Republicans eye competitive state Senate primary races as potential flips

The battles in Nevada’s state Senate primaries could be a deciding factor in whether Democrats maintain their trifecta of control or Republicans take charge of the upper legislative chamber for the first time since 2015.

Democrats hold 11 of 21 seats in the state Senate, but Republicans are eyeing several of those seats as potential flips, given the likelihood of favorable national conditions for the GOP. Nevada state senators serve staggered four-year terms. 

Though Democrats are expected to maintain control of both houses after building structural advantages in voter registration through the redistricting process, Republicans are hoping to prevent a two-thirds supermajority (14 seats) that could have implications for tax increases which could, in turn, affect education and other policy matters.

Even so, a combination of term limits and political differences are widening divisions within parties, pitting conventional party-line candidates against more radical ones in the primaries. Ideological splits within the parties could affect the ability of the caucuses to have a unified policy approach and result in the introduction of more extreme measures.

Seven of the 11 state Senate seats up in 2022 promise competitive primaries, including a mix of Democratic caucus-endorsed candidates running against teacher union-backed candidates and Republican candidates with more moderate perspectives taking a stance against more right-leaning ones. 

The dynamics are playing out in Northern Nevada’s Senate District 13 primary, where Democratic caucus-endorsed candidate Skip Daly is set to face off against Nnedi Stephens, who received an endorsement from the Nevada State Education Association. 

They also include a race in rural, heavily Republican Senate District 17, pitting Assemblywoman Robin Titus (R-Wellington) against Assemblyman Jim Wheeler (R-Minden) in a race without any Democratic contenders.

Senate District 16, covering Carson City and portions of rural Northern Nevada, is another example of ideological divides coming to the forefront as two well-established Republican party-line candidates — appointed incumbent Sen. Don Tatro and Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner (R-Reno) — face more radical ones.

Only one state Senate race failed to draw more than one candidate – Senate District 14, a rural district bordering Idaho, Oregon and California, represented by Republican state Sen. Ira Hansen.

Because of their placements fairly far down the ballot, legislative races are among the most likely to be affected by a possible red wave in the wake of rising inflation, high gas prices and President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings. In Republican and Democratic-majority districts, the primaries will determine the candidate most likely to win in the November general election and indicate whether Republicans are competitive in swing districts.