For the first time in six years, it appears Las Vegas voters will be asked to oust a City Council incumbent midterm.
On Wednesday, local and state elections officials certified 1,105 signatures on a petition to force a recall of Councilman Steve Ross that needed 1,084 to succeed.
It’s the culmination of a battle that started last year with a dispute between Ross and car dealer Joe Scala and escalated into a full-scale recall campaign.
And it means that, barring a successful challenge to the petition, within 50 days voters in Ward 6 will be asked in a special election to vote for Ross to continue or to replace him with a potential challenger.
City Clerk Beverly Bridges said Ross has five working days to challenge the petition.
Ross wouldn’t commit to challenging the signatures, other than to say, “My team is looking at them right now.”
At least one challenger has jumped into the race. Longtime city Planning Commissioner Byron Goynes said Wednesday night he intends to run.
“I was planning to run in 2013,” Goynes said. “This just opens up the opportunity a little bit earlier.”
Goynes ran for the Ward 6 seat in a crowded, 11-candidate field that included Ross. In that race, Goynes won 607 votes, a third-place finish behind Mary Gillins, who received 1,291 votes, and Ross, who won with 1,489 votes.
Jennifer Taylor, who ran against Ross in 2009 and lost by 417 votes, wouldn’t rule out a special election rematch.
“I’m certainly keeping all my options open. It is very important to me that I represent my community,” Taylor said.
Those who jump into the race will face an incumbent determined to hang onto the City Council seat.
“There is no one that has worked harder or is going to work harder for the residents of Ward 6 than I am,” Ross said. “I look forward to anybody challenging me on that.”
Ross cited his work on a city ordinance aimed at making banks accountable to maintain vacant, foreclosed homes to city standards or face penalties including fines or misdemeanor charges.
He also said the recall is a waste of money, given that his term is scheduled to end little more than a year after the pending recall.
At that time, voters would have a chance to weigh in on his performance.
“We’re going to go to a special election. We are going to actually spend and waste probably about $50,000 of taxpayer resources on a special election, when I am up for re-election next year anyway,” Ross said.
He said he felt the recall was a “personal vendetta” by Scala.
Ross also accused signature gatherers of using repeat visits and phone calls to voters to pressure them into signing the petition for a recall.
Ross’ reputation has taken several hits since he was first elected in 2005, which recall organizers were eager to highlight during their campaign to gather the petition signatures needed to force the special election.
It is their second attempt after falling short by 25 signatures in August.
Among the Ross-related controversies was the dispute with Scala, who asked Ross to support a waiver that would allow him to sell upscale used cars in an auto mall that requires dealers to have an affiliation with a manufacturer to sell new vehicles.
Scala, who funded much of the recall signature drive, alleged that Ross would have supported the waiver had it come with a campaign contribution.
Ross denied that allegation, saying Scala didn’t fulfill the requirements such as getting support from neighboring businesses.
“He wouldn’t do what I asked him to do to make that happen,” Ross said. “He spent his resources trying to fight me instead of getting the doors open to his business.”
Recall organizers, however, say the Scala dispute is but one among many Ross transgressions.
They fault Ross for support of a new tavern near a YMCA and for going back on a promise to reject a City Council pay raise.
If the recall proceeds unchallenged, the special election would be the first since 2005, when incumbent Ward 1 Councilwoman Janet Moncrief lost to challenger Lois Tarkanian, who still holds the seat.
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-229-6435.