Nevada state Sen. Debbie Smith was scheduled to undergo a four- to five-hour surgery at a Texas hospital on Friday to remove a brain tumor and determine whether it’s cancerous.
The Sparks Democrat, 59, was diagnosed with a tumor last Thursday and is receiving care at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Her children, husband and other relatives planned to be at the hospital during the operation.
“We’re all a little nervous, but we’re in incredibly good hands,” Erin Marlon, the youngest of Smith’s three children, told The Associated Press by phone on Thursday. “We are very fortunate that the tumor is in a place that’s accessible.”
Smith was disappointed to miss opening day festivities and the first week of the legislative session, Marlon said, and wanted to return to the Senate as soon as her doctors allow.
In the meantime, Senate leaders appointed substitutes Thursday to fill in for her on three legislative committees.
First elected to the Nevada Assembly in 2000, Smith served five terms and has won lawmaker of the year awards from several advocacy groups. In 2012, she won a Senate seat and now serves as assistant minority floor leader.
She is current president of the National Conference of State Legislatures and a past president of the Nevada Parent Teacher Association. One of her priorities has been a construction bond rollover bill that would allow more school building to ease overcrowding.
“You think of a champion of education in the state, and it’s Debbie Smith,” said Democratic Sen. Ruben Kihuen, adding that Smith is one of the longest-serving and most respected members of the Legislature. “She’s been here since Bill Raggio was here, since Barbara Buckley. I would consider her, personally, among those great leaders.”
Marlon said her mother has received hundreds of tweets, texts, emails and Facebook posts since announcing her condition.
“It’s great,” Marlon said. “It makes her feel so good that people she would expect, and then people who she had no idea that she even knew or had touched, were reaching out to her.”
On Thursday, a Senate floor session opened up with a prayer for her, and her Democratic colleagues in the Senate posed for a photo afterward carrying paper signs that spelled out “#sendingyoustrengthDebbie.”