Decision on Assemblyman Steven Brooks' replacement looms


Clark County commissioners are expected to decide Tuesday on a new state legislator to replace ousted Assemblyman Steven Brooks.

In interviews, county commissioners gave no hints as to which of the eight applicants will get the job.

But some factors that will come into play include the recommendation of the Legislature’s leadership, how engaged the applicants are in interviews, and whether the heavily African-American district that elected Brooks, who is of African-American and Hispanic heritage, should have a minority lawmaker representing residents.

Influence from legislative leaders, chiefly Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, also will play a role in who the all-Democratic commission picks to represent Assembly District 17 in the Legislature. The person must be a Democrat and live in the district.

Commissioner Tom Collins said he will go with whatever recommendation he gets from Kirkpatrick. Collins’ district overlaps with Assembly District 17.

“I’m going to support whoever Marilyn recommends,” he said.

“The County Commission’s a pretty powerful board,” Collins said, when asked why. “That power comes from the Legislature. You always want to get along with the speaker.”

On Friday, Collins said he hadn’t received a recommendation yet.

Kirkpatrick didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.

Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said the speaker’s opinion is valuable and important, but not the only factor in picking someone.

Other considerations include feedback from the community and the impression the candidates make during interviews.

Sisolak said he has called and spoken with most of them in interviews.

“What they say matters an awful lot,” he said.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said the recommendation from the Assembly’s Democratic caucus should weigh heavily on her decision, along with the recommendations of commissioners whose districts are included in the legislative district.

“If that’s how they want to approach that, we should honor that recommendation,” Giunchigliani said.

She said the replacement should be a minority as well and that the caucus is sensitive to that.

The legislative district’s population is 24.35 percent African-American, the second-highest percentage in Clark County, and 30.6 percent Hispanic.

Commissioner Lawrence Weekly, whose district also overlaps with Assembly District 17, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

Brooks, a Democrat, was ousted by the Assembly on March 28, following a series of incidents that included a Jan. 19 arrest on allegations that he threatened Kirkpatrick based on committee assignments and a domestic violence arrest involving his wife in February.

Brooks is facing charges in California after a highway chase and clash with police near Barstow.

ABOUT THE CANDIDATES

The applicants for the Assembly seat are a mix of prominent people and obscure candidates.

They also have diverse backgrounds: a state drug czar, a police detective and a former one-term state lawmaker are among those seeking the job.

Among the most well-known applicants is Mujahid Ramadan, 61, an African-American. His career includes a three-year stint as the state’s drug czar from 1989 to 1992 under Democratic Gov. Bob Miller’s administration.

“It’s really not about me,” said Ramadan, a consultant who helps companies with diversity and cultural issues. “It’s about the need or desire to give back.”

Ramadan said he is concerned about the economic issues facing the region, which run the gamut from the housing downturn to crowded classrooms.

Before starting his consulting firm in 2001, Ramadan was executive director of Nevada Partners, which provides career, education and other services to the community.

Michelle Jotz, 38, is an internal affairs detective with the Metropolitan Police Department. Her police career began in 1993 as a civilian employee with the department, and she became a detective in 1997.

Jotz was a paid lobbyist for the Las Vegas Police Protective Association and the Southern Nevada Conference on Police and Sheriffs during the 2011 session and 2010 special session of the Legislature. She said that experience has given her a good understanding of how the legislative process works.

“I’ve had the opportunity to see how the process works from beginning to end,” she said.

Jotz has drawn the backing of unions, including the Culinary Local 226, and the police union.

Chris Collins, executive director of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, said that with the limited time left in the session, Jotz has the knowledge to understand the job quickly.

“She has experience in the state system,” Collins said. “She understands the nuances and how to pass a bill.”

Odis “Tyrone” Thompson, 45, is regional initiatives coordinator of the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition and also has worked in government.

He was a neighborhood liaison and community outreach manager for the county, a neighborhood planning and initiatives manager for the city of Las Vegas, and a supervisor for state welfare.

An African-American, Thompson said his well-rounded experience of working for different government entities gives him a good foundation for legislative work.

He has also volunteered as a court-appointed special advocate for abused and neglected children.

OTHER OPTIONS

Commissioners have plenty of other options, and there is no requirement for a legislator to be well known.

Glynn Coleman, 58, is a career specialist for GNJ, a service that assists people with employment services such as training and placement.

Coleman has also worked for the state’s Employment Security Division and the city of Henderson as a court programs administrator.

He wants to bring more business to the Assembly district.

Mike Kelly, 44, is an investigator with the Nevada Taxicab Authority. He views his background as an applicant without lobbying experience or past political experience as a plus.

He describes himself as an average working person who wouldn’t be beholden to anyone if appointed.

“I don’t have anyone supporting me,” Kelly said. “I decided to do this myself.”

Meli Pulido, 46, is executive director of Project 150, an organization that assists homeless students. She retired in 2011 after a 25-year career at the city of Las Vegas, most of it in human resources. Her supporters include Las Vegas Councilman Ricky Barlow and the Southern Nevada Hispanic Employment Program.

William Robinson II, 34, a banker, is also in the running. He has solid name recognition in North Las Vegas. His father, William Robinson, was a longtime city councilman. The younger Robinson also has served on city committees. He said he would bring a youthful enthusiasm to the job.

“I haven’t sought anyone’s endorsement or anything,” he said. “It’s not an election, but I’m sure if I were to ask and try, I could get some.”

Kelly Thomas, 43, was a Democratic legislator in District 16 of the Assembly from 1999 to 2001, and has worked since 2010 as the director of operations for Better Building Performance, a Las Vegas contractor.

Thomas was an assistant planner for the city of North Las Vegas from 1997 to 1999 and has worked in the construction and development fields. He didn’t return repeated phone calls seeking comment.

The candidate pool has shifted. Brandon Casutt sent in his application six minutes after the 5 p.m. Friday deadline, but is still seeking consideration.

Contact reporter Ben Botkin at bbotkin @reviewjournal.com or 702-405-9781.

 

Rules for posting comments

Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Stephens Media LLC or this newspaper. This is a public forum. Read our guidelines for posting. If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon next to the comment.