Washoe County can still overrule Weise’s nomination ahead of critical special session focused on redistricting
James DeHaven Reno Gazette Journal November 4, 2021
Carson City leaders have named former legislator Robert Weise as their pick for the state Senate seat recently vacated by longtime Reno Republican Ben Kieckhefer, skipping over a pair of better-known applicants who plan to seek the seat next November.
Because Kieckhefer’s former Senate district spans two counties, both the Carson City Board of Supervisors and the Washoe County Board of County Commissioners have been charged with picking his replacement.
Kieckhefer resigned his Senate seat in October and subsequently was appointed by Gov. Steve Sisolak to the Nevada Gaming Commission.
At a Thursday meeting of the Carson City Board of Supervisors, Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner and Washoe County Planning Commissioner Larry Peyton tried to avoid a potentially competitive 2022 primary campaign by directly auditioning for Kieckhefer’s former job.
Appraiser and developer Don Tatro, a Carson native and another rumored contender for Kieckhefer’s seat, came close to getting the job after impressing Carson supervisors with a pitch focused on preserving Northern Nevada’s “voice and influence” during a crucial upcoming special legislative session to redraw the Silver State’s political districts. As did prominent Reno attorney Rew Goodenow, who won plaudits for his knowledge of the legal intricacies involved in the high-stakes redistricting process.
But Weise — a self-described “dinosaur” who hasn’t served in public office since the late 1970s — had something none of the rest could offer: A Carson City address.
As Weise and several supervisors pointed out, redistricting rules prevent legislators from divvying up seats in a way that removes incumbents.
That means appointing a Carson resident would, if nothing else, ensure that voters in the state capital are represented by someone from Northern Nevada.
Appointing a Washoe resident could, by contrast, lead to Kieckhefer’s former district being swallowed up by a larger, more liberal district originating in Southern Nevada.
Carson supervisors unanimously agreed that was not an appealing option.
“Whether we like the rules or not, they’re the rules,” said Mayor Lori Bagwell. “The fact that Mr. Weise has a Carson City address guarantees Carson won’t have an opportunity to be ‘spoked’ out to the Las Vegas, Clark County arena.
“I don’t want to have to reach out to a senator from Las Vegas to answer to my Carson constituency.”
Bagwell said she hoped Washoe leaders would agree with that logic, but acknowledged her bigger neighbors to the north could unilaterally overrule Weise’s nomination.
Weise, for his part, seemed optimistic.
“I’m motivated by reapportionment, my political career is behind me,” he told supervisors on Thursday. “But I love Northern Nevada and reapportionment is not going to go well for Northern Nevada.
“What will be the Senate district? Who knows. My job is to go down there and fight like hell for it.”
Washoe County will meet on Nov. 9 to name its pick to take over Senate District 16. Leaders from both counties plan to hold a joint meeting at 1 p.m. on Nov. 10 to name a final appointee.
James DeHaven is the politics reporter for the Reno Gazette Journal. He covers campaigns, the Nevada Legislature and everything in between.