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October 22, 2014

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Speaker-in-waiting loses re-election bid to political newcomer

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Assemblyman Marcus Conklin speaks on behalf of the Nevada Assembly Democratic Caucus during the Nevada State Democrats’ election night party Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 at Mandalay Bay.

Assembly Majority Leader Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas

Assembly Majority Leader Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas

The presumed leader of the Assembly lost his re-election bid to a first-time candidate with a sterling resume, becoming the first legislative leader in 20 years to lose an election.

Republican Wes Duncan, an attorney and Air Force Reserve captain, beat Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas. Conklin, in line to become Speaker of the Assembly, was faced with a tough fight after reapportionment gave him a district with a Republican voter registration edge. He spent $700,000 trying to keep his seat this year.

Duncan, meanwhile, was helped by other members of the Republican caucus, who raised considerable funds for his campaign.

Still, it was a bitter victory for Republicans, who even with the win appeared poised to lose a seat in the Assembly, bringing the partisan breakdown to 15-27. Republicans would barely have enough Assembly members to be relevant on taxes, which require a two-thirds vote.

“It’s not a good night for Republicans,” said Assemblyman Pat Hickey, the Republican leader of the caucus. “It’s a sad night. A disappointing night.”

He said: “We have to ask ourselves as Republicans who we are. We have to be working together.”

HIckey added he didn’t know if independents broke for GOP candidates, “but if they did, it wasn’t enough” given Democrats' ability to register voters and turn out those voters.

Hickey will face second-guessing on the resources he put into unseating Conklin, who would have served in his last session before being forced out by term limits. Some Republicans believed Hickey should have spent more money on increasing the size of the Republican minority instead.

Shortly before midnight, Conklin called Duncan to concede the race and congratulate him on the victory.

But Duncan was far from jubilant.

"It was a bittersweet night in many ways," he said. "From the president on down, it was a tough night for Republicans."

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