18 in race for Las Vegas mayor’s seat

Now the race for first place — and second — begins.

With 18 candidates filed for the open Las Vegas mayor’s seat, it’s nearly certain that the April 5 primary will serve to winnow the field to the two with the most votes, who will then duke it out until June’s general election.

That’s probably a record, according to the city clerk’s office. Since 1967, the only mayor’s race close to this size was in 1991, when 13 people filed.

And while a subgroup of candidates starts stronger than the rest, it’s still hard to predict who the final two will be.

For those who follow local politics, most of that subgroup is already familiar.

Carolyn Goodman, wife of departing Mayor Oscar Goodman and a leading citizen in her own right, starts at the top of the field, as do Chris Giunchigliani, county commissioner and former legislator, and Larry Brown, county commissioner and former city councilman. Steve Ross, a sitting councilman, also has a leg up over most of the candidates in the race.

On Friday, a wild card emerged with the entrance of Victor Chaltiel, a wealthy businessman and political newcomer who can commit serious resources to the mayoral contest.

Despite the interest in the race, the candidates most likely will be scrapping it out over a relatively small slice of the electorate because municipal elections tend to draw voter participation that’s far less than state and national elections.

The last time there was an open seat was 1999, when Oscar Goodman first ran for the office. With nine candidates in the race, there were 49,498 votes in the primary, about 25 percent of the electorate at the time.

He won his re-election bids in 2003 and 2007 handily, and turnout declined each time: 18.25 percent in 2003 and
15 percent in 2007.

Campaign consultants said this race probably would land in the 16 percent to 18 percent range, which would equal around 40,000 of Las Vegas’ 235,270 registered voters.

Weighing against history, though, is the fact that Las Vegas is in the middle of several high-profile projects downtown and the fact that candidates are emphasizing economic diversification and job creation at a time when people are hungry for good economic news.

All candidates are sounding that theme to some extent, and Chaltiel was no exception Friday when he filed.

“I think our city, all of us, we need a businessman, not a politician,” he said. “I have the experience necessary to attract businesses to our city.

“We need to diversify our economy and attract both national companies … and international companies. I have been doing this for 40 years.”

For whoever holds it next, the mayor’s position will be full-time, meaning that no outside employment is allowed. The salary also increases to 180 percent of a City Council salary, which will be in the neighborhood of $130,000 a year.

The Ward 3 City Council race has many similarities to the mayoral contest: It’s an open seat that has drawn a lot of interest, it’s probably headed for a runoff, and it’s hard to predict who will be in it.

Former state legislator Bob Coffin is assumed to be the front-runner because of his long history in the area and his string of comfortable legislative victories stretching back to the 1980s.

City Planning Commissioner Steve Evans and former state Democratic Party Chairwoman Adriana Martinez want to upset that notion. Evans touts endorsements he has received from leaders of the John S. Park, Southridge and Beverly Green neighborhood associations, and Martinez is looking to her lifetime of work in the ward and the possibility of bringing more voters, including Hispanics, to the city vote.

In all, there are seven candidates in the race.

Incumbents in the Ward 1 and Ward 5 races — Lois Tarkanian and Ricki Barlow, respectively — have drawn challengers.

The winners of these council races will be the last of the council seats affected by raises enacted in 2007. Council members now make 90 percent of a Clark County commissioner’s salary, which in the current budget year amounts to $72,007 a year.

There are three Municipal Court judgeships on the ballot, and one of them, Department 2, is an open seat.

In Department 2, attorneys seeking the office include Marco Angioni, Colby Beck, Sonny Bonaventure, Robert Kurth, Susan Roger and George Trachtman

In Department 3, incumbent George Assad faces six challengers: Heidi Almase, Chris Davis, Dayvid Figler, Anthony Goldstein, R. Travis Jameson and Nicholas A. Perrino.

And in Department 5, incumbent Cedric Kerns faces one challenger, attorney Bruce L. Gale.

Municipal judges are paid $149,356 and serve a six-year term.

Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate@reviewjournal.com or 702-229-6435.

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