Twenty years ago marked the first time I wrote about Tom Collins’ drinking.
He was running for the Assembly and, in my naiveté, I thought North Las Vegas voters would deny him an open seat because of his DUI arrest and two prior battery convictions.
Yet Collins won.
Twenty years later, and I’m asking him about his alleged July 3 shooting incident, where North Las Vegas police said, “Alcohol was involved.”
This time, I’m less naive. I believe his shooting incident is unlikely to make a whit of difference in his campaign, and he’s still likely to be re-elected to a third term on the Clark County Commission this November.
His Republican opponent, former School Board member Ruth Johnson, has raised a pitiful $6,150 so far and already spent most of it.
Collins has raised $237,000 and spent $143,000.
The Independent American candidate has not raised or spent anything.
Despite her 12 years on the School Board, Johnson didn’t realize how hard fundraising against a sitting county commissioner voting on issues all the time would be. She said she has money for one, maybe two, mailers. Hers will be a grass-roots campaign. If perchance she wins, it will be a genuine upset.
Johnson’s website names 12 concerns she has about Collins, who she believes is an embarrassment to District B.
What sparked her to run were his rude profanity-laced comments about residents critical of the Clark County Shooting Park, which are posted without bleeps on her website at www.ruthjohnson
Collins doesn’t mention her on his website at www.tom-collins.com.
Johnson is waiting to see if the attorney general’s office will file weapons charges against Collins before the shooting incident becomes her 13th reason to run against him. But without money to hammer the issues, even if he’s charged, she won’t get much mileage without being able to send out mailers. I’ve learned over the years that someone can get tons of negative press but people who don’t pay attention to local news still won’t have a clue about it.
Plus, many like the plain-spoken everyman who calls himself “just a cowboy” and like what he’s done for the district.
As he said Tuesday, he’s been elected seven times. “If the R-J has to ask about something from 20 years ago, they should also remember, I’ve ‘fessed up to them.”
True. In court, he admitted punching out a man in a road rage incident. He pleaded guilty in 1992 to misdemeanor reckless driving in the DUI case where he and two others were injured. In exchange, two charges of felony reckless driving and drunken driving were dismissed.
His 1984 misdemeanor battery involved a co-worker at Nevada Power Co. His 1988 misdemeanor battery involved a road-rage incident where the victim said he was hit 20 times in the face by Collins.
“I haven’t done anything that Floyd and Ralph haven’t done, and I’ve been honest about it,” Collins said.
He was referring to the late state Sen. Floyd Lamb and former Sheriff Ralph Lamb, whose rough-and-tumble life has inspired the CBS fall television show “Vegas.”
Collins’ latest headline-grabber occurred about 11 p.m. July 3 when North Las Vegas police responded to his home after shots were heard. A witness told the Review-Journal that seven shots were fired.
Collins said he couldn’t talk about the July 3 incident, although clearly he was aching to tell his side. “If they file something, then I can talk about it.”
But Johnson was willing to comment.
“If that shooting had involved a minority person and six officers showed up with guns drawn, they would not be walking free today. They would not be afforded the option of who is going to prosecute,” she said, referring to District Attorney Steve Wolfson, who declared a conflict and shipped the case to Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto for a decision.
“The frustrating thing is that people say: ‘It’s just Tom Collins,’ ” she said. “There’s got to be at least a choice, someone who can hold public office and stay out of trouble.”
I had some serious doubts about Collins’ grasp of ethics last year when he took a contract to lobby other elected officials to persuade them to side with Veolia Transportation, then vying for a $600 million contract.
He asked the Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion to confirm that it was OK if he lobbied other elected officials as long as it wasn’t a board he sat on and the elected officials weren’t county commissioners. In a 4-3 vote, the commissioners didn’t approve his actions.
Then Collins’ consulting ethics became a moot point. The county passed an ordinance banning Clark County commissioners, their spouses and members of their households from being paid lobbyists or consultants involving any governments or public agencies in Clark County. Nothing now is pending before the Ethics Commission involving Collins.
My best guess is that District B voters will once again favor the rootin’ tootin’ cowboy even if he is charged with a weapons violation.
After all, nobody was hurt.
The majority of voters in his district have shown for 20 years they know what they’re getting when they elect Tom Collins, and they’re fine with it.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at 702-383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/Morrison.