Selena La Rue Hatch is fighting hard to keep her State Assembly seat representing Nevada’s 25th district. (Credit: Selena La Rue Hatch’s Instagram account)

What happens to candidates for local office who end up running against the biggest political machines in their state?

Selena La Rue Hatch is about to find out. She currently represents Nevada’s 25th district in the State Assembly. And outside of that – since the office is a part-time gig in the Silver State – she’s also a teacher. “That’s why I ran” in the first place, she told The Story Exchange. “I saw all of the issues in the community through the lens of my kiddos, my students.”

When she launched that first campaign for State Assembly back in 2022, she was running to fill an open seat. It wasn’t a walk in the park, but her then-opponent’s right-wing culture-war messaging ultimately proved unappealing to the district’s voters, and she won by seven points.

But now La Rue Hatch, 35, is vying to maintain control of her position while facing off against Diana Sande, the manager of a state-funded mental health program for Black children who has received the vocal backing of Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo – and who lists protection of his veto as one of her top campaign priorities

Democrats are one seat away from securing a veto-proof majority in the Assembly, making races like La Rue Hatch’s of personal interest to Lombardo. “I am in a swing district, in a swing state. There’s a lot of attention – and a lot of money – being poured into this race,” La Rue Hatch says. “He targeted mine, specifically, as one of his top four targets in the state to flip, and the only one in northern Nevada.”

La Rue Hatch, for her part, is staying focused on her platform of state education, workers’ rights, climate change and abortion access – though she has also scored numerous endorsements herself, from pro-abortion organizations like Emily’s List and Vote Pro-Choice, as well as numerous labor unions, statewide interest groups like the Nevada State Education Association, and environmental outfits like the Sierra Club.

But she’s hoping the accomplishments of her first term, more than anything else, will help her stand out in the minds of voters this fall – despite Sande fundraising over six times as much as her thus far. And, though either candidate would help the state maintain its historic female legislative majority, she wants that majority to be about more than optics. 

Because, she adds, with progressive women in charge, “we’re changing the tone of the conversation in a really powerful way.”

Acts of Service

A fourth-generation Nevadan, La Rue Hatch spent much of her childhood on a family ranch just outside of Reno’s city limits, in Washoe County. When she wasn’t on the farm, she was spending time with her grandmother, Dorothy, who ran a 24-hour at-home daycare in Reno proper that catered to first responders. 

That upbringing “really instilled in me, from a very young age, the importance of service to others, and giving back,” she says, calling her grandmother’s example a particular “guiding light.”

La Rue Hatch went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in history from Boston University in 2011, and a graduate degree in secondary education from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2016. Over the years, she also worked on numerous political campaigns, including Obama for America, and at nonprofits such as the Alzheimer’s Association and March of Dimes.

But education called to her, so after finishing her second degree, she began teaching world history and geography to high school students in Washoe County. Once she got in the classroom, she saw the problems schools were facing up close and personal. “I want my kids to have a voice; I want them to have a better life.” And to make that happen, “I needed to advocate for them on a bigger stage.”

La Rue Hatch has, indeed, been able to effect numerous changes for young Nevadans. For example, she worked with fellow lawmakers to secure a $2.6 billion investment in schools in last year’s budget – a state first, she says – and ensured that public funding for schools in her own Washoe County, specifically, was increased by 26%. But, she adds, there’s more to be done for the state’s students, and is continuing to introduce legislation targeting specific problems like class sizes – Nevada has some of the largest in the nation.

She has also used her time in office thus far to push for a Healthy Soils Initiative that would encourage regenerative agricultural practices through grant programs and soil monitoring systems, and to advocate for the codification of abortion access in Nevada’s constitution. 

La Rue Hatch additionally co-sponsored a bill that sought to make it illegal to place GPS trackers on individuals’ cars without their consent. It was enacted last July. “I’m proud because so many women reached out to say they had been stalked – one woman had found 18 separate trackers on her car,” she recalls.

This, she says, typifies the precise sort of direct, positive impact she has aimed to have on constituent’s lives – and the sort of impact she wants to keep having. The legislation she’s now working on is also a good example of this, she adds – a bill designed to bring paid family and medical leave to Nevadans. 

“There are so many being forced back to work when they really shouldn’t be,” she notes. “We’re hurting the family entirely” when we don’t allow people to take time from work, as needed. 

But fixing the problem is a job she loves, and the job she wants to keep. “I take my role as a community advocate really seriously.”