North Las Vegas may lack the excitement of a mayoral contest this year. But that doesn’t mean the city’s municipal election will be short on drama.
There’s plenty in the Ward 4 City Council race, where incumbent Richard Cherchio is engaged in a nasty battle with the city’s public safety unions, who have been campaigning against him. The feud has overshadowed the contest between the councilman and his chief rival in the race, dentist Wade Wagner.
Things also are heating up in the Ward 2 race, where the son of a term-limited city councilman is running to replace his father against the daughter of a former councilman, and five other candidates.
And four women are competing this year to make history as the city’s first female Municipal Court judge.
The primary election is Tuesday. In races in which no candidate wins a majority, the top two finishers move on to the June 7 general elections.
Cherchio, who was appointed to the seat in 2009, raised the most money among all the city’s candidates this year, with a war chest of $79,289 to Wagner’s $55,514. A third candidate, Goldie Pitchford, raised no money.
More than half of Wagner’s tally came from Las Vegas Valley public safety unions. North Las Vegas’ police and fire unions have endorsed him and have gone door to door to campaign against Cherchio, who has voted in favor of cuts to public safety and butted heads with union leaders during contract concession talks.
Cherchio said his priority since being appointed to the council has been to balance the financially struggling city’s budget for the sake of its residents.
But Wagner said Cherchio and three other council members voted to spend the city’s money recklessly when they recently supported paying an architectural firm $500,000 to start developing a master plan for an “international business community” in the city.
Cherchio and others who supported the deal said the plan would attract new businesses to the city.
The firm, Gensler, pulled out of the deal, citing the political controversy that surrounds it. Mayor Shari Buck and others had criticized the plan as a waste of money at a time when the city is struggling. Buck cast the lone council vote against funding the plan. She also has endorsed Wagner in the race.
Meanwhile, Cherchio’s campaign manager, Bradley Mayer, has called Wagner a puppet of the unions who, if elected, will be beholden to them.
“He’s been sitting idly by while he lets those guys do his dirty work,” he said.
Wagner said he’s proud to have the unions’ support but will be beholden to no one but North Las Vegas taxpayers. He has no control over the unions’ campaign against Cherchio, he said, and has been focusing on his own.
“I have tried to keep my campaign positive and about me,” he said.
North Las Vegas City Council members serve four-year terms and earn $41,827 a year.
In Ward 2, William E. Robinson II, son of seven-term Councilman William Robinson, is believed to be among the crowded race’s front-runners. The younger Robinson, who often sat at his father’s side during council meetings as a child, said he wanted to fill the “void in leadership” that would be created upon his father’s departure.
He has been criticized for using campaign signs identical in design to those his father used. Some of his opponents have said he’s trying to confuse voters, who could mistakenly believe they are voting for his father.
But Robinson said his father has made enemies as well as friends during his years on the council, so any confusion could be considered a blessing or a curse.
Citizens for Responsible Leadership and Ethics, a political action committee formed by two employees of the North Las Vegas Fire Department, recently sent voters a flier that highlighted the younger Robinson’s 2009 misdemeanor battery conviction in a domestic violence case involving his girlfriend. Robinson and the woman, who is now his fiance, said it was an isolated incident and a private issue that has been worked out between the two.
The city firefighters union has endorsed Robinson’s opponent Pamela Goynes-Brown, who also comes from a family with a legacy on the council.
Goynes-Brown, an assistant principal and the daughter of Theron Goynes, who spent 20 years on the council, said that legacy helped influence her to run for office.
Other candidates in the race are Tanya Flanagan, a web content administrator for Clark County; Carl Gatson, a budget coordinator; Linda Meisenheimer, a property manager; Anthony D. Snowden, a nonprofit program director; and John Stephens III, a library reference assistant.
North Las Vegas voters also will elect the city’s first female Municipal Court judge this year.
The four women campaigning for the Department 1 seat, from which Judge Warren Van Landschoot is retiring, are Donishia Campbell and Laurie Diefenbach, both Clark County public defenders; Marsha Kimble-Simms, an attorney with her own law firm; and Catherine Ramsey, a North Las Vegas deputy city attorney in the criminal division.
The city’s municipal judges serve six-year terms and earn $148,438 a year.
Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0285.