Even before the election filing period began in Henderson, rumors were flying around City Hall about potential candidates.
One rumor was that car dealer Joe Scala, who helped fund a failed attempt to recall Las Vegas Councilman Steve Ross last year, would challenge Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen.
Joe Scala filed as a mayoral candidate Tuesday, as the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, but it wasn’t that Joe Scala. In fact, the Joe Scala who filed for office once served time in prison.
Although the candidate’s campaign website indicates he is in the automotive business and “restores vintage cars for resale and private owners,” his name and involvement with vintage cars are his only ties to the other Joe Scala.
They are not related. They have never even met.
“This is a no-harm-no-foul,” the candidate said Thursday. “This stuff happens.”
The other Scala became an enemy of Ross after the councilman failed to support the extension of a waiver to allow his dealership to continue selling upscale, vintage used cars in an area originally set aside for new vehicle sales. Scala said it forced him to shut down his business and lay off about 30 workers on Dec. 24, 2010.
Attorney Maggie McLetchie, who represents the car dealer, said her client lives in Nevada but is not a Henderson resident, “so this was a total kerfuffle.”
“I don’t know why somebody who’s running for office doesn’t make sure people know who he is,” she added.
She described her client as a “senior citizen in his 70s” who is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of any car dealerships. The car dealer has never run for office.
“My client feels like he keeps stepping on political land mines when he’s done nothing wrong,” McLetchie said.
Hafen said Ross called him at the end of the year and said, “Hey, I’ve heard that Joe Scala is going to run against you.” The two also discussed the recall effort.
Even after hearing candidate Scala give a radio interview Saturday, Hafen believed his opponent was the car dealer involved in the Ross recall campaign. He continued to believe that until the Review-Journal contacted him Thursday.
“In this Southern Nevada area, who would have guessed, two Joe Scalas?” the mayor remarked.
Scala the candidate, who is 54 and describes himself as a construction supervisor, said he has been confused with the other Scala before.
In 2000, the Scala who is now running for mayor tried to sell a house in Henderson and discovered a lien against the property that listed the other Scala’s business.
“He righted that immediately,” candidate Scala said.
The candidate said this is his first bid for office.
“I’m not a public guy,” he said.
The candidate acknowledged that he spent five years in the federal prison system after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine. He was released in 1996.
“What I did, it was a one-time thing,” he said.
Henderson City Clerk Sabrina Mercadante said candidates must be “qualified electors” to run for office. As a registered voter, Scala is a qualified elector, she said.
During a telephone interview Thursday, Scala spoke at length about former Henderson Councilwoman Kathleen Vermillion, who resigned in January 2012 before finishing her first term.
“I never would have accepted that resignation,” Scala said.
Around that time, Vermillion faced allegations that she had misappropriated funds from the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, a charity she had founded.
“Kathleen Vermillion was actually instrumental in my decision to run,” the candidate said.
He said Vermillion was a “total stranger” when she helped him in a time of need.
“She’s just a very caring, giving, genuine person,” he said.
The mayor and City Council members serve four-year terms. Hafen, who was elected mayor in 2009, began serving on the Henderson City Council in 1987. He is 58.
Two new candidates joined the mayoral race Thursday: Clayton Simmons and Eddie “In Liberty” Hamilton.
The candidate filing period for the Henderson election ends Jan. 31. The primary election is April 2, and early voting starts March 16.
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at email@example.com or 702-384-8710.