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EDITORIAL: An eventful 24 hours on the Nevada political scene

The intoxicating world of power and politics claimed two Nevada elected officials this week, one done in by arrogance and hubris, the other by the rigors of political warfare and perhaps his personal indiscretions.

On Monday, Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Seroka announced he was resigning immediately after less than two years representing Ward 2 in the northwest valley. Mr. Seroka survived more than 20 years in the military, retiring as an Air Force colonel. But today’s no-holds-barred political atmosphere was apparently too much for him to stomach.

Mr. Seroka parlayed the Badlands golf course controversy into a seat on the council, but angered a handful of powerful interests along the way. He faced a recall effort amid complaints that his intransigence over development on the property was killing potential construction jobs and costing the city millions in legal fees. A colleague on the council also noted Monday that there were “all kinds of rumors” circulating about the first-term board member.

The City Council must now decide in the next month whether to appoint a replacement or hold a special election. The latter is the best approach. Let Ward 2 voters be heard on the matter. In the meantime, Mr. Seroka owes his supporters and constituents an explanation.

Less than 24 hours after Mr. Seroka’s departure, Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, D-Las Vegas, suddenly resigned from the Legislature on Tuesday and said he would plead guilty to federal charges involving the personal use of campaign funds. Atkinson had served in Carson City for more than 16 years.

The development is a black eye for legislative Democrats, who enjoy large advantages in both chambers and have vowed to pursue a wide-ranging liberal agenda. Atkinson’s disgraceful fall threatens to cloud that effort and raises questions about corruption, integrity and judgment.

For instance, Atkinson must have been aware of his tenuous circumstances. Why did he accept the Legislature’s top leadership post knowing full well that he was under a cloud of suspicion in a federal investigation? For that matter, why did legislative Democrats go along when Atkinson’s name had previously surfaced in the campaign finance probe that eventually resulted in prison time for former Las Vegas City Councilman Ricki Barlow?

“I’m embarrassed, I’m ashamed and I’m truly, truly sorry,” Atkinson said Tuesday on the floor of the state Senate. “I pray for your forgiveness.”

Atkinson’s remorse seemed sincere. But Nevadans can be forgiven if they’re wondering when these types of “mistakes” will finally become rarities among their state and local government officials instead of just business as usual.

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