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Did Negative Ads Backfire In Local Races?

Flo Rogers

It wasn’t a good night for incumbents. Or negative campaigning.

But did Tuesday’s election have more to do with low turnout than anything else?

Longtime Las Vegas politician Bob Beers lost his Ward 2 seat on the Las Vegas City Council to a virtual unknown, retired Air Force Colonel Steve Seroka. And Heidi Almase, a municipal court judge, lost her seat to prosecutor Cara Campbell.

Though the races were for vastly different seats, they both had one thing in common: negative fliers.

A political action committee that supported Beers attacked Seroka as a "Top Fraud," a play on "Top Gun."

Jackie Valley has been covering the municipal elections for the Nevada Independent news website.

She talked to voters at one voting center Tuesday. 

“One of the voters that I talked to said point blankly that she was disgusted by what she called the ‘rude and crude’ mailers from Bob Beers and she voted for Seroka,” Valley said.

However, the voter also lived near Queensridge, which is where the now-closed Badlands Golf Course is located. Beers received strong criticism from people who live along the golf course because they don't believe he did enough to stop developers' plans to turn it into a residential neighborhood. The Badlands course was really the main issue of the race. 

And as for Almase, she put out a flier that showed a young girl with a hand over her mouth looking like she was being kidnapped. The ad noted that challenger Cara Campbell is married to a defense attorney. 

Almase was criticized for the ad and she reportedly dismissed her campaign manager.

More than any of that, though, might have been the fact that only 9 percent of eligible voters turned out to vote Tuesday. When turnout is very low, motivated voters can determine the outcome of an election.

“At the end of the day, it’s a numbers game. If you can get just a few more voters out to the polls. It could tip the outcome in your favor,” Valley said. 

In other races, former Assemblywoman Michele Fiore defeated Kelli Ross to replace Ross’s term-limited husband, Steve Ross, in the Las Vegas City Council’s Ward 6 seat. Fiore is perhaps best known for her strong support of gun rights and made national headlines for some her more far-right stances, including her support for the family of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.

Current city council members didn't speak to Valley about the more extreme views Fiore has expressed. Councilman Bob Coffin did point out that city council is really not the place for partisan politics.

“You’re generally dealing with smaller less polarized issues so he was wondering how that would work out if she carried over that same ideology to the council,” Valley said. 

Anita Wood lost her seat in the North Las Vegas City Council’s Ward 3 to Scott Black. 

In the Henderson Council’s Ward 3, John Marz was able to hold onto his seat against Carrie Cox. 

Warren C. Harhay and Kiernan McManus were elected to the Boulder City Council after receiving more votes than John Milburn and incumbent Councilman Cam Walker. 

The Boulder City ballot had two questions -- one about changes to development rules in the city and one regarding the addition of an on- and off-ramp interchange to Interstate 11. Voters rejected both.  

Jackie Valley, reporter, The Nevada Independent

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.