State Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, is shown during an interview in his office at 700 S. 3rd St. in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Oct. 22.
Tick Segerblom walks with his mother Gene Segerblom during the Damboree Parade in Boulder City on July, 4, 2011. Tick is the fourth generation of his family to be involved in state politics. Gene Segerblom, who passed away in January, was a former state Assemblywoman.
With legislation that gave people access to medical marijuana, opened the door for immigrants to receive driver’s privilege cards and took the first steps to what may bring marriage equality, the 2013 Legislative Session was more progressive than in years past.
It is a long time coming according to state Sen. Richard ‘Tick’ Segerblom, who has been pushing to bring these issues to the forefront of the political discussion.
His day may have finally come.
“We have seen these issues over the last five years, but we didn’t know how to talk about it,” the 64-year-0ld said. “Either people stopped thinking I was crazy, or they just got crazy too.”
Walking into his downtown law office - he is an employment-rights attorney - people can get a sense of who Segerblom is.
Wearing a blue shirt and khaki shorts, Segerblom is comfortable in his skin. That’s reflected in his notorious reputation for being outspoken on progressive issues.
The wall holds honors, photos and keepsakes chronicling his life fighting for the little guy and the Segerblom family history in Nevada.
Despite being born and growing up in the conservative surroundings of Boulder City, the Segerblom household was liberal.
“My mother was always known as a strong Democrat back then,” said Segerblom, who is in the second year of his first term as a state Senator.
Gene Segerblom, who passed away in January at 94, was a state assemblywoman from 1992-2000 and a member of the city council in Boulder City. But she wasn’t the only family member involved in politics before Tick.
His family had deep roots in Nevada politics. His grandmother Hazel Wines represented Humboldt County in the state Assembly from 1934-1936, and great-grandfather William “Johnny” Bell represented Humboldt County in the state Senate from 1906-1914.
The biggest thing Segerblom remembers was being instilled with growing up was standing up to oppressive powers.
“So I left for college wanting to change the world,” said Segerblom, who was first elected to the Assembly in 2006. In college, it was taking a stand against the Vietnam War. Segerblom received his bachelor’s degree from Pomona College in Claremont, Calif.
After graduating from the University of Denver law school, he looked for ways to be active in politics and make a difference. That search has defined his political career in three stages.
In his first stage, he headed straight to Washington, D.C. to work for President Jimmy Carter’s campaign. But after realizing he wasn’t part of the tight Washington inner circle, Segerblom decided it was time to head home.
While practicing law, Segerblom remained in touch in the political sphere and was eventually elected into his next next political phase as the state chair of the Democratic Party from 1990-1994.
As state chair, he played an integral role in helping Bill Clinton win Nevada’s presidential contest in 1992. Nevada wasn’t seen as in touch with Democrat values at that time, Segerblom said, but with the win, Nevada took its place as a swing state.
“And today, we are on the verge of becoming blue,” said Segerblom, with President Barack Obama winning Nevada twice.
The outspoken Segerblom entered his next stage of the political sphere when he ran for the Assembly in 2000, then winning re-election twice. He has continued being David as a new Goliath always strolled into town.
“The more recent battles are lobbyists from gaming, mining or the gun industry,” he said.
In 2012, he transitioned to the Senate by winning nearly 65 percent of the vote. District 3 is heavily Democratic and covers much of urban Las Vegas.
Segerblom said he has been allowed to push the envelope when it comes to many progressive issues because he is in a relatively safe district.
If he didn’t get attention for his outspoken views on all issues, he most certainly received attention for his stance - and comical tweets and quotes - on marijuana. Although Nevadans voted to approve medical marijuana in 2006, patients had no way to legally obtain the drug.
In his hand, Senate Bill 374 established a legal framework for setting up dispensaries for medical marijuana.
Only 16 other states had similar legislation - one being a deeply conservative Arizona.
“Anything Arizona can do, we can do,” Segerblom said.
He invited fellow legislators - and rapper and Las Vegas resident Flava Flav of Public Enemy- to join him on a trip to Arizona to see what a dispensary looks like, and what happens when a conservative state allows medical marijuana.
The trip, Segerblom said, combated this idea of an insidious ne’erdowell hanging around the corner looking to snag some drugs. It helped answer basic questions and showed economic benefits of having dispensaries.
“This not the way people think,” he said.
Even though SB374 passed and was signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, it’s not out of the woods yet.
The first dispensaries won’t be active until late next year, he said.
“There is a lot going on,” he said. “You got to get people licensed to sell and doctors to prescribe.”
While medical dispensaries have been legalized, Segerblom sees this as paving the way for a ballot question in 2016 that could decide if marijuana is legalized in Nevada.
“I think it can pass,” he said. “I think the polls have it a 60 percent approval rating right now. You can tax it and it (the tax dollars) can go to higher education.”
Segerblom sponsored and cosponsored many other bills that made 2013 a progressive legislative session, something his mother - who died in January - probably wouldn’t recognize.
Every step Segerblom takes corresponds with what voters want, he said.
“The people are wanting issues where the politicians are way behind the curve,” he said.
To go to the next level of transitioning to a strictly blue state, according to Segerblom, is a governor unafraid to step up and say the state needs to tax businesses.
“At some point, we are going to need a Democratic governor,” he said. “And once that person is elected, we will have a Democrat the rest of my lifetime.”
But for people thinking maybe Segerblom is that Democrat, think again.
He doesn’t envision himself running - or even beating - Sandoval in 2014.
“I would run only if no one else did,” he said. “I think Sandoval is unbeatable. But if I need to be the sacrificial lamb, I would. I’m not going to win, but at least I’ll get out there and talk about the issues.”
Looking in the future, Segerblom does see Nevada becoming as blue as California with two-thirds majorities - the supermajority needed to pass tax increases and override a governor’s veto - in the Assembly and Senate. CL