The 2017 municipal elections are in the books, and, for the tiny fraction of the eligible voting population who participated, they were sure slightly interesting. Here’s a few thoughts on the morning after the Not-So-Big Day.
• Why do we still do this? Not hold elections; that’s required by law. No. I’m talking about holding municipal elections in odd-numbered years, during a legislative session and immediately following an even-year general election, when no one’s paying attention. Oh, wait. I think I just answered my own question!
My friend and former co-worker Patrick Everson said it best last night on Twitter: Off-year municipal elections are an incumbent-protection racket, in which hardly anyone turns out (the official turnout was 9.5 percent). And that’s just fine with the winners.
It’s long past time to combine municipal elections with even-year contests. Local officials will protest, saying their races will be subsumed by all the attention given to presidential, congressional and state contests, and that it will be much harder to raise money or buy TV ads when everybody else is doing the same. And that’s an extremely sad story. But it’s no reason to spend the extra money to hold important local elections that no one is following.
The Legislature is still in session, and leaders can still introduce bills. Make it happen, Carson City! The time is … well, the time was long ago, but now will have to do.
• It looks like there might be a bit of dissent building in the isolated enclave of Boulder City, which makes the Hermit Kingdom of Henderson seem open and transparent by comparison. Incumbent Councilman Cam Walker came in third – third! – in his bid for re-election.
Now, things work a little differently in Boulder City (motto: “things work a little differently in Boulder City”). There are two council seats, and everyone runs for them, with the top two vote-getters elected to the council. And with a rainbow coalition of candidates ranging from eggshell to ecru, what could go wrong?
Well, something did, because the top four ended up being Warren C. Harhay, with 17.89 percent, Kiernan McManus at 17.11 percent, Walker with 16.87 and John Milburn with 16.61 percent. All four will now advance to the June runoff, with the top two earning spots on the council.
Walker’s troubles might be laid at the feet of a recent ethics scandal, or the multiplicity of names on the ballot (there were eight total candidates), or the bubbling up of unrest in the tranquil, asbestos-ringed little berg by the lake. The runoff will be one to watch.
• Henderson Councilwoman Debra March was elected mayor outright (55.04 percent) and North Las Vegas’s John Lee posted Saddam Hussein-like numbers (80.77 percent!). Not only that, but Lee had coattails, anointing a political unknown named Scott Black who came out on top of incumbent Councilwoman Anita Wood in Ward 3, although not by enough to avoid a runoff. Lee is more popular than I surmised in North Las Vegas, unless it was voter nostalgia in the wake of his recent announcement that he will not seek a third and final term.
Then again, Henderson Councilman John Marz once said he wouldn’t run and he just came out on top in a three-way primary. (He’ll face Carrie Cox in the June runoff for Ward 3.)
The mayoral victories are attributable mostly to the opposition: Lee drew two no-name challengers, and March primarily had to contend with Henderson city employee Rick Workman (motto — and this is literally true — “Workman works for you.”) Workman has taken on soon-to-be-former Maximum Leader Andy Hafen before, but never successfully. His 35.74 percent was impressive compared to the single-digit competition.
Oh, and Eddie “Swamper” Hamilton, who also ran for Henderson mayor, didn’t come in last! He got 1.48 percent and beat two other candidates. Progress?
• Former Assemblyman and Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins, who said he would run for mayor against Lee but ultimately decided to run for North Las Vegas’s Ward 3, came up way short. Lee’s handpicked choice, Black was No. 1; incumbent Wood was No. 2; and Wilson Crespo took third, with Collins a distant fourth at 11.27 percent. This was definitely not Cowboy Tom’s first rodeo, but it may have been the last. It’s too bad, too, since Collins would have made council meetings very interesting.
• In Las Vegas, where, full disclosure, my wife works, one councilman was easily re-elected (Stavros Anthony) while colleague (and former Assemblyman and state Sen. Bob Beers) will have to go to a runoff in Ward 2 against challenger and former Air Force Col. Steve Seroka. Seroka and fellow challenger Christina Rousch split that anti-Beers vote, whipped up over a dispute involving the Queensridge neighborhood and the Badlands golf course. But, in a concerning sign for Beers, Seroka and Rousch earned a combined total of 54.81 percent of the vote to Beers’s 42.65 percent.
• And former Assemblyman Michele Fiore showed she can still campaign like a champ in the city’s Ward 6, where Councilman Steve Ross is term-limited. Fiore emerged on top of a field of nine other candidates with 46.08 percent, nearly enough to win. And that’s especially impressive since the challengers included Ross’s wife, Kelli Ross, and Clark County School Board trustee Chris Garvey. Kelli Ross earned 30.77 percent, and the right to face off against Fiore in the general.
Prediction: This will be the most exciting runoff in June. Stay tuned!
• The most and the least: You might think Lee posted the biggest percentage win on Tuesday, but he’s got to get in line behind North Las Vegas Ward 1 Councilman Issac Barron, whose 81.68 percent topped the night. March drew the largest number of actual votes for a non-judicial candidate at 11,367. (Las Vegas Municipal Court Judge Cedric Kearns drew the most votes overall, at 12,811.) On the other end of the spectrum, Las Vegas Ward 6 council candidate Matthew Consoli drew the fewest votes, at 55. His percentage was also the smallest, at 0.90.