By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
State Sen. Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, said Wednesday during a Nevada Newsmakers taping that she will leave her job as the Executive Director, External Relations at the University of Nevada, Reno, to concentrate on her work as state senator.
“I’ve been been working to transition out for awhile,” Gansert told host Sam Shad. “I have been there (university) for eight years, so I will be moving away from the university after the first of the year (2021). I’m really excited about the change. I can focus on the senate and this really challenging session we’ve got coming up.”
Gansert, the Assembly Minority Leader in 2009 and a state senator since 2016, has been a part of an ongoing controversy about members of the Legislature also working in state or local government, including Nevada’s system of higher education.
Some conservatives have said it is a violation of the State Constitution for elected members of the Legislature to hold public-sector jobs.
Last month, a Clark County judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Nevada Policy Research Institute that challenged the ability of several sitting state lawmakers — including Gansert — to serve in the Legislature while earning a paycheck in state or local government.
In 2017, the conservative NPRI also sued Gansert alone, on behalf of a man who said he wanted to apply for Gansert’s job at the university, which he said she should not be allowed to hold since she was a public official. The plaintiff, however, withdrew the case.
Gansert was former Gov. Brian Sandoval’s chief of staff before running for the state senate.
She won a critical race in November against Democrat Wendy Jauregui-Jackins for the District 15 senate seat.
Gansert’s victory stopped Democrats from acquiring a veto-proof, two-thirds majority in the state senate. If Gansert had been defeated, Democratic senators could have passed tax increases without any input from Republicans.
Gansert did not address the public employee/lawmaker controversy in the Nevada Newsmakers interview. Yet she expressed relief and joy in defeating Jauregui-Jackins, winning by less that 3,000 votes.
“It was difficult” she said. “It felt more personal that it has been in the past. And I will be honest with you, I have a really strong record of working across the aisle and that has been my success.”
Gansert noted that she has worked well with Democrats in the past, pointing to legislation about child safety and k-12 education.
“What I appreciate is the voters recognized me, across party lines,” she said. “I am in a Democratic district and the voters stayed with me. They didn’t believe all of the disinformation, the things that were made up. They knew my record, so I guess I was really honored and so appreciate the trust the voters have in me because they were able to distinguish me for all the noise and misinformation that was out there.”
Gansert did not rule out the possibility of running for a statewide office in the future but declined to say what statewide office she would consider. Her name has been linked to possible runs for governor and Congress.