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Commission District C primary draws 6 Democrats

Six Democratic candidates are running for the Clark County Commission in District C, the seat held since 2009 by term-limited Commissioner Larry Brown, a former Las Vegas city councilman.

The district covers the northwest Las Vegas Valley, and the winner of the Democratic primary June 9 will advance to face Republican Las Vegas Councilman Stavros Anthony in the November general election.

Former Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller carries the most name recognition among the candidate field, but others might also be known for political and civic involvement: Hunter Cain is a former aide to Rep. Dina Titus and Fayyaz Raja is a former chairman of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Democratic Caucus.

Clark County Public Works employee Gary Hosea sought the position four years ago and contract analyst Patsy Brown ran last year for Las Vegas City Council.

The only political newcomer is Jenny Penney, an office specialist for the county’s Department of Comprehensive Planning. But she also has a political connection: Attorney Derrick Penney, her husband, sought a seat last year on the Las Vegas City Council.

Patsy Brown

Age: 45

Background: Postal Service contractor; former Las Vegas City Council candidate

Why run and why now?

“I really enjoy community work; I always have,” Brown said, describing herself as motivated and seeking to create change. “People need help, real talk, not the political shenanigans and the paperwork.”

Response to coronavirus crisis:

Brown said the pandemic has struck at every facet of life from economic to mental health. With some neighbors out of medication and without transportation, and other basic needs not being met, she advocated a grassroots approach and she said she has been passing out food to those in need.

“Take a moment, let’s think about how we’ve been moving,” she said. “We have to take care of each other.”

Pitch to voters:

Brown is touting relatable leadership. She grew up wealthy due to her family’s successful scrap metal business — her best friends, she said, were a butler and chauffeur — but she also understands what it is like to be broke and is paying off student loan debt like many others.

“You’ve got to lead your people and you’ve got to know what type of leader people need at the moment,” she said. “My offer to the people: I’m the Cardi B, I’m going to give it 100. I am a lamb, but there is a lion up in here.”

She said that constituents do not feel included in the government process, but that they must also take responsibility: “I think sometimes the constituents, they just want to rant and rave and complain, like my children.”

Brown called for teamwork to assist the government, which she said needed help from coalitions of mom and pop stores, neighborhood watch groups and others. But she acknowledged, too, that people were tired of politicians with money and big connections running the show.

“That’s how the (expletive) we got here: politics as usual.”

Hunter Cain

Age: 38

Background: Former aide to Rep. Dina Titus, U.S. Army veteran

Why run and why now?

“There’s no hiding the successes that are here in Clark County,” Cain said. “However, with all of our success, there are still quite a few people being left behind. I want to be the commissioner that helps the underserved community.”

Response to coronavirus crisis:

Cain said it is the commission’s duty to spotlight lesser-known programs to help those who need those services and to give constituents “a message of hope” but also keep them informed.

“In a time like this, everyone is trying to get information and nobody seems to have it,” Cain said.

Pitch to voters:

Cain, who adopted two of 15 children to whom he has been a foster parent, said he plans to reform the county’s foster care system so that it is set up for kids to succeed once they age out.

He said he is committed to housing the homeless, particularly aging foster children and military veterans, by spending money on housing construction, easing density restrictions and consolidating nonprofits to have a seat at the table.

Cain is touting his experience as director of community outreach for Rep. Dina Titus, and he said his candidacy could be history-making if he became the first openly LGBTQ commissioner and the first African American to represent District C.

Cain said because the district had little unincorporated land and not much crime, he views the seat as a chance to make inroads on broad, overarching problems such as diversifying the economy through hemp and solar power.

“District C will allow me to focus on other issues countywide knowing my district is doing well,” he said. “It doesn’t take much attention.”

Gary Hosea

Age: 67

Background: Clark County Public Works Department employee

Why run and why now?

“I still believe that we need a commissioner full time,” Hosea said, adding that the county had gotten too big for part-time representation and also needed effective leadership. “Because it hasn’t been done in the past. Everyone has their back pockets out for developers and special interest groups so they can get reelected.”

Response to coronavirus crisis:

Hosea said social distancing guidelines needed to be more strongly enforced in county facilities and employees should be forced to wear masks, while county leaders must do a better job of explaining their decision making.

Pitch to voters:

Hosea vowed to bring a proposal to make commissioner a full-time job and to conduct a forensic audit of county finances and personnel, “because I see a lot of it as waste and fraud in the county.”

To his latter point, Hosea said some people have been working outside their civil service classification for five years. And he said the county needs more women in top roles.

The former Republican said he turned Democrat because there were more Democratic voters in District C and because he believes Democrats to be more open minded.

