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Early voter turnout low in Ward 2 special election

Voters flocked to the polls by the thousands, er, hundreds, for early voting in the special election to replace former Las Vegas Ward 2 Councilman Steve Wolfson, who resigned to become Clark County district attorney.

The anemic turnout in two days of early voting combined with the fact nine candidates are vying for the seat makes it difficult to predict which candidate will come out on top after election day voters add their ballots on Tuesday.

“Who knows,” candidate Bruce Gale said while standing outside a polling place at the Sahara Avenue Library with a sign promoting his candidacy.

Although Gale, an attorney and former certified public accountant, reported raising just $127 for his campaign, he said the low turnout and divided electorate gives any candidate hope.

“With such a small electorate, I think it is anyone’s election,” Gale said, pausing only to chat with the few voters who straggled to the polls. “I’m not going to give up, I’m not a quitter.”

Through two days of early voting 1,840 people cast ballots, 767 on Thursday and 1,073 yesterday. There are about 43,000 eligible voters in the ward. Election day Tuesday will be the last chance for voters to cast a ballot.

The presumed front-runners, based on limited available polling data with wide margins for error, are conservative former state legislator Bob Beers and city Planning Commissioner Ric Truesdell.

Beers and Truesdell were the early contribution leaders, with March 7 finance reports showing Truesdell raising nearly $100,000 in cash and in-kind donations and Beers raising about $44,000.

But Public Defender Kristine Kuzemka; investor Fayyaz Raja; Anthony Ruggiero, an assistant to Mayor Pro Tem Stavros Anthony; and retired Las Vegas police Capt. Bob Chinn have attracted significant contributions and mounted visible campaigns also.

“It is not going to take a whole pile of voters to win,” College of Southern Nevada political science professor Mark Peplowski said. “The people who score that eyeball-to-eyeball contact will do best.”

Some voters contacted at the polls showed up to vote against what they didn’t want, as opposed for pulling for a favorite.

Jim Sharbaugh, 75, would say only that he voted against Beers.

“I have never liked him,” Sharbaugh said. “My thoughts and his don’t seem to get along.”

Linda Mercier, a teacher, said she voted for Beers because she wanted a candidate without connections to the current City Council.

In addition to Ruggiero’s connection to Anthony, Truesdell has emphasized his closeness with Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and her husband, former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.

Mercier said she disagrees with some earlier council decisions, such as deciding to support construction of the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, aka the Mob Museum, with about $42 million in public money.

“That money could have gone so many other places; look at the homeless problem,” Mercier said.

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at
bspillman@reviewjournal.com.

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