In her first bid for elected office, Carolyn Goodman crushed a politically experienced rival Tuesday and established a Goodman dynasty at Las Vegas City Hall.
The news reached her as she awaited results at campaign headquarters with her husband, Mayor Oscar Goodman.
"She’s got it! She’s got it!" gushed a supporter who ran into the room, setting off cheers among the crowd.
"It is the most exciting time," Carolyn Goodman said, promising to use her time as mayor to build on her husband’s efforts.
"The most beautiful thing about this night is that it was done with class and dignity," she said.
With all precincts reporting, Goodman captured 61 percent of the vote. Her opponent, Chris Giunchigliani, had 39 percent.
The mood among the 300 or so supporters gathered at Goodman’s campaign headquarters was confident and relaxed throughout the evening. Several polls had showed her comfortably ahead.
Her victory was on par with the wins Oscar Goodman racked up in his mayoral races.
In 1999, for example, he cruised to his first electoral victory with a 64 percent to 36 percent rout of his opponent.
Over the next 12 years, the former mob attorney became the face of Las Vegas, particularly when it came to promoting downtown redevelopment, with a signature style that included showgirls, martinis and a big mouth that was prone to say just about anything.
Carolyn Goodman, whose background is in education and counseling, has promised to be a more sober mayoral character, although she has made it clear that her priorities will closely track her husband’s.
Oscar Goodman, meanwhile, wondered whether he would suffer an identity crisis now that he’s on his way out.
"I have no idea who I am anymore," he quipped after his wife’s acceptance speech. "I don’t know if I’m the mayor or the ex-mayor."
When asked what he’ll do after he leaves office, he said, "I’m going to be her showgirl."
Carolyn Goodman, 72, is scheduled to take office July 6. The next mayor cannot accept outside employment and will be paid an annual salary of about $130,000 during the four-year term.
This is Giunchigliani’s first electoral loss. She first ran for office in 1990, winning a seat in the Assembly, and she is now in her second term on the Clark County Commission.
Giunchigliani, 56, and her "G Unit," as her supporters dubbed themselves, kept up a positive attitude as the gloomy results rolled in. They maintained hope for good news and cheered Giunchigliani as she gave a television interview, saying, "We are not ready to give up!"
At least, they weren’t until shortly after 9 p.m., when it was clear that Goodman’s commanding lead would hold. Giunchigliani called to concede.
But that doesn’t mean she lost, she told her cheering supporters at her campaign headquarters.
"We didn’t lose tonight. We won," she said. "I don’t see this as a loss. It’s another opportunity."
The Goodman name was a huge factor in the race, she said: "Extremely. I was running against a name and an incumbent."
When a reporter asked about Goodman’s win, someone in the crowd scored some laughs by calling out, "Oscar won."
Giunchigliani urged people to start turning their attention to the 2012 presidential and U.S. Senate elections and to the city issues raised during the campaign. She also said she hopes to work with the new mayor.
"I’m still a county commissioner," Giunchigliani said. "No matter what, I’m not going away."
Giunchigliani knew all along that she was running against the Goodman "brand." She criticized it by saying that more redevelopment should have taken place during the mayor’s tenure, and tried several "change"-themed approaches in an effort to get voters to look at the region’s economic woes as a reason to pick someone new for the highly visible mayoral post.
The economy came up frequently in campaign conversations. Both candidates promised to promote job growth and business recruitment, to address the impact of foreclosures on neighborhoods and to streamline city services.
As Election Day neared, the gloves came off. Giunchigliani mocked Goodman as unqualified to be anything except the mayor’s husband. She also tried to get traction out of a city mailer about budget matters and a robocall by Oscar Goodman urging people to vote. The mailer was paid for by the city; the robocall came from the campaign. Neither advocated for his wife, but Giunchigliani’s camp said he was using his office to help her on the sly.
Goodman’s campaign dredged up a clip of Giunchigliani arguing with University Medical Center officials and tried to make her look shrill and undiplomatic. They also took aim at Giunchigliani’s reputation as a liberal Democrat with strong union ties.
Originally, 18 people signed up for the race to be the next mayor. Goodman and Giunchigliani jumped in just before filing closed, injecting even more electricity into a race that was going to be closely watched.
Both were immediately considered strong contenders — Goodman because of her husband and her work turning the Meadows School into a community institution, Giunchigliani because of her long record in the Legislature and on the County Commission.
Still, Giunchigliani had to work hard to make the general election. She edged out fellow County Commissioner Larry Brown in the April primary by 15 votes while Goodman maintained a strong lead in polling throughout the entire campaign.
Reporters Mike Blasky and Lawrence Mower contributed to this report. Contact reporter Alan Choate at email@example.com or at 229-6435.