Mayoral hopefuls on binge

If you live in Henderson, you can’t escape them.

Their fliers clog your mailbox. Their smiling faces stare out at you from signs and billboards across the city. For the first time ever, you’re not even safe at home in front of the television.

Welcome to the most expensive campaign for mayor in Henderson history.

According to the latest round of campaign finance reports, which were due Tuesday, the five candidates to replace term-limited Mayor Jim Gibson have combined to spend nearly $550,000, $490,000 of it since Jan. 1.

One explanation for the spending binge is simple competition, something Nevada’s second-most populous city simply has not seen in its municipal elections over the past decade or so.

Then there are the expensive new tactics being employed by some of the candidates, including an unprecedented foray into television by Andy Hafen and Steve Kirk.

Hafen was first to take the plunge, with a $70,000 television buy. Kirk quickly answered with a similar investment in TV spots of his own.

"We’re going to match what Andy does," Kirk said.

Kirk actually leads the pack in total campaign spending. The 10-year member of the City Council has invested more than $255,000 this year and $278,400 overall.

He has out-raised the competition by a wide margin, assembling a war chest of more than $426,000, including $118,200 since Jan. 1.

Hafen reports $126,400 in contributions and $186,100 in expenses this year. He didn’t log any fundraising or money spent in 2008.

The three other candidates — former City Councilwoman Amanda Cyphers, former Henderson Police Chief Michael Mayberry and personal injury attorney Richard Sipan — have combined to raise about $69,000 and spend about $50,000 since Jan. 1.

The election will be held Tuesday. Early voting is under way and lasts through Friday.

One political observer said this campaign could mark the start of a new era for Henderson: the first metropolitan-style election in a city where small-town campaigns once carried the day.

The departing mayor might quibble with that.

Though Gibson never appeared on a general election ballot or drew a serious challenge during his 12 years in office, he didn’t take re-election for granted either.

Gibson faced two unknown candidates in 2005, and he trounced them in the primary, in part by spending more than $200,000 compared with their $5,610 combined.

He was unopposed in 2001 but still raised $125,000 and spent more than $70,000.

Gibson was traveling on Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.

Until this year, Hafen’s only previous television commercial experience was an appearance in spots for his daughter Tessa’s unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2006.

"You can’t stand to see yourself on TV. I think that’s pretty universal," Hafen said of the experience.

But after nearly losing his council seat in the 2007 primary election, Hafen said, he isn’t taking any chances this time around.

"It was a wake-up call for me. I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked before."

That said, the six-term council member noted he is actually spending less money this time than he has in the past, in part because raising funds in this economy has proved difficult. "The contributions have dried up," he said.

The numbers bear that out, at least in part.

At this stage of his last run for City Council in 2007, Hafen had raised about $278,500 but spent $118,300. By this time in 2003, he had raised $218,000 and spent $176,700.

Mayberry, in his first bid for elected office, has raised $35,400 and spent $29,000 so far. Depending on how he does in the primary and how the contributions come in, he said, he expects his campaign to top out at $75,000 to $100,000.

"We’re not Andy Hafen. We’re not Steve Kirk," he said.

Cyphers served on the City Council for 12 years and then worked as a political consultant after she left office in 2007. She said she knows how to run a lean, mean campaign.

Good thing, too, because she has raised less than $33,000 since Jan. 1 and less than $70,000 overall. In her last race as an incumbent councilwoman in 2003, she had almost $210,000 with which to work.

She has spent about $20,000 on her mayoral campaign. "I feel I’m keeping up with the big dogs," she said.

The only candidate not spending money is Sipan, who considers himself the only outsider in the race.

"You won’t even see any campaign signs," he said.

Sipan’s campaign finance report indicates he has spent about $847 of his own money and accepted no contributions since Jan. 1. He cannot believe how much his competitors have shelled out.

"Where is all this money coming from?" he said. "I can at least credibly say I’m not beholden to anyone. I don’t owe anyone a favor."

Contact reporter Henry Brean at or 702-383-0350.

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