Walk through the halls of the Nevada Capitol and you see pictures of legislators – big boards of family style collages dating back years.
What’s striking is that many of those collages have pictures of women. Not many. But women have always been there.
In 1987, for instance, there were eight women who served in the Nevada Assembly. In 1995, there were 15 women of the 42 total. That’s 35 percent.
Today, as you no doubt have heard, 23 of the 42 Assembly members are women, making women a majority in that chamber. Nine women serve in the 21 member Senate, giving women a one-seat majority in the 63 member legislature.
But let’s look a little closer. The Assembly Speaker – for the second time – is a black man, Jason Frierson. The new Senate Majority leader, Kelvin Atkinson, is a black, openly gay man. Two of his fellow senators – Patricia Spearman and Dallas Harris – are black lesbians.
They join 15 people of color on the Assembly side. That makes roughly 28 percent of the people who do the people’s business in Carson City.
Assemblywoman Theresa-Benitez Thompson, who is the Majority Floor Leader, addressed this in her opening remarks, singling out not just the many women sitting around her, but the presence of Dina Neal, whose father, Joe Neal, was one of the first African-American Assembly members; and Alex Assefa, who is originally from Ethiopia.
“He is emblematic of a Nevada that is prospering and growing because of the love that new Americans are bringing to this state,” said Benitez-Thompson.
None of the 13 Republican members of the Assembly are of color. But it’s significant that there are more Democrats of color than there are total Republicans in the Nevada Assembly.
“People ask what does this mean and how will things change? As our own Speaker Frierson says, ‘Yes, there will be change. That’s the point.’ But how? Well, we will define our own destiny.”
Assemblywoman Benitez-Thompson’s statement is below.