Jill Talbot Derby served from 1988 to 2006 as an elected Regent for the Nevada System of Higher Education, serving three terms as Board Chair. She ran as the Democratic candidate for the open seat of Nevada's 2nd congressional district in the 2006 election, losing but gaining national attention by making this heavily Republican district competitive for the first time. Following that, she served as the chairwoman of the Nevada Democratic Party from March, 2007 until February, 2008 overseeing Nevada's first ever early presidential caucus. She ran for Congress again in 2008, but lost.
Early life and education
Derby is a fourth generation Nevadan. Her great-grandfather, Thomas Derby II, acquired land along the now I-80 corridor through Lovelock, the current home to both the Derby Airport and the Derby Dam. Her grandfather, Charles Derby, worked as a mining engineer in the Virginia City mines, and her father attended Fourth Ward School in Virginia City, later moving to Lovelock to develop the Flying Flapjack Ranch, where Derby spent the first years of her life.
Derby attended the University of California, Berkeley and then the University of California, San Francisco, where she obtained a bachelor's degree. After residing in the Bay Area, teaching, and traveling, she took a job with a company in Saudi Arabia in 1966 and lived there for three years. Upon returning to the United States, she earned a second bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, followed by a master's degree and a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology with a specialization in Middle Eastern cultures from the University of California, Davis.
Derby is married to veterinarian Steven Talbot. They have one daughter, Tobyn Derby-Talbot and one son, Ryan Derby-Talbot. Derby has lived in a Gardnerville, Nevada home for more than twenty years.[when?]
2006 Congressional Campaign
Derby was always fighting an uphill battle in her campaign to win a primarily Republican district. Although she did win the Democratic primary by default (no Democrat challenged her in the primary election), many claimed she had no chance of winning. When polls showed the race was tied, President George W. Bush came to Nevada twice to campaign for Heller.
Derby had numerous supporters early on. In December 2005, CNN political analyst Paul Begala, who helped engineer Bill Clinton's 1992 win, said he was encouraged by U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to “stump” for Derby. In July the Las Vegas Sun reported Derby raised $269,000, ending with nearly $514,000 on hand for her campaign.
On September 20, 2006 the Las Vegas Sun reported, "Heller was 8 points ahead of Democrat Jill Derby of Gardnerville. In a Reno Gazette-Journal-KRNV News 4 poll taken soon later with a 4 percent margin of error, 18 percent of the potential voters were undecided."
The race was close, but Heller managed to maintain a 5 percent lead winning 50% of the vote compared to Jill's 45%. In response to her defeat Derby said "I got into this race to take Congress back, to restore the checks and balances that have been absent in our government, and get our country back on track to a brighter future. All that got accomplished in this election. We lost our battle but we won the war."
On March 31, 2007 Nevada Democrats elected Derby as the state chairwoman of the Democratic party. Derby led the party during Nevada's historic early presidential caucus on Jan. 19, 2008, which resulted in a statewide shift of voter registration leading to a Democratic majority in Nevada for the first time in decades. She stepped down on February 19, 2008 to run for Congress.
2008 Congressional Campaign
On February 20, 2008 Derby announced a second run for Nevada's 2nd congressional district against her previous opponent, freshman congressman Dean Heller.
She identifies as a moderate Democrat with a "unique understanding of the most significant issues of the day – from education to the Middle East." Her campaign focuses on making health care affordable to combat the double digit increase in Nevadian family health care costs. This also includes lowering prescription drug costs and reforming the prescription drug bill, which "Congress passed and was mostly by and for the pharmaceutical industry, not patients."
She also means to restore fiscal responsibility. She noted, "Politicians have created runaway deficits with wasteful spending, pet projects like the Alaskan bridge to nowhere, and special interests tax giveaways like billions for the oil companies." She promises to "restore fiscal discipline in Washington, support a balanced budget, and pay down the national debt.”
Her stance on the Iraq War is that the United States should withdraw from Iraq but not before helping to establish a stable government. She has signed onto the A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq along with 42 other Democratic congressional candidates seeking office in 2008. Derby has said about the plan, "It addresses two fundamental questions, How do we end our involvement in a responsible manner and what do we put in place to make sure we don't make similar mistakes again."  In addition to ending the war, the plan suggests using U.S. diplomatic power to create stability, addressing the humanitarian issues of displaced Iraqis, live up to the promises made to our military, and create a U.S.-centered energy policy. In the early 80's, she was also an advocate against U.S. military involvement and escalation into Central American civil wars and believed in self-determination and financial aid, instead of guns and bullets, to help solve the terrible living conditions and poverty.
- United States House of Representatives elections, 2006
- United States House of Representatives elections, 2008
- Reno Gazette-Journal
- Nevada incumbents pull far ahead in money race Las Vegas Sun, July 15, 2006
- Bush to show support for Heller in Reno. Las Vegas Sun. September 20, 2006
- Jill Derby for Congress official campaign site