Contrary to commentary, incumbents were following the law

To the editor:

In the July 6 Viewpoints section, a commentary by Philip Blumen of US Term Limits stated “several local officials who are term-limited deliberately sought re-election this year … knowing that their candidacies would be challenged under the clear meaning of the law, and knowing that taxpayers would be forced to foot the bill for this bogus test of the electorate’s will.”

This characterization of the events leading up to the pending court case, while conveniently casting the incumbents as villains, is completely inaccurate and intentionally misleading. Please allow me to set the record straight.

According to Mr. Blumen’s conspiratorial view, dozens of Nevada incumbents, ranging from state legislators, county commissioners, university regents and school board trustees to rural mosquito abatement district members, all got together and decided to seek re-election despite a clear term-limit prohibition in the hope that the law would be challenged and ruled invalid by the courts.

The truth is that I and all of these men and women throughout the state decided to seek re-election for one final term without even thinking about the possibility of being term-limited because of the undisputed legal opinions issued over the years by the attorney general, district attorneys and the Legislative Counsel Bureau, which stated that no incumbents would be prohibited from seeking re-election until 2009. In my case, the decision was made only after being repeatedly urged to run again by constituents throughout my district.

During the months prior to the May 2008 candidate filing period, all of these incumbents announced and publicized their candidacies in various ways. Not one word about term limits or any potential disagreement with the only known legal opinions was expressed by anyone, including the Review-Journal, the US Term Limits organization or the secretary of state. As a result, we all filed for re-election in May, and many other potential candidates decided not to file for our offices. Then, on the last day for filing, the secretary of state made it known for the first time that he believed we were term-limited and intended to file legal challenges to our candidacies.

Of course, it was then too late for anyone to make any other decision.

If anyone set up this scenario to provoke a challenge to the validity of Nevada’s term limits amendment, it clearly was not any of us who filed for re-election without any thought that the issue could or would be raised. We are now only responding to the challenges filed and are asking the Nevada Supreme Court to declare that the term limits amendment starts to preclude candidacies in 2009, rather than 2008, as it was understood by everyone over the past several years, including the chairman of the Nevada term limits committee which wrote the initiative.

Although I disagree with the concept of depriving the voters of the basic freedom of voting for whomever they choose, I have no intention of challenging the constitutionality or validity of Nevada’s term limits initiative, which was narrowly approved by 54 percent of voters in 1996. Those of us whose candidacies have been challenged are asking the Supreme Court only to consider whether it is fair or just to adopt a new interpretation as to when the limits take effect. Had this new interpretation been presented earlier, we could have obtained a timely resolution of the dispute.

Whatever the Supreme Court now decides, I will remain extremely grateful for the privilege of serving and representing the people of our wonderful community as a county commissioner for these many years.

Bruce Woodbury



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