Update: Jennie Sherwood won 54 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary to become the Democratic nominee for Nevada State Assembly District 2. Congratulations, Sister Sherwood!
Jennie Sherwood bursts with enthusiasm as she talks about her run for the Nevada statehouse. And it’s plain to see that the first-time candidate is brimming with a natural energy that she isn’t afraid to let show, even in the often-stodgy business of politics.
|A labor walk leading up to the June 12 primary in Nevada drew Las Vegas Local 357 members and other activists supporting union sister Jennie Sherman, kneeling with her sign, in her run for State Assembly.
"One of the things I really try to do is continue to be myself,” said Sherwood, past chair of Las Vegas Local 357’s sign unit, whose tradecraft lights up the glittery, neon Strip and beyond.“I just want to talk from my heart. And listen. It seems like nobody in politics really wants to listen.”
Sherwood is on the primary ballot Tuesday, June 12, in Nevada, running for State Assembly District 2, west of Las Vegas. Active in her county and state Democratic committees, she was partway through Emerge America, the party’s training program for women interested in running for office, when she threw her hat in the ring just before the March filing deadline.
“I was looking to run in a couple of years,” she said. “But then I thought, ‘I’m sitting here in the year of the woman during a blue wave. If I don’t jump in now, I might miss my chance.”
Sherwood may be “green,” but she’s also high-energy and determined, said Jim Halsey, assistant business manager and political director for Local 357. Halsey gave Sherwood the reference she needed to get into the months-long Emerge program and hoped one day she’d be a candidate.
“We’ve had other women from the local go through Emerge, and we usually prefer they complete the whole class and then run,” Halsey said. But Sherwood was ready and eager. She called Halsey, her mentor at the local, and told him she wanted to run for the state Senate. But the party and labor were already backing a candidate in that race.
So they looked at Assembly District 2, where the Republican incumbent has held office for 10 years and one Democratic was already running in the primary.
Sherwood wasn’t daunted, believing her working-class Las Vegas roots and career as a tradeswoman would appeal to voters in a race against a Harvard-educated doctor, lawyer and professor, who only moved to the city from Indiana in 2017.
Halsey said Sherwood isn’t afraid to take on the party. “One thing she says a lot is that she wants to put a backbone back in the Democratic party,” he said. “Sometimes she offends other Democrats, she irks some people. But she’s tough and passionate and she wants change.”
Local 357 members have knocked on doors and worked the phones for Sherwood, who wants to take on Nevada’s right-to-work law, restore rights to public sector unions “that have taken a huge beating” legislatively and raise the minimum wage, among other pro-worker reforms and attention to broader economic, education and health care issues.
“We are proud to endorse our union sister Jennie,” Local 357 Business Manager Al Davis said. “The leadership skills she acquired as sign unit chairman will serve her well in the state Assembly. We look forward to having another voice for labor in elected office.”
In fact, Sherwood said, she held all positions in the unit at one point or another, experience that’s been invaluable. “I’ve always been really good at talking sense to people, getting them to see a different view,” she said. “I’ve gotten people who were dead-set against the union to join the union, showing them that it’s better for all of us.”
Sherwood worked as a journeyman signman for Yesco, one of the world’s largest sign companies, for more than a decade. She’s given up the trade in recent years to care for family members and is on honorary withdrawal from the local. Her husband, Jerry Cooper, is an active member, a crane foreman who installs some of the massive Las Vegas signs his wife once serviced.
She remembers the first time she saw those signs, earlier versions of them. It’s part of what made her fall in love with Las Vegas at age 5, when her family moved there. It rankles her – and she hopes, voters – that her opponent is brand new to her hometown.
“My first weekend in Vegas, Mom and Dad thought it would be a good idea to go for a walk,” Sherwood shares on her campaign website. “I could not believe how big and bright our great city was! The endless flashing neon lights racing up ‘The Dunes’ sign, then back down again was mesmerizing! The chasing bulbs continuously going around and around the buildings had me in awe. Who would have thought that 14 years later it would be me putting all those flashing neon and chasing bulbs to work?”
No wonder people Sherwood meets on the campaign trail tell her, “I love your passion.”
“You haven’t seen anything yet.”