Las Vegas Sun

October 30, 2014

Currently: 72° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Spearman ousts incumbent Lee in Democratic primary

Updated Tuesday, June 12, 2012 | 9:50 p.m.

The Rev. Pat Spearman is seen inside her church, Resurrection Faith Community Ministries, in North Las Vegas Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011.

The Rev. Pat Spearman is seen inside her church, Resurrection Faith Community Ministries, in North Las Vegas Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011.

Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas

Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas

In an impressive show of force for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, was defeated Tuesday night by fellow Democrat Patricia Spearman.

With nearly the majority of the vote counted, Spearman chalked up an insurmountable double-digit lead over Lee.

Lee’s re-election bid was a key test for progressives, who after five years of state budget cuts and concessions on sacred cows like public employee bargaining, had felt Democrats in Carson City had drifted too far to the right. To do it, they had to take on their party’s establishment — Sen. Harry Reid had endorsed Lee.

Lee’s re-election provided the almost perfect test case for the liberal groups, led by Erin Neff of ProgressNow Nevada Action, environmentalists and lesbian and gay activists. His votes and bills in Carson City had drawn their ire.

This was the first time in memory that Nevada progressives have taken on an incumbent lawmaker.

But it was not without significant hurdles.

Lee had raised $200,000 and received the personal endorsement of Reid and other elected Democrats. Some groups that had battled with Lee in Carson City, like the state teachers union and AFL-CIO, decided to remain neutral in that race, figuring he would win.

But Spearman, a first-time candidate, swept the vote with the help of a passionate contingent from the Democratic base.

The progressives’ decision to take Lee out in the primary was a first for Democrats. It’s a move conservatives have used repeatedly and effectively to take out moderates in the Republican Party and send a message to the rest that the base can’t be taken for granted.

Some voters heeded the calls. Michelle Cody, of North Las Vegas, said she voted for Spearman.

"As many phone calls as I've gotten on this race, from both sides, I thought I better come vote,” she said.

Cody said Lee’s conservative stance on reproductive rights drove her decision.

“I do foster kids and I do teenagers and birth control is important,” she said.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 3 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. I am thrilled for Pat Spearman and the dedicated community of citizens who came together to make her election possible. They were out working every weekend. She was outspent 20 to 1.

    This goes to show that sweat equity can still win races over dollars in Nevada.

    Pat is a great community servant who promises to always be available for her constituents. When I asked her if she would have town halls during the legislature she was one of the only candidates this season I talked to who did not hesitate to say "absolutely yes!"

    Pat is a brilliant committed member of our community who will live up the great expectations we have of her to hold true to the progressive voice who got her into office.

  2. "The progressives' decision to take Lee out in the primary was a first for Democrats. It's a move conservatives have used repeatedly and effectively to take out moderates in the Republican Party and send a message to the rest that the base can't be taken for granted."

    The Old Guard of the Nevada Democratic Party are now on notice - your time has passed and the torch of activism is in the hands of the progressive advocates and activists in the very diverse clubs and caucuses - and we intend to move Nevada FORWARD!

    KUDOS to ProgressNow Nevada, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and the many clubs and caucus members that closed ranks in support working collaboratively together - this is how we win!

  3. What an amazing night! The Progressive wing of the Nevada Democratic party is alive and well! I am thrilled with this victory as Pat is the Vice-Chair of Stonewall Democrats of Southern Nevada and a personal friend. This amazing group of Progressive groups who made history happen tonight must be applauded and feted for their amazing dedication and hard work! Erin Neff and the folks she helped organize at PLAN Action, the Nevada Conservation League, Progress Now and Planned Parenthood deserve a trip to Disneyland! WOW!

    HOO-RAY!