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Nevada becomes first state with female-majority Legislature

Rep. Cheri Bustos on women in Congress

Nevada became the first state in the U.S. with an overall female majority in the Legislature on Tuesday when county officials in Las Vegas appointed two women to fill vacancies in the state Assembly.

The appointments of Democrats Rochelle Thuy Nguyen and Beatrice "Bea" Angela Duran to two Las Vegas-area legislative seats give women 51 percent of the 63 seats in the Legislature.

Women will hold nine of 21 seats in the state Senate, falling short of a majority in that chamber. But they will hold 23 of 42 seats in the Assembly, comprising 55 percent in that chamber and giving women enough numbers to make the two chambers an overall female majority.

No state has previously had a female-majority or even a 50 percent-female Legislature, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, which tracks women's political representation.

Women picked up seats in the Nevada Assembly and state Senate during the 2018 November elections but fell short of an overall majority. Howeever, there were vacancies created by lawmakers who won election to other offices in November that then allowed women to gain additional seats.

Before 2018, New Hampshire was the first state to have a female majority in any legislative chamber, when women held a majority in the New Hampshire state Senate in 2009 and 2010.

With the 2018 election, women cracked the 50 percent threshold in the Nevada state Assembly and Colorado State House, but no overall majority was reached until the Nevada appointments. New Hampshire, Nevada and Colorado have the only three state legislative chambers to cross the 50 percent mark.

"It is unprecedented at this point to see a majority female legislature overall," said Kelly Dittmar, an assistant professor of political science at Rutgers-Camden.

With the two Nevada appointments, women will make up 28.6 percent of state legislators nationwide when new legislators are sworn into office in 2019, according to data from the Center for American Women and Politics.

Women made up 24.3 percent of state legislators in the U.S. a decade ago, the center said.

Nevada is also one of six states in the country with an all-female delegation to the United States Senate, with the election of Jacky Rosen this year. Catherine Cortez Masto is Nevada's other senator. The other states with all-female Senate delegations are Arizona, New Hampshire, Washington, California, and Minnesota. Two out of Nevada's four representatives in the House will be women in 2019.

Nguyen, an attorney, and Duran, a grievance specialist with the state's casino workers union, will hold their seats until the next general election in 2020.

"It's a great victory," Duran told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "Women are proving to have more knowledge and aren't afraid to show that power that they have."

Duran has been a staff member since 1999 at the powerful Culinary Workers Union Local 226, a key political organization in the state.

Nguyen, a criminal defense lawyer, called it a "fantastic' milestone.

"When women do better, I think families are stronger," Nguyen said.

"It's high time that they be at the table," Speaker of the Assembly Jason Frierson told the AP. "This is a reflection of a trend of making sure that that voice is heard."

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