He said he wants to dig into the Department of Family Services to determine why neglected and abused children were being returned to bad homes. And he is a proponent of light rail and exploring other mass transit options such as an electrified trolley system.

Hosea also noted there was something to be said for his 20 years of experience inside the county: “In some ways you might say this, I know where the bodies are buried, I know what things need to be corrected.”

Ross Miller

Age: 44

Background: Former Nevada secretary of state, former Clark County deputy district attorney

Why run and why now?

“Frankly my reason for wanting to hold a seat has changed significantly as result of the COVID crisis,” Miller said. “All priorities will shift.”

Response to coronavirus crisis:

Miller said he has already been engaged in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, inviting experts on a series of calls and social media broadcasts to keep residents in District C informed.

He said communities were coming together to keep neighborhoods safe as economic hardships spur residential crimes like burglaries, adding that public safety is part of his coronavirus response strategy.

“The economic recovery can’t fall too far behind public safety as a top priority either, because they are tied together,” he said.

Pitch to voters:

Miller said he started the race intending to continue in public service, and that the coronavirus crisis only furthered that commitment. Unlike the secretary of state’s office, where he served for two terms beginning in 2007, he said the county commission allows for daily decisions that people can see translate into their lives.

“I think I have significant experience, certainly more than anybody in this race,” he said, pointing to his seat on a state economic development board created by Gov. Brian Sandoval during the Great Recession.

Beyond the defining issue of the moment, Miller said he wants to continue Commissioner Larry Brown’s legacy on parks and trails in the district, although he acknowledged money may be tight as revenues drop because of the coronavirus-related business closures.

He said Las Vegans were resilient, as they showed on 1 October, and he said he was optimistic about the county’s long-term outlook even if the months ahead will be difficult.

“It’s a single issue for the voters: who has the experience and leadership in this race I can trust as the representative of my district to make the right decisions as we try to emerge from this crisis,” he said.

Jenny Penney

Age: 33

Background: Clark County Department of Comprehensive Planning office specialist

Why run and why now?

Penney said there was much more that could be done to improve District C and, as someone who was born and raised in Las Vegas, she planned to be a voice for the community with a central focus on small business.

Response to coronavirus crisis:

County officials are projecting $1.1 billion in revenue losses over the next 18 months, but Penney said she believed that the recovery period will extend further and there needs to be a plan to address the worst-case scenario in the long term.

She said it was important that people find correct information, including where they can get necessities and food. And as the crisis spurs layoffs and furloughs for casino industry workers, Penney said those employees should be prioritized.

“We do need to focus on them and we need to help them out and see what we can do for them,” she said.

Pitch to voters:

Penney is highlighting her planning experience as giving her authority to understand compatibility, saying the county’s master plan was overdue for an update and homes should not be built as closely together.

“If planning isn’t done right then our schools get overcrowded and that’s a major problem right now,” she added.

Penney said the commission should also try to use its influence more to ensure the Clark County School District is running properly and said she would advocate for more police substations in the district.

Penney said she’s not planning to start a career in politics. “Everybody starts somewhere; I’m here to hear everyone.”

Fayyaz Raja

Age: 68

Background: Insurance agent, former chair of Asian American and Pacific Islander Democratic Caucus, former candidate for Assembly and Las Vegas City Council

Why run and why now?

“I got really so much opportunity from the town and the state of Nevada, I’ve got to give back,” Raja said, alluding to his life in Las Vegas since immigrating from Pakistan in the late 1970s.

Response to coronavirus crisis:

Raja said that he would communicate every county response to the crisis to constituents on a daily basis, whether by email or teleconferencing, and once the health crisis passed he would pivot to scrutinizing the budget for cuts and consolidations to address revenue shortfalls.

“We have to be very conscientious of that,” he said, adding that he would also hold daily briefings with local and state officials.

Pitch to voters:

Raja said professional politicians are often elected because of name recognition or family association, and that career lawmakers become “lazy.” He called himself “a people person,” not a celebrity, who started as rank-and-file worker in the casino industry and was promoted to an executive role.

“I just do it because I feel like it is very important to take care of the people that are less fortunate than you are,” he said about his candidacy. “So I believe that I will be very, very aggressive to get involved with the community.”

He said his civic involvement includes stints on Metropolitan Police Department’s Citizen Review Board and the Nevada Peacemaker Lions Club, and that he will pursue improving roads and public safety as well as ensure new developments have renewable energy components.

“You’ve got to go to the voters and ask them if they are going to decide to vote for you,” he said, adding that he was not interested in endorsements. “Simple as that.”

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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