The night of Nevada’s primary, I was at the Smith Center watching “Cabaret,” listening to the cynical song “Money.” Like the emcee, I agree that money makes the world go ‘round.
Particularly in elections.
The June 14 vote marked the first time nonpartisan candidates, in primaries with at least three people, could win election outright with more than 50 percent of the vote. In previous nonpartisan Nevada primaries with at least three candidates, the top two finishers advanced to the November general election regardless of how many votes the first-place finisher received.
Among the eight candidates who won outright in primaries with at least three people, all but one raised the most money.
In the Board of Regents race in District 8, Las Vegas attorney John Moran won after spending $206,065, according to June 10 campaign finance reports. Expenses include both cash and in-kind donations.
He spent a stunning $25.18 on each of the 8,183 votes he nabbed. And it worked. He received 55 percent of the vote in a three-person campaign, so his race is over under the new election laws passed by the 2015 Legislature.
Raising money was not a problem for soon-to-be Regent Moran. His contributors included gaming figures. His father, John T. Moran Jr., has been a gaming commissioner since 2004. His late grandfather, John Moran Sr., was a popular sheriff.
Regent Mark Doubrava was another outright winner with 10,864 votes, or 56 percent, in his three-person race. He raised a more modest $24,200 and spending $14,811, or $1.36 per vote.
The surprise among regents was in District 6, where incumbent Michael Wixom spent about one-third of his modest warchest of nearly $31,000 for 3,975 votes to win 28 percent, coming in second to Patrick Carter, an academic director. Carter spent absolutely nothing, yet received 4,801 votes, or 34 percent of the vote, in a five-person race.
Because no candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote in their race, both men move on to November’s general election. Carter wins the Thrifty Candidate Prize for advancing without spending a dime.
The lone nonpartisan race in which the top fundraiser didn’t win outright was Clark County School Board, District C. Adam Johnson, a Teach for America director, outspent incumbent Linda Young. He spent $36,079 compared to her $23,436. Yet she won with 52 percent. He finished second in the six-person race, with 20 percent.
That was an anomaly.
Justice of the peace races had some interesting results, with three races decided.
Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melissa Saragosa won re-election to Department 4 outright in her three-woman race with 59 percent of the vote. She spent $85,041 and raised $91,332. Her 48,225 votes cost $1.76 each.
In Department 9, Justice Joe Bonaventure’s $84,660 in expenses meant he paid $1.66 per vote in winning re-election with 60 percent. His two opponents didn’t seem serious, each spending less than $7,000.
In Department 14, challenger Amy Chelini won with 62 percent. She raised $127,026, spending $2.38 per vote. Her strongest opponent, incumbent Conrad Hafen, ponied up 9 cents per vote. He self-destructed May 23 when he ordered a county public defender handcuffed after holding her in contempt for continuing to argue with him. The subsequent outcry made it an easy guess he was a goner. The third candidate, Phung Jefferson, repeatedly files for office, spends a little money — mostly her own — and is eliminated.
Fundraiser invitations are on the way from winners who still have debt. And after a brief pause, November’s races will begin the money chase again.
The “Money” song goes on.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column runs Thursday. Leave messages for her at 702-383-0275 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Find her on Twitter: @janeannmorrison