Mayoral candidates disappoint pundits by failing to flub

It’s no deep, dark secret. People who attend stock car races are waiting for the Big Crash. The same holds true of people attending political events.

Mayoral hopefuls Carolyn Goodman and Chris Giunchigliani were big disappointments Wednesday at the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce event. Neither crashed and burned.

Neither said something so stupid it would make a great political television ad, that is, by the other side.

Neither lost her cool.

Neither embarrassed herself.

Neither came across as witchy.

Neither could be declared the hands-down winner.

As a result, the event at the Four Seasons Hotel becomes a one-day story instead of a flub that every local pontificator feels the need to evaluate and interpret.

What I picked up from people afterward is that they think Las Vegas has two good candidates for mayor, and neither is a dud. That doesn’t hold true in a lot of races.

The women were on their best behavior, covering what has become familiar ground since this marked the 17th public event they have attended together.

Goodman was more personality, throwing out quips, making comic faces, waving her arms.

Giunchigliani was more the wonk, trying to tell everything she knows about a subject, as fast as she can.

Giunchigliani clearly knew the details of how government works better than Goodman, who has never held office.

Questions asked ended up telling us what we already knew. Goodman is a less-government-is-better type, while Giunchigliani, a county commissioner and former assemblywoman, is labor-friendly.

Giunchigliani’s husband, political consultant Gary Gray, may be able to pull out some anti-labor quotes from Goodman to gin up the labor vote, but that’s about it.

Goodman opposes binding arbitration in negotiating union contacts for city employees.

Giunchigliani, former president of the Clark County and state teachers unions, said the threat of binding arbitration keeps both sides continuing to negotiate.

While the chamber crowd is nothing if not pro-business, the applause for each woman ended up being fairly even. Giunchigliani considered that a victory of sorts, since she stood before the crowd of 200 as the pro-labor candidate.

The questions were specific, and Giunchigliani’s answers were more specific than Goodman’s, who frequently answered, "I would study it." That was her answer when asked if she supported converting the public employees retirement system to a defined benefit, one of the chamber’s big issues. Giunchigliani would not support that.

Visually, the women resembled a black-and-blue bruise. Goodman was in black and Giunchigliani in blue. But they both placed nice, taking only subtle swipes. Their zingers were more like bumper kisses.

Goodman took a swipe at Giunchigliani’s support for taking money from the police department’s reserve to help pay county bills. But not in a mean way.

It was, in a word, civil.

Even in the post-event interviews, the women were civil. Giunchigliani complimented Goodman, saying her opponent has a good personality and showed it, while she herself demonstrated leadership and passion.

Goodman was equally polite and complimentary.

Was this event a turning point in the campaign, as some expected? No way.

Goodman doesn’t know the intricacies of city issues and government. Of course, the current mayor, Goodman’s husband of 49 years, skated to a relatively easy victory 12 years ago without knowing much about city issues.

Will the candidates get tired, make mistakes, become edgy between now and June 7? Will the public civility be stripped away? Is the Big Crash still a possibility?

Rest assured, those blackguards in the news media (including me) are hoping so. But we’re a terrible lot. We not only hope for the Big Crash. We’re hoping to cause it.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.

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