AP Photo/Cathleen Allison
Wednesday, June 20, 2012 | 2 a.m.
While some progressive activists want to parlay their victory over a conservative Democratic lawmaker last week into a broader effort to move the Democratic Party left, the coalition that defeated state Sen. John Lee may have been just a one-shot deal.
Some coalition members who helped oust Lee in last week’s primary said they were not interested in broader goals of making the Democratic Party more liberal or taking out specific moderate lawmakers, as another leader of the coalition said last week.
“It was kind of the perfect storm,” said Nevada Conservation League Political Director Kyle Davis.
He said the group’s involvement in the election was about a bill sponsored by Lee that would remove Nevada from the Lake Tahoe Compact with California.
“We decided that bad actions needed to have consequences,” he said. “So we decided to do it. It’s not our issue to re-center the Democratic Party or move the Democratic Party in a progressive direction. Our concern is environmental issues.”
Indeed, his group is nonpartisan. In a heated 2008 state Senate race, for example, the group sent mailers in support of Republican Joe Heck, who’s now a congressman.
Elisa Cafferata, president and CEO of Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood, said the group opposed Lee because of a survey he filled out in 2004, in which he staked out an anti-abortion position and support for restricting access to birth control.
She said Lee’s defeat is an indication voters care about women’s health issues.
Cafferata pointed to a failed initiative in Nevada to restrict abortions and proposals in other states to require “medically unnecessary” procedures for women before abortions.
“We hope the message from voters is pretty clear: Legislators in Nevada should not go and copy this legislation,” she said.
In an interview with the Las Vegas Sun on Friday, Erin Neff, head of ProgressNow Nevada Action, a group with a broad progressive agenda, said Lee’s ouster is a warning to Democrats that the base can’t be disregarded.
The goal, Neff has maintained from the beginning, was to shift Democratic lawmakers in Carson City to the left.
Last week, Neff specifically singled out two Democratic assemblywomen, Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick of North Las Vegas and Assemblywoman Debbie Smith of Sparks, as lawmakers she was watching. She made clear in the interview she was speaking on her own behalf and not for the coalition.
Indeed, Neff might be out on her own when it comes to targeting other Democrats, who have long been allies of organizations involved in defeating Lee.
The Nevada Conservation League, for example, named Smith one of its lawmakers of the year in 2011.
Neff did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
Bob Fulkerson, executive director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, whose political arm was another member of the coalition, agreed with Neff that Lee’s defeat also had a broader message. He declined to name specific lawmakers who might be targeted.
But, he said: “The consequences of that victory, by such a huge margin, shows the power of progressives in Nevada. That makes people uncomfortable.”