A failed congressman and assemblywoman who left the Legislature. These are just two of the seven candidates running for a seat on the Las Vegas City Council in Ward 3.
Councilman Bob Coffin announced last year that he would not seek a third term.
Ward 3 includes downtown Las Vegas, north of Sahara Avenue, and a block on the east side that’s bound by Owens to the north, Charleston Boulevard the south, Nellis to the east, and close to Interstate 15 to the west.
It’s a heated race, and allegations are flying. The race has gained even more attention because former Congressman Ruben Kihuen is running.
Kihuen was accused of sexual harassment and the House Ethics Committee found he violated their code after an investigation into those allegations. There has been an organized effort to get people to vote against Kihuen but what about the other candidates and the issues facing the ward?
Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Shea Johnson said besides Kihuen there is former Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz; project manager for the Department of Veterans Affairs and president of the Huntridge Neighborhood Association Melissa Clary; former parks commissioner for the City of Las Vegas David Lopez; restaurant owner George Mingo Collaso; volunteer Shawn Mooneyham; and special education teacher Aaron Bautista.
If anyone of those candidates gets 51 percent, they will be automatically elected to the seat, but Johnson believes it is unlikely that anyone will hit that percentage because of the number of candidates.
"Stranger things have happened, but it just doesn't seem conceivable with the number of candidates almost regardless of who they might be that someone could walk away with a majority of that vote," Johnson said.
The other factor in the race is the traditionally low turnout. Hugh Jackson is the editor of the Nlso saevada Current. He pointed out that the current councilman in that seat Bob Coffin won his last re-election bid with less than 1,500 votes and there were less than 3,000 people who voted in the entire election. He aid the city has close to 250,000 registered or eligible voters.
"The turnout in these municipal elections held in off years at strange times of the year ... they're not held with the grown-up elections in November of an even number year," Jackson said. "The turnout is preposterously low in these things."
Jackson believes having Kihuen in the race with the amount of attention and opposition his candidacy is getting might improve the turnout numbers because there may be people who vote just to make sure he isn't put back in office.
With small voter turnout and a large field of candidates, it is vital for those candidates to get to know the issues and the voters.
A group of neighborhood organizations is holding a candidate forum this week to give residents of the area a chance to voice their concerns. Dayvid Figler is the president of the John S. Park Neighborhood Association.
He said the forum will not be a chance for candidates to give their stump speeches and it won't be a chance for neighbors to ask candidates "gotcha questions."
Instead, the forum is aimed at allowing the residents to talk to the candidates about the problems they want to be addressed and celebrate what is working in the ward.
"We're an engaged community," Figler said. "I think at the end of this community meeting that we're having on Thursday at the Reformation Church downtown, the candidates are going to walk away knowing that the neighbors, the residents, the people who have put their blood, sweat and tears into that area for sometimes up to five decades are really a force that needs to be recognized and worked with to make for a better city."
Figler said the community meeting is not going to focus on flashpoints within the ward, like Huntridge Circle Park, which has been a point of contention between neighbors and the city for a long time because of the number of homeless people that frequent the park and the criminal activities that go on there.
Instead, they want to focus on the larger issue of green space within the ward and addressing homelessness collectively.
Caller Cathy Brooks lives in Ward 3. She said she wants a candidate who understands the area and really wants to work with the rest of the council to make improvements.
"If we are creating this neighborhood and this ward as the true heart of Las Vegas, we need somebody on that city council that understands that, who can stand up for our needs," she said. "We need someone who is going to be a champion for us. Someone who is going to fight for our needs."
Ward 3 Community Meeting
6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 21
Reformation Church Lutheran Church
580 East St. Louis Ave.
Early Voting - March 16 through March 29
Election Day - April 2
General Election Day - June 11
Dayvid Figler, president, John S. Park neighborhood; Shea Johnson, reporter, Las Vegas Review-Journal; Hugh Jackson, editor, Nevada Current
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