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Elected officials shouldn’t seek new office before finishing term

Updated July 27, 2017 - 6:56 am

I believe in commitment. Yet I am a hypocrite. Hear me out.

Raise a ton of money and win an election and, in my view, unless there is a medical or family issue, you should finish your term.

Stavros Anthony won reelection to the Las Vegas City Council on April 4. Yet on July 10 he made it official that he is running as a Republican for Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen’s seat in 2018.

Frankly, I was disappointed in him.

To announce he wants to run for Congress not quite 10 weeks after he won the City Council seat smacks of shamelessness. Obviously, this has been planned for some time. Do you think the donors who gave him more than $204,000 for his re-election knew?

He’s in his final term because of term limits, so he wouldn’t be expected to raise money. But as he votes on zoning matters, money will likely flow his way. It’s the way of the world.

My proposal: If you announce you are running for another seat in the middle of your term, you should be required to resign the seat you hold.

Of course, this will never fly. Too many politicians run midterm for the same reasons as Anthony. To make sure they have a job if they lose. And because, as long as they hold an elected job, they’ll be able to raise money.

Democratic state Sen. Tick Segerblom is the latest to join the “I’ll run because I’ll have nothing to lose” herd. He’s running midterm for a seat on the Clark County Commission being vacated by fellow Democrat Chris Giunchigliani, who also has reached her term limit for the office.

Nevada lawmakers will never adopt my suggestion. They should, to level the playing field, but they won’t.

Lately, there seems to be a flood of retirements among elected officials.

County Commissioner Mary Beth Scow had family reasons when she said June 20 she would resign later in the month. That’s understandable. Gov. Brian Sandoval chose former Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson to replace her.

In 2015, Sandoval chose Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick to replace Commissioner Tom Collins. Another wise choice.

I was disappointed when District Judges David Barker and Jessie Walsh resigned their jobs in January, midway into their six-year terms.

Each has put in enough years as government employees in various jobs to retire. If they wish, they can work as senior judges and rake in additional sums over their already generous retirement benefits.

On the other hand …

Now here’s my inconsistency regarding judicial races. What makes me a hypocrite.

I am positive most voters are clueless when voting for judges.

I’m a longtime supporter of a merit system for judges, where a panel screens judicial applicants and recommends three to the governor, one is chosen and that person runs for retention. If they get the boot from voters, they’re out and another judge is selected through a merit system.

Nevada voters routinely reject that plan.

Yet because of midterm retirements, Nevada judges are often chosen through a merit system.

When Barker and Walsh resigned, Sandoval selected Tierra Jones and Mark Bailus as replacements after given choices screened by a panel.

Supreme Court Justice Nancy Saitta abruptly retired last August, saying she would work as a senior judge and focus on children’s issues. Sandoval named Washoe County District Judge Lidia Stiglich to replace Saitta.

Selecting qualified judges and officials is part of a governor’s legacy. Who wants to be the one who picks a judge or commissioner who falls into an ethics pit?

The late District Judge Elizabeth Halverson — my pick as top contender for most disgraced judge in Nevada’s recent history — was the voters’ choice. She was stripped of her robes by the Nevada Commission on Judicial Ethics. Pretty sure she wouldn’t have won a gubernatorial appointment.

Anyway, I know I’m inconsistent by asking that elected officials and judges finish their terms when I favor merit selection for judges.

Much like Popeye, “I yam what I yam.”

Jane Ann Morrison’s column runs Thursdays in the Nevada section. Contact her at jane@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0275. Follow @janeannmorrison on Twitter.

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