Michael Roberson, State Senator

12 to watch in 2012

State Senator Michael Roberson has risen from lawyer to power politician in the blink of an eye.
Photo: Cathleen Allison/AP

In politics, Nevada is the land of opportunity. Witness the rocket rise of State Sen. Michael Roberson. He was a little-known business lawyer just a few years ago whose wife told him to stop harrumphing in agreement with Fox News and do something with his passion. He rode into the upper chamber in the Republican victory of 2010 and quickly became known as smart, glib and highly partisan. Given the shallow talent pool of the Nevada Legislature, it was more than enough to turn heads.

By the end of the session, he had won fans among conservative Republicans for his attacks on public employees, and especially the teachers union.

Democrats, meanwhile, loathed his partisan style, which is unusual for freshmen in the minority party, who are expected to listen and say little.

Roberson was tapped with running the GOP effort to win the majority in the state senate. He was rightly viewed as an enthusiastic and effective fundraiser who could recruit good candidates and devise their message. He has a bit of political operative in him—he once worked in the office of Capitol Hill legend Rep. Tom “The Hammer” DeLay.

And if Roberson can get Republicans elected, and especially if he wins the majority, they’ll choose him as their leader.

After decades of the tough but still collegial, bi-partisan leadership style of former state senator Bill Raggio, Roberson’s continued rise would confirm a noticeable trend in Carson City politics: That it’s more like Washington, D.C., all the time. Surely that’s a good thing, right?

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