevada Legislature became the first in the United States with a majority female membership yesterday following the appointment of two new female Assembly members by Clark County commissioners.

Nevada Legislature sets a new standard

Two women were appointed by Clark County commissioners to fill recently vacated seats in the Nevada Assembly yesterday.

Rochelle Nguyen will now serve the residents of District 10, who lost their representative Chris Brooks when he was recently appointed to the State Senate. Beatrice Duran will take over from Olivia Diaz, who has resigned her seat to seek election to the Las Vegas City Council.

With just 63 members in total (42 in the Assembly and 21 in the Senate), Nevada has one of the smallest state legislatures in the country. With the additions of Nguyen and Duran, it can now claim to be the very first whose membership includes more women than men (32 to 31) across both houses.

Both appointments were made unanimously, and were made on recommendations of the Assembly Democratic leadership.

“The Assembly Democratic Caucus is proud to welcome Rochelle Nguyen and Beatrice Duran to the State Assembly and our caucus,” said Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson in a statement. “In addition to a diversity of backgrounds and life experiences, both Rochelle and Beatrice bring passion, energy and knowledge to the state Legislature that will better serve our state and our constituents.”

According to the most recent data from the National Council of State Legislatures, just under 25% of state legislators nationwide are women.

Appointments, appointments, appointments!

The first majority female legislature has been made possible thanks to a record number of appointments in the Nevada Legislature for the upcoming regular session. While the milestone is being widely celebrated, the surging numbers of unelected lawmakers presents a growing problem for the Silver State.

Six of Nevada’s 63 seats were vacant following the November general election, including:

  • Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, who resigned after being elected state Attorney General.
  • Senator Tick Segerblom, who resigned after being elected to the Clark County Commission.
  • Assemblyman Chris Brooks, who resigned after being appointed to Segerblom’s Senate seat (and who has now been replaced by Rochelle Nguyen).
  • Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz, who resigned to run for Las Vegas City Council (and was replaced by Beatrice Duran)
  • Local brothel owner and reality TV star Dennis Hof died just a few weeks before polling day, but was elected nonetheless.

Fourteen other legislators ran unopposed in the general election, meaning 20 of Nevada’s 63 lawmakers will not have been chosen by the voters.

According to political scientist Eric Herzik, speaking to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the reliance on appointed members is not necessarily a problem – assuming they face opposition when they next run.

“The person who is appointed is just as much a legislator as someone who won by a landslide or someone who won by one vote in a contested election,” he said. “They’ll have to make a connection with voters in the district and represent it well enough to run for re-election.”

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