65°F
weather icon Clear

Diaz, Clary duel over issues in Las Vegas Ward 3 race

The day before early voting began, Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Coffin on Friday chose not to back either of the two candidates vying to be his successor in Ward 3.

Coffin, who has represented the ward since 2011, said former Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz and Veterans Affairs project manager Melissa Clary are both “good people,” and he applauded Clary’s longtime neighborhood activism.

But legislative experience counts for much, he added, and “there is only one that has that.”

Still, he concluded, “I’m afraid if I endorsed one, I’d hurt them more than I’d help them.”

Diaz, a two-term state lawmaker and schoolteacher since 2002, won the April primary with one-third of the vote in a seven-candidate field. Clary finished second, behind by just 150 votes. Beyond other advantages, such as a list of backers that includes major labor and public safety unions and both U.S. senators from Nevada and having more access to cash than Clary, Diaz can tout her political pedigree.

In an interview with the Review-Journal this week, Diaz spoke about providing additional resources and allocating money for the first time to English-language learning in schools in the Hispanic-dominant ward and securing funding for roads through fuel tax increases. She later sent over a list of bills she had supported in Carson City on issues including job growth, infrastructure and education.

But Clary, 37, said she is challenging the assumption that political experience breeds the best municipal candidate, criticizing Diaz in a separate interview for not introducing one bill over eight years to assist the pervasive, cornerstone issue of the district: homelessness.

“It’s embarrassing to me,” Clary said.

With less than three weeks until the general election, Clary is seeking to flip Diaz’s experience into a point of weakness and raise questions about her effectiveness as a lawmaker to improve the ward, which partially overlaps her former Assembly district. Diaz underscored how little an outsider can understand about the effort required to attack high-expectation, broad issues affecting the state, made more difficult by recession-era budget cuts and a Republican governor.

It was a key reason she decided to run, Diaz said: to have more control over and accountability for her vision as a full-time policymaker than the much larger and complex state bureaucracy affords. She acknowledged, however, that she could have done more as a member of the Assembly.

“I guess I’ll own a little of I missed that homeless front issue in that tenure, but I am super excited that I do get to come back, get another bite at the apple in another capacity, being wiser, being more educated about the state and its workings and now eager to learn about how we as a city can be part of the solution in the area,” she said.

Neighborhood TLC

For Diaz, 40, her candidacy means the opportunity to give back hyperlocally to where she has lived for more than three decades and now raises a son. An overarching tenet of her campaign is building relationships for issues that she said have too long been addressed in a silo.

Diaz said she would like to meet with every principal of a school attended by children in the ward and use schools as a central hub for community outreach.

To reduce homelessness, she said her pre-established relationships with Clark County commissioners would provide a head start in coordinating efforts toward getting nonprofit, federal, state and local officials involved to first identify the services homeless people need before making a case for wide-ranging action.

“I just think there needs to be a more sophisticated plan,” she said.

It is one major area where Diaz and Clary agree, although Clary is less complimentary about the city’s homeless courtyard project as a starting point, particularly as the city struggles to find money. She questions whether tax dollars can continue to support it.

“There’s so many steps that have been missed as they’ve been going down this road that that’s been half the challenge,” Clary said. “There’s no solid baseline to start a plan from.”

Clary has made herself known as a historic preservationist and advocate for the Huntridge community, and she plans to care for her neighborhoods block by block.

“There are some places in our ward that look like a third-world country,” she said.

She said she wants to collaborate with police officers to raise their profile in the ward, revamp neighborhood watch training programs and incorporate so-called neighborhood pride zones, where code officers inform homeowners of violations in particularly bad areas and then help them resolve issues during cleanup days before issuing citations.

Diaz said her plans will have a positive impact on the ward. Namely, she will capitalize on opportunities for the district to carve out spaces sorely lacking for families, such as more swimming pools, after-school programs and sports activities.

She vowed to try to avoid cuts to senior citizen programs in recreation centers and embrace technology to track and reduce crime in neighborhoods while championing access to the arts to complement the Arts District.

“But I don’t see it as me being the lone soldier doing it,” she said. “I think I need everybody working shoulder to shoulder for us to get to it faster.”

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

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
THE LATEST
Facebook tightens political ad rules, but loopholes remain

Facebook is tightening its rules around political advertising ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, acknowledging previous misuse. But it’s not clear if it will be enough to stop bad actors from abusing its system.

Dem hopefuls spend big to draw small-dollar donors — or drop out

WASHINGTON — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock was told how he could qualify for the next presidential debate, but it didn’t make much sense: Spend $60. Attract a $1 donor. And repeat, maybe thousands of times.