Democrats invoke law to get arena for do-over

The Clark County Democratic Party will use the Thomas & Mack Center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas nearly for free for the party’s convention next month.

The university is waiving the cost of the 18,000-plus capacity arena as required by a state law that also allowed county Democrats to use hundreds of schools for its Jan. 19 caucuses.

The second attempt at a Clark County Democratic convention is scheduled for April 12. The party’s first try, at Bally’s on Feb. 23, ended without a vote because turnout exceeded capacity.

At a meeting of the Paradise Democratic Club on Wednesday, Clark County Democratic Chairman John Hunt announced that the university had agreed to waive the fee to use the Thomas & Mack Center for two days, which he said normally would cost $60,000.

The party still would have to pay for other costs associated with renting the facility, including paying for security and janitorial work, UNLV spokesman Dave Tonelli said.

The law, enacted last year, allows state or county political parties to use public buildings “for any purpose” during an election year.

But the law rankled some higher education officials.

“I just believe these parties are really damn near private institutions,” university system Chancellor Jim Rogers said. “They ought to pay the state for the things they use.”

“I just think it’s a bad state law for us to be using public facilities for political parties,” Regent Mark Alden said. “It’s just a bad law.”

Hunt said the party would have found a way to use the arena even if it had to pay, but he thought the convention was a legitimate public use.

“It’s a good thing for the community, just like when they used it for the debate and when they’ve used it in the past for other community events. I can’t answer for them, but I think they felt that this was something that was good for the community,” he said.

UNLV waived the cost of renting the Cox Pavilion to CNN in November for a nationally televised Democratic debate. University officials cited publicity and educational benefits to the public as the motives for the waiver.

Review-Journal writer Molly Ball contributed to this report. Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at lmower or (702) 383-0440.

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