De La Garza on track for outright Justice Court win

Updated June 12, 2018 - 10:44 pm

A District Court hearing master appeared to earn a seat on the Las Vegas Justice Court on Tuesday, while a prosecutor and a former Nevada higher education regent were expected to square off for a second open spot on the bench in the general election.

With more than 51 percent of 75,846 votes as of 9:30 p.m., Melisa De La Garza led the race for Las Vegas Justice Court Department 15, a newly created position. Should she hold more than 50 percent of the vote after final results are tallied, De La Garza will win the seat outright.

“I’m privileged. I’m honored, of course,” said De La Garza, a District Court hearing master for the past eight years. “I am just grateful for all of those people out there who supported me and saw that I was the most qualified candidate. I hope they know that I will work hard for our community.”

De La Garza, a former prosecutor and private lawyer, led a field that included prosecutor Jeff Rogan and attorneys Craig Friedberg and Robert Kurth.

Prosecutor Elana Graham, a chief deputy district attorney, and James Dean Leavitt, who served on the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents from 2004 to 2016, advanced to November in the race for the Justice Court Department 1 seat.

Graham earned 47.4 percent of the vote, while Leavitt collected 35.4 percent with 78,593 votes counted as of 10 p.m. Vincent Ginn, the third candidate in the race, had 17.3 percent.

Each job pays an annual salary of a little more than $153,000, with a six-year term.

Graham and Leavitt are vying to replace Deborah Lippis, who stepped down in September after more than 25 years in the seat.

Graham, 34, chief deputy district attorney since 2011, said she was “encouraged and enthused by the results, and I want to thank everyone who voted for me. I feel like our campaign was successful in getting the message out that experience matters.”

Leavitt, 56, who has practiced law for 25 years, could not be reached late Tuesday.

While Leavitt said he has handled cases at the federal, district and justice court levels, Graham has tried tried dozens of felony and misdemeanor cases in Clark County.

In the Goodsprings justice of the peace race, two candidates with backgrounds in law enforcement collected the most votes.

Charles Lee, a 55-year-old Nevada Highway Patrol sergeant, and Larry Shupe, a 55-year-old retired police officer with 29 years on the force, appeared headed to a November general election.

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

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