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Las Vegas Municipal Judge George Assad advances to general election

The incumbent judge many considered vulnerable ran away with his race while the incumbent judge considered a lock for another term barely survived Tuesday's primary election.

Welcome to democracy.

Las Vegas Municipal Judge George Assad earned more than 28 percent of the vote for Department 3, easily out­pacing five challengers who thought he was ready to be toppled.

Heidi Almase did well enough to face Assad in June's general election with more than 19 percent of the vote. She was unavailable for comment.

Assad, despite receiving dismal scores on the biennial Judging the Judges survey conducted by the Review-Journal in 2010, advanced with nearly 12,000 votes.

"These things are so unpredictable," Assad said Tuesday night. "I'm grateful to voters. The real campaign starts right now. I'm going to go to church and thank God for all my blessings and put it in the hands of voters."

Assad, the father of Anthony Carleo, who faces charges in December's Bellagio heist, is in his 10th year as a municipal judge. Appointed to the bench in 2002, he is the first and only municipal judge in Las Vegas of Middle Eastern descent.

Responding to his survey scores, in which more than 60 percent of attorneys polled said he was a less than adequate judge, Assad invited members of the media and the public into his courtroom.

"I think the best way to judge a judge is to watch him or her at work in the courtroom," he said. "I invite journalists and members of the public to my courtroom any time. It's open to the public."

In Department 5, 14-year Judge Cedric Kerns edged out perennial candidate Bruce Gale by 1,099 votes, or less than 3 percentage points.

"That was close, wasn't it?" said Kerns, a well-respected jurist who helped establish the innovative Youth Offender program. "That's the thing about elections. I'm just glad we worked so hard and didn't take anything for granted. I'm thrilled voters came through. What an exciting election. Bruce has run so many times, he's starting to get name recognition."

Gale did not answer a call seeking comment.

In the open Department 2 seat -- left vacant by the retirement of former Chief Judge Betsy Kolkoski -- two well-known families in the legal community prevailed among six candidates.

Susan Roger, a deputy district attorney married to District Attorney David Roger, took the most votes with nearly 38 percent, followed by Sonny Bonaventure with nearly 30 percent of the vote.

Bonaventure is the son of former District Judge Joseph Bonaventure and brother to Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Joe Bonaventure.

From Roger's perspective, voters will have a seemingly easy choice in June. The question she will ask them is, "Do you want a career prosecutor who protects the community or a defense attorney who protects defendants?"

Roger has been a prosecutor for 11 years. She said she intends to work hard until June.

Bonaventure, a deputy public defender, said he was "thrilled" with the results.

"I'm the best candidate and I'm going to continue to do what I've been doing."

Municipal judges serve six-year terms and earn about $150,000 annually. Their jurisdiction is limited to misdemeanor cases in which the harshest penalty they can hand down is six months in the county jail.

Contact reporter Doug McMurdo at
dmcmurdo@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5512.

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