Here’s the latest on who’s running for mayor, or thinking about it, or denying any plans to do so.
Andrew Feldman’s decision not to run opened up the race. Feldman, a no-nonsense council member for the past four years, had some passionate supporters, many of whom are still asking him to reconsider and jump back into the race. But he says that’s not going to happen. As for who he’ll back, he says, “We’ll see come Jan. 11.”
Jan. 10, of course, is the filing day for municipal offices — at city hall, that includes mayor and two council positions for wards 2 and 3.
Meanwhile, Feldman’s decision opens up new possibilities for his detractors — who are generally people with a vested interest in status quo politics in Las Vegas. When he was running, some of them were discussing ways to unite the anti-Feldman crowd behind a single candidate — Tonita Gurule-Giron, a council member for the past two years and Feldman’s nemesis, or former mayor Matt Martinez were the names coming up most often. But when Feldman decided not to run, it opened up the field to other possibilities.
Last March I wrote a column speculating on the mayoral race, then a full year away. I named eight possible candidates — Morris Madrid, Louie Trujillo, Macario Gonzales, Feldman, Gurule-Giron, Martinez and Vince Howell. I also named our current mayor, Alfonso Ortiz as the wild card, who said he’s not running, though some feel he might just jump in anyway.
This is what they said at that time: Feldman said he was in; Gurule-Giron said she didn’t know yet; Gonzales said he was thinking about it. Madrid was coy in saying “not likely”; Martinez said it was too far away to say for sure; and Howell said, “at this point, no.” And on previous occasions, the mayor had maintained he would not be seeking re-election.
So, on Thursday of last week, I called them all again, along with a couple of others I knew to be considering a run. Mostly, I got probablies and maybes, but I did get one definite, decisive answer. I’ll start there.
“Oh, it’s a done deal. I’m in,” said Highlands University instructor Jill Baskerville when I called her. She said she’s getting a lot of enthusiastic support from people in the community who want to see her as the next mayor.
Now, the probablies and maybes:
Gurule-Giron said there’s a “very strong possibility” that she’ll be running but isn’t ready to make such an announcement yet. Personally, I’d be stunned if she doesn’t jump into the race.
As for Matt Martinez, the KNMX radio station owner, former mayor and current chamber president, I’ve been hearing for a while that he is going to jump in, and is gathering some support on both the east and west sides of town. But when I caught up with him he said he’s “right in the middle of the fence” — that is, he’s undecided. Compared to Gurule-Giron, I might be a little less stunned if he doesn’t file, but I’d still be very surprised.
Meanwhile, his radio rival, Joseph Baca of KFUN fame (and a former council member), is also considering a run. He told me he’s giving it some serious thought but hasn’t decided yet. “Part of my heart says I should seriously consider it, but then another part of my heart says, ‘Are you sure?’”
Then there are two other ex-councilors who might run. Marcario Gonzales, a long-time former council member, said there’s “an 80 percent chance that I will” run for mayor. He said he has some personal matters to address before making a final commitment but that he expects he will be filing for the office.
As for Louie Trujillo, he says he’s “very interested ... and I’ll decide after the holidays.”
Former councilor and city manager Morris Madrid says he’s out. He says he’ll wait until after the filing date to say who he’ll be backing but that he already has someone in mind. He wouldn’t say who it is, so again, he’s being coy.
Vince Howell, a well-known businessman in town who currently works at the Plaza Hotel, says he’s not running for mayor. He did, however, tell me he intends to run for the open Ward 3 council position.
As for the wild card, Mayor Ortiz says he plans to stay true to his word to be a one-term mayor. I asked him if there was anything that would change his mind, and he said he might “if the candidates are bad,” pointing out that the city needs someone to continue its forward momentum. But if he did jump in, it would be as a write-in candidate, since he does not intend to file on Jan. 10. And even that, he reiterates, is highly unlikely since he doesn’t plan to seek another term.
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One variable to this entire election cycle is the question about the validity of the new city charter, which was passed last year by a 56 percent majority of voters. The question remains as to whether a 60 percent “supermajority” was needed, but so far no one has stepped forward to challenge its passage.
The new charter does two things related to the mayor’s race: First, it expands the mayoral term from two years to four, which increases the power of the position. And second, it establishes a runoff election, which means a majority, not a plurality, will elect the next Las Vegas mayor. That changes the game considerably.
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Another big deal to Jan. 10 is the fact that Feldman and Diane Moore are vacating their council seats, which means there are a couple of wide-open races in wards 2 and 3.
Who gets elected to those positions could spell success or failure for the next mayor.
But of course, it’s all speculation at this point. Clarity will come on Jan. 10. It will be an interesting day indeed.
Tom McDonald is editor and publisher of the Optic. He may be reached at 505-425-6796, ext. 237, or email@example.com.