Bull session might just make Collins more vulnerable

When the county commissioners prayed Tuesday, surely some were silently praying Tom Collins wasn’t packing heat.

Clark County’s most “colorful” commissioner can’t seem to keep out of the news lately.

On July 3, he decided to try a takedown of a salt cedar tree with a gun and a chain saw. If North Las Vegas police, who know who he is, felt the need to pull their weapons and handcuff him that night, surely that says something. And alcohol seems to be a long-standing pattern with the Democratic commissioner.

Despite that, I wrote in July he was still a strong favorite to win re-election, mainly because his GOP challenger lacked money, and money is never a problem for an incumbent commissioner.

Now, I’m not so sure.

On Saturday afternoon, Collins’ bull got out of a pen and injured a woman who required stitches.

Fortunately for Collins, he was in Logandale at the time and no alcohol was involved.

But it seems like a small door has opened for Republican Ruth Johnson, a former School Board member.

She lacks money to spread the word that Collins now has three misdemeanors pending. And that doesn’t count the three he pleaded guilty to decades ago – two battery charges and a reckless driving charge involving alcohol.

He’s now facing misdemeanor charges of unlawfully discharging a firearm within city limits and disturbing the peace. Plus, he faces a third charge of “livestock at large.”

Collins said he’d brought the bull into town for a few days to see a vet. He doesn’t know how the bull escaped, but legally the bull is still his responsibility. (A cow also got out but was better behaved.)

Do these recent incidents make a difference in his race? Maybe.

He’s already pleaded to three other misdemeanors in 1982, 1988 and 1992. Now he faces three more.

Six misdemeanor charges is a goodly number for most elected officials, but it requires a felony conviction to block him from running.

The timing is bad for him. He faces one arraignment in September and a second in October. Both will draw unwanted media coverage just before the November election.

Collins believes he will win because he gets recreation centers, bridges and traffic lights at intersections for his district.

“People like me because of who I am. I’m a pothole kind of guy, I get ditches fixed. I get things done. I’m honest, and I’m a little bit of a rounder.”

Conceding he is not a monk, “What I do on my own time is nobody’s business.”

Johnson disagrees that his behavior is irrelevant. She said that since the shooting incident, she has received some unsolicited donations and has seen more hits on her website. She’s going to continue pushing that these last two incidents, along with a dozen issues she’s outlined on her website, demonstrate Collins’ frequent lack of judgment.

On Wednesday, she emailed a fundraising letter declaring, “I can beat him. And that’s no Bull.” She said she offers a choice between honest, responsible and effective leadership “or four more years of what has become nothing more than a sideshow.”

She hopes voters will look deeper at some of his ethical challenges, such as his effort to lobby other elected officials for pay, until that was shot down by the Nevada Ethics Commission.

Yet she has an uphill battle in District B, where Democrats outnumber Republicans and union workers will walk door to door to guarantee a pro-union vote.

If he loses, Collins already has a plan. “I’ll make a lot more money as a lobbyist, I’ll make three times what the county pays.”

Collins has enough behavioral issues and controversial positions that he could be vulnerable.

“Could” is a slight improvement for Johnson, since before I declared he was practically a shoo-in.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at or call her at 702-383-0275. She also blogs at


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