Las Vegas Sun

August 29, 2014

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Census Bureau: Nevada was fastest growing state in the nation

It's official: Nevada will get a fourth Congressional seat in 2013.

U.S. Census Bureau figures released today show that Nevada's population grew 35.1 percent from 2000 to 2010, making it the fastest growing state in the country.

Even with the recession that hit late in the decade and triggered an exodus from the Silver State, Nevada's population grew from just under 2 million in 2000 to 2.7 million in 2010.

Nevada's growth reflected the growing popularity of the West; for the first time in the nation's history, Western states are now more populous than Midwestern states.

The overall U.S. population is flat lining. The past decade showed the slowest population growth in America since the Great Depression.

Today's Census findings offer a snapshot of American migration trends, but more importantly, they determine representation in Washington.

Because of the numbers released today, 18 states will see shifts in electoral power in Congress. Ten Eastern and Midwestern states will lose House seats. Eight mostly Western states, including Nevada, will gain seats.

The announcement of a 4th Congressional District sent Nevada politicians into a tizzy.

The state Legislature will decide the boundaries of the new district and in the process redraw the lines of the state's three existing ones.

Reapportionment, as it is called, is considered the most brutally political act the Legislature undertakes. Fights between Northern and Southern interests and between Democrats and Republicans are sure to emerge.

Several of the Legislature’s top leaders are said to be considering a congressional run in 2012. Congressional incumbents will be fighting to preserve the party makeup of their districts: a GOP base for Republican Reps. Joe Heck and Dean Heller; a Democratic base for Rep. Shelley Berkley.

Up-and-coming groups like the Tea Party will be vying to solidify their political power.

Regardless of who takes the seat, or even what the district looks like, the fourth seat will certainly benefit Nevada by adding juice to the state's Congressional delegation. A larger population also will help Nevada win federal funding. Census data will determine how $400 billion is allocated to states for education, health care, law enforcement, senior services and transportation.

Nevada had only one House member until the 1980s, when it added a second seat. The state won a third seat after the 2000 Census.

During those boom years, many predicted Nevada would earn two new Congressional seats with the 2010 Census findings. But the recession and population loss in recent years whittled that down to one.

Nevada’s existing delegation of five — two Senators and three House reps — greeted the news of having one more among their ranks with approving anticipation, and ever so slight amounts of circumspection, in light of the all but certain political tussle that lies ahead.

“Today’s announcement that our congressional delegation will grow by one can only make Nevada stronger,” said Nevada’s senior senator, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “As a small state, we need to fight to ensure Nevada receives its fair share of resources to create jobs, improve its struggling education system and keep families in their homes.”

“This fourth Congressional seat will ensure that the people of Nevada continue to be well-represented in Congress and that their voices are heard even more loudly through the halls of the Capitol,” said Nevada’s junior senator, Republican John Ensign. “I hope that when the boundaries of this new district are drawn it is done in a way that best benefits Nevadans, not a political party.”

Among the state’s House members, Dina Titus — who is widely expected to make a run for the forthcoming fourth seat — was the first to comment on the news. She sent out a statement while the Census figures were still being released.

“For years Southern Nevada was one of the fastest growing regions in the country, and by gaining a new seat, our area will have a stronger voice in the House of Representatives,” she said. “I made constituent service my top priority, from helping people keep their homes to helping seniors get the Social Security benefits they had earned. The new seat will mean more staff to help people in Southern Nevada and an additional advocate in Washington.”

Southern Nevada’s Shelley Berkley and second congressional district Rep. Dean Heller also applauded the news as good for Nevada’s clout and circumstances.

“After much speculation, I am pleased Nevada will be receiving an additional congressional seat,” Heller said. “The Nevada delegation works closely together on issues important to our state and adding another voice to the congressional delegation will greatly benefit the state of Nevada.”

“The addition of another Representative to our State’s Congressional delegation will also mean a more manageable number of constituents for each Nevada House member to serve,” Berkley said. “While our economy may have slowed the rapid pace of growth in southern Nevada at the end of the decade, the needs of many in our community have never been greater...I would like to thank all those Nevadans who participated in the 2010 census. This successful counting effort provided our State with the population totals needed to qualify for another Congressional seat.”

Sun reporter Karoun Demirjian contributed to this report.

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