In a pair of races that were guaranteed to be decided in the primary, Andy Hafen narrowly won a sixth term on the Henderson City Council and Gerri Schroder was picked to replace longtime Councilwoman Amanda Cyphers.
But Tuesday’s vote in Nevada’s second-largest city wasn’t exactly a mandate of the people.
Despite a new and easier polling system, fewer than 12 percent of Henderson’s eligible voters cast ballots in the primary.
Hafen defeated Las Vegas police Sgt. Thomas Wagner in a race that proved far closer than many had predicted. The Henderson native, who first joined the City Council in 1987, out-polled Wagner by just 169 votes, according to unofficial results late Tuesday.
“I’ve got another four years,” a slightly exasperated sounding Hafen said after the final precincts had reported. “We’re analyzing things. We’ve got to figure out how much of the negativity paid off for him.”
Wagner targeted Hafen in at least one mailer that labeled the incumbent a “career politician” and used an altered quote from a Review-Journal report to make it sound as if Hafen believed he’d been on the council “long enough.”
Wagner could not be reached for comment. It is unclear whether he will request a recount.
Term limits will keep Hafen from pursuing a seventh term.
In the race for Cyphers’ council seat, Schroder captured more than 65 percent of the vote to defeat retired Henderson firefighter Donald Griffie.
She celebrated her lopsided victory at the home of Cyphers, who decided not to seek re-election after three terms and 12 years on the council.
“I’ve known Gerri for about six years now,” Cyphers said. “I thought she would be a great fit.”
Schroder said: “I’m hoping I can do just as good a job as Amanda has representing Henderson. I’m so excited and so thrilled. We were predicting this, but you just never know.”
Schroder is a 16-year Henderson resident who works as district representative for Rep. Shelley Berkley and serves on the Henderson Planning Commission.
Her new elected post will give her the unusual opportunity to vote on projects she reviewed weeks or months earlier as a planning commissioner.
“I’ll be familiar with some of these items already,” she said.
Schroder will be sworn in April 17, five days after her final meeting with the Planning Commission.
Tuesday’s vote in Henderson marked the first time a Nevada city has experimented with so-called voting centers instead of assigned polling places within numbered precincts.
City Clerk Monica Simmons said she heard “nothing but positive reviews” about the new system, which was intended to make it easier for people to vote.
Instead of requiring voters to report to one of 45 assigned polling places Tuesday, the city allowed ballots to be cast in any of 15 voting centers around the community.
“It looks like there was a 2 1/2 percent increase (in turnout), which I believe is positive,” Simmons said. “I’m happy with any increase, to be honest with you.”
Fewer than 9 percent of voters turned out for the city’s last municipal primary, two years ago.
Voter turnout was 21 percent during the 1997 municipal primary in Henderson.
Voters were welcome to use whichever voting center they preferred, so 21-year-old Megan Lappe chose the one at the Galleria at Sunset mall.
After she cast her ballot Tuesday afternoon, she said she was headed to the food court to buy a limeade from Hot Dog on a Stick.
“I’d go find my polling station if I had to, but this is more convenient,” she said. “This makes it easier.”
Lappe was at a loss to explain why more people don’t participate in municipal elections.
“It only takes five or 10 minutes out of your day,” she said. “I think more people should do it.”2007 Municipal ElectionsNews & voter info