Board of Regents District 13

The job pays less than $3,000 per year, but one candidate has already raked in nearly $300,000 to claim it.

Downtown attorney John “J.T.” Moran III — the scion of a powerful Las Vegas political family — is putting up big money to take an open seat on the state’s higher education board. He vies for the position with James Ratigan — who has raised $17,000, a healthy sum dwarfed by Moran’s.

A third candidate, Robert Lewis Jr., said he has changed his mind about running but missed the deadline to withdraw. Because the position is nonpartisan, any candidate who takes more than half of the votes in the June primary wins outright, and the contest won’t advance to November’s general election.

Ratigan, who made an unsuccessful bid for the District 13 seat in 2000, accuses Moran of plotting to use the job as a stepping stone for higher office.

“I think it’s disingenuous for anybody to believe he’s raised all this money for this race,” Ratigan said, noting that Board of Regents elections don’t typically draw large donations. “I felt compelled to run because I felt I was a better candidate.”

Moran said he’s running because “it’s everyone’s obligation to be involved in education.”

Asked to identify the biggest setback facing public colleges and universities, Moran pointed to accessibility and affordability. If elected, he wants to support efforts boosting online, weekend and evening classes. And he wants state lawmakers to continue funding programs that aim to help Nevada’s poorest pay for higher education.

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“Providing a world-class education for all Nevadans — that’s what’s going to be at the top of my list,” Moran said.

Ratigan, meanwhile, thinks the worst obstacle schools face is their dependence on state money. He wants to seek new revenue sources and combat tuition hikes, which have been used to help offset statewide cuts.

Moran said he would fight to make the Nevada System of Higher Education more transparent. He pointed to the recent retirement of system Chancellor Dan Klaich, which came weeks after lawmakers accused him of deceiving the Legislature about a new formula for distributing money among colleges and universities.

“If I’m elected, we will be focusing very, very, very closely on adjusting the optics on ethics,” Moran said.

Ratigan, meanwhile, echoed calls from some lawmakers and education insiders to revise the system’s governance structure and create a separate board overseeing two-year schools.

“Community colleges have been shortchanged in a lot of ways,” Ratigan said.

Contact Ana Ley at aley@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5512. Follow @la__ley on Twitter

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