Pazina said it’s more than breaking a barrier, but about the results she says women can deliver to Nevadans. She says more women in office results in legislation that benefits women and families. She wants the help increase renewable energy, expand Nevada’s tourism footprint, ensure that the education system is top notch and increase access to affordable health care.

“We bring our values to the table,” she said.

Romanov, also a first-time candidate, said that while she wasn’t expecting to run against Hof — who won his primary against two opponents, including the incumbent — his presence in the race has motivated women.

Image: Lesia Romanov speaks with guests during a meet-and-greet
Romanov faces brothel owner and self-proclaimed pimp, Dennis Hof, in the state assembly race.Mikayla Whitmore / for NBC News

The final nudge she needed to jump in the race was last year’s mass shooting at Parkland High School in Florida. As an educator, she said she wanted to represent the positions of her teachers and her students and their families. But unexpectedly she has become an advocate for women, including survivors of sex trafficking and exploited and abused brothel workers.

“The #MeToo movement and women’s rights have become huge (in my campaign),” Romanov said. “We don’t need scandal in Nevada. We don’t need all that drama. We just want to do what’s best for the people and that’s why I’m here.”

Pazina says she feels the importance of her candidacy, especially when such a barrier can be broken. She tells the story of one household she visited where she asked a little girl if she wanted to run for office some day. The father chimed in and said, “Oh she can’t do that.” Pazina called the exchange “heartbreaking.”

“It’s also part of what she inspires me about maybe being the first female-majority legislature,” Pazina said. “Little girls might hear something from their parents but they see role models or they see that potential on the news of so many women being represented in the state of Nevada and they realize I can do that one day.”


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