Golden Knights, election results lead 2018’s Top 10 stories

In the spring, Las Vegas embraced gold and black.

In the fall, the state of Nevada turned blue.

The Vegas Golden Knights’ improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final and the team’s impact on the community was the top local story in 2018, but it was hardly the only big news of the year.

The midterm elections in November reshaped Nevada’s government as Democrats swept into power and women lawmakers formed a majority in the Legislature. In addition, a dead man was elected to the Legislature.

Here’s a look back at the 10 most important local stories of 2018, as determined by Review-Journal staff:

1. Golden Knights

The Vegas Golden Knights captured the hearts of valley residents with a remarkable run to the Stanley Cup Final and community outreach that endeared the players and coaches to adoring fans, many of whom had never before been interested in ice hockey.

2. Nevada turns blue

The Democrats prevailed up and down the ballot in the Nov. 6 election. A Democratic edge in registered voters helped the party sweep all the top races for governor, U.S. Senate and attorney general. Democrats won three of four other statewide races, three of four U.S. House seats and a supermajority in the state Assembly. The party also won six of 11 state Senate contests and picked up two seats in the 21-seat chamber, one away from a super majority there as well.

3. Female-majority legislature

Nevada became the first state in the country to yield a woman-majority Legislature when attorney Rochelle Thuy Nguyen and Beatrice Angela Duran, a Culinary Local 226 grievance specialist, were tapped to fill vacancies in the state Assembly. The December appointments raised the number of female lawmakers to 32 in the 63-member body — 23 assemblywomen and nine senators.

4. Changes at LVCVA

Longtime Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority chief Rossi Ralenkotter retired Aug. 31 amid police and state ethics investigations and questions of excess agency spending raised by a Review-Journal investigation. The R-J investigation spotlighted Ralenkotter’s personal use of Southwest Airlines gift cards purchased by the LVCVA, his use of authority security officers as chauffeurs despite receiving a vehicle allowance, and the agency’s history of routinely violating its own expense policies with lavish spending on high-end entertainment, gifts for employees and first-class trips overseas for board members.

5. Oct. 1 final report

Nearly a year after the Route 91 Harvest festival attack, Las Vegas police released its final report in August on the mass shooting, which left 58 concertgoers dead and more than 800 wounded. At more than 180 pages long, it detailed the sequence of events that led up to the attack, included notes from interviews with the gunman’s friends and family and an admission that, even 10 months out, detectives had no idea why the shooter, a Nevadan, chose to carry out the attack.

6. Execution delays

Just hours before the planned execution of condemned Nevada prisoner Scott Dozier, a judge ruled on July 11 that the prison system should be barred from using a sedative in the state’s untested lethal injection cocktail. It was the second time in nine months that Dozier’s execution had been halted through a court decision. Convicted of two murders, Dozier, who waived his appeals in late 2016, would have been the first Nevada inmate executed in a dozen years. Dozieris still awaiting a new execution date.

7. Dead man wins election

Brothel owner Dennis Hof, a Republican, died unexpectedly three weeks before the Nov. 6 election. Nevertheless, his name remained on the ballot and he was easily elected to the Nevada Assembly, defeating Democratic rival Lesia Romanov. In December, the Nye County Commission appointed Gregory Hafen II to replace Hof in the Assembly District 36 seat.

8. Bundy case tossed

A federal judge cited “flagrant prosecutorial misconduct” when she threw out felony conspiracy and weapons charges against Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy, two of his sons and an independent militia member on Jan. 8. The charges stemmed from a 2014 standoff with the Bureau of Land Management over a cattle roundup that resulted in decades behind bars for some. One of Bundy’s sons, Ryan Bundy, launched an unsuccessful bid for governor after his acquittal.

9. CCSD picks new leader

Clark County School District trustees in May selected Jesus Jara, deputy superintendent of Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida, to lead the nation’s fifth-largest school district. “Education changed my life; it gave me opportunity,” he said in a statement the day he was selected. “Ensuring that every single student gets that same opportunity is why I first became a teacher and what drives my work every day.” He began work June 19, setting a course for “making CCSD the #1 choice for kids.”

10. MGM lawsuits

MGM Resorts International, the company that owns Mandalay Bay, sued more than 1,000 victims of the Las Vegas mass shooting in an unusual effort to avoid liability. The company cited a 2002 federal act, created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, that extends liability protection to any company that uses “anti-terrorism” technology or services. MGM argued the security vendor it hired for the Route 91 Harvest festival used such services, and MGM argued it should be protected too. The lawsuits did not seek money from victims but did ask a federal judge to decide if the 2002 act is applicable. In October, both parties announced they were heading toward a settlement.

Review-Journal staff writers Rachel Crosby, David Ferrara and Shea Johnson contributed to this report.

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