Debbie Smith running for state Senate

Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Debbie Smith, a candidate for speaker in 2013, announced today she’ll be running instead for the safe Democratic state Senate seat formerly occupied by Sheila Leslie.

(Leslie is moving to an adjacent Senate district to challenge state Sen. Greg Brower‘s bid for re-election.)

Smith was considered a long-shot for the speaker’s post because she was the lone candidate from Northern Nevada. The other contenders — Marilyn Kirkpatrick, Marcus Conklin and William Horne — are all Southern Nevadans.

Smith is immediately a favorite for Leslie’s seat. Here’s a portion of her statement released today:

“Northern Nevadans need strong representatives they can count on to get the job done,” Smith said. “While I believe there are some very promising signs that things are beginning to get better in our state, we have a long way to go,” Smith said. “I am running for the state senate to continue fighting for a better education system, a healthier economy, and a more efficient and effective government for Nevada. After spending the past few days talking with family, friends and community members, I feel this is the right decision at the right time.”

Smith has represented Assembly District 30 in the Nevada Legislature for ten years and serves as Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore and Chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee. Smith was a key player in developing and passing a balanced budget, which restored hundreds of millions of dollars in education funding which had been cut in the governor’s budget.

Smith was also a primary sponsor of the common-sense education reforms that passed during the 2011 legislative session. These reforms modernize our education system by creating a comprehensive evaluation system for teachers and administrators, providing for more training and mentoring for our newer and less experienced educators and rewarding our best teachers.

Smith has been an outspoken education advocate throughout her career. She has served as a board member of the National Parent Teacher Association, president of the Nevada PTA, and on the boards of the Education Alliance of Washoe County, Girl Scouts of Northern Nevada and Nevada Afterschool Network. She is also a former member of the Lander County School Board.

“I have always believed a strong education system is the key to moving Nevada forward,” said Smith. “Quality schools not only do right by our children, they create a strong economy. We hear time and time again from companies looking to start, expand, or move to Nevada from other states that their number one concern is education— a pool of educated workers and good schools for their own children.”

Smith drew fire from the Nevada State Education Association for her stance on the bills she mentioned in her statement, and was even graded down on a post-Legislature report card for her efforts. (Smith was given a “D” grade.”) But with a strong Democratic advantage in her district, she can win even without the support of the teachers union.

Conklin was the first to put out a statement praising Smith, a very Speaker-esque thing to do. Here’s what he had to say:

Debbie Smith has been an outstanding Assemblywoman and leader in our chamber and caucus and will be sorely missed on our side. She has been a strong leader on issues critical to our state, including improving education and making our state budget process more efficient and accountable. She has demonstrated time after time that she truly knows how to work with others–Democrats and Republicans, legislators in both houses and the executive branch–to build consensus on contentious issues and to get things done.

We know Debbie will be an equally outstanding state senator. We look forward to continuing to work with our dear friend and colleague throughout the campaign and during the next session.”

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