Best New Politician

The jump from UNLV’s anthropology department to the state Legislature may not be as precarious as you think. Former professor Heidi Swank, 44, who easily won the Democratic primary in Assembly District 16, has been a passionate and thoughtful advocate for UNLV’s interests, as well as downtown communities (she’s president of the association in her own neighborhood, Beverly Green).

Her studies focused on the impact of pop culture, literacy and new technology (mainly text-messaging) on the lives of Tibetan exile youth in north India. But her first time on the campaign trail, emphasizing education, jobs and renewable energy, has been rewarding as well.

“It has been a very grounding experience to listen to my neighbors’ trials and successes as we have weathered the economic downturn,” she says.