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Special election likely to replace Las Vegas councilman

Updated March 9, 2019 - 1:39 pm

As a regent and planning commissioner, Cedric Crear won a crowded special election to the Las Vegas City Council in March 2018, replacing Ricki Barlow, the embattled policymaker who stepped down two months earlier.

The council unanimously chose to launch the election to fill Barlow’s remaining 15-month term in the suddenly vacant Ward 5 seat instead of appointing his successor, another option available to it.

With first-term Councilman Steve Seroka resigning Monday, the second such blow to Las Vegas leadership in little over a year, council members again have signaled their desire to allow the voters to choose his replacement.

On March 20, policymakers are likely to call for a special election to fill the next two years of Seroka’s term, hoping that it might be rolled into the general election on June 11, four council members told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“The timing is good,” Councilman Bob Coffin said. “It’s the most economical.”

A special election would appear most immediately to benefit former Assemblywoman Victoria Seaman, whose campaign for the Ward 2 seat — paralleling an unrelenting Laborers union-backed recall effort against Seroka — has had a three-month head start.

In the wake of Seroka’s departure, which caught policymakers by surprise, Seaman has been endorsed by Councilwoman Michele Fiore, a former colleague in the Legislature scheduled now to appear at a Seaman fundraiser later this month.

“She is very effective, and she is amazing with her constituents,” Fiore said, clarifying that she did not support the recall and only got involved in the race when the seat opened.

Seroka has not returned multiple calls since his resignation. In his resignation letter delivered to City Clerk LuAnn Holmes, he said he was “proud of my record to constituents” and described his role as “humbling.” But curiously missing from the note: the reason why he stepped down.

Pressure or something else?

Coffin has speculated that Seroka’s exodus might have been the tipping point in the constant and aggressive political offensive led by proponents of developing on the defunct Badlands golf course. Seroka’s aversion to a build-out helped him get elected in the first place, but he paid for it in the form of negative mailers, opposition canvassing, lawsuits and the accusation that he damaged a pro-recall billboard truck.

“It’s like anything else, how much can you take?” Coffin said. “There’s politics, and then there’s intimidation.”

If the Laborers Local 872, Badlands developer Yohan Lowie, his allies and other political foes have effectively been successful in wresting control of the seat, Mayor Pro Tem Lois Tarkanian worried that it might have established a road map for single-issue interest groups to target an elected official.

“It’s not a good precedent,” Tarakanian said. “You have to be very careful.”

Coffin and Tarkanian said they were unaware of why exactly Seroka resigned.

But Fiore said the city’s legal counsel briefed policymakers Monday before the city disclosing the news, and she suggested there might have been a revelation.

“The recall had nothing to do with Seroka’s resignation,” she said.

Fiore said she could not expand further, however, noting that more would come to light about why he resigned, and Councilman Stavros Anthony said he was bound by attorney-client privilege from sharing the details.

And in contrast to Coffin’s and Tarkanian’s positive words about Seroka’s performance, Fiore was also clear: “I’m glad he’s gone.”

Hours before the announcement from City Hall, sources who were aware of the pending resignation were also churning out information that he had been subject of a human resources complaint, but the Las Vegas Review-Journal as of Friday had been unable to confirm what, if anything, was filed.

Moving forward

Seroka’s staff will remain on the job, and other council members say they will be available to keep continuity in Ward 2 until a replacement is elected, not unlike what occurred after Barlow’s resignation.

“I think everyone in the city wants to pitch in and make sure that ward is represented,” Anthony said.

While Tarkanian said she believed the departure might cause “some instability,” the general sense from policymakers is that the council will proceed undeterred and functional, backed by strong city leadership and staff. If there is any noticeable change, it might be that controversial items related to Ward 2 are delayed until Seroka’s successor arrives.

“Institutions move on,” Coffin said. “They heal themselves pretty quick.”

Fiore said council members could rely on Mayor Carolyn Goodman’s leadership as she downplayed Seroka’s departure as “a blip in the road.”

“The council is better and more cohesive than it’s ever been,” she said.

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

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