Democratic candidates in all three Clark County Commission races amassed large campaign war chests compared to their Republican opponents.
It’s not surprising, given that two of the Democratic contenders are commission incumbents and one served as a county School Board trustee for 12 years, creating name recognition, political analysts say.
In contrast, the three Republican challenger have never held public office. One of them barely campaigned.
Democratic incumbent Chris Giunchigliani raised $533,000 for her District E contest, most of which appeared to be unnecessary. Her Republican opponent, Ben Boarman, did little campaigning and filed no campaign finance report with the county.
Incumbent Susan Brager, also a Democrat, collected $300,000, dwarfing the $3,500 raised by her Republican rival, Mitchell Tracy. Independent American Party candidate Jeff “Sarge” Durbin raised $5,700. Democrat Mary Beth Scow pulled in $511,000, far outpacing the $40,000 that Republican challenger Douglas Bell raised.
Scow, a three-term School Board member, is an established political veteran with the Mormon network behind her, said David Damore, a political science professor at University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
“Mary Beth Scow may not be an incumbent, but she might as well be,” said Chuck Muth, a conservative political consultant.
Damore said incumbents have a natural edge in fundraising because they are “a known commodity” with political clout to offer in return for donations. “As long as you haven’t done something totally stupid and gotten yourself in a scandal,” he added.
The County Commission is the most influential political body in the state, so donors are going to put their money on candidates with experience in elected office, Muth said.
Muth said Republicans failed to recruit strong candidates who could have capitalized on the anti-Democratic climate and made gains on the local level. This was their best chance to crack the all-Democratic County Commission, Muth said.
“The Republicans blew a tremendous opportunity,” Muth said.
Both Muth and Damore blame the turmoil within the local Republican Party, which they say has changed leaders several times in the past two years.
Bell said all of his campaign money came from his friends, family and his own pocket. Donors, even conservative ones, refused to give him anything, instead preferring to go with the name they knew — Scow — because they felt she had the best chance of winning, he said.
He called the half a million dollars that Scow raised “obscene” and said it gives Scow “the appearance of being bought and paid for.”
“I’ve been running a poor man’s campaign going door to door,” Bell said. “If she says she has been going door to door, I’ll match my suntan with hers any day.”
Scow said that, indeed, no one she has asked for a donation has refused.
But she insists she is beholden to no one because her list of donors is long and diverse — businesses and individuals, conservatives and liberals.
“I’ve worked really hard in the community for many years,” Scow said. “I’m an honest-hearted person. So I think people want to embrace that and support it.”
Contact reporter Scott Wyland at swyland@review journal.com or 702-455-4519.