Alfonso Ortiz has pulled it off, but Tonita Gurule-Giron is far from done. And yet it’s the new guy who may now hold the keys to power at City Hall.
I’ll take ‘em one at a time.
Ortiz has been Las Vegas mayor for two years, and if the new charter stays in place, he’s back in place for twice that long. In the past, he indicated he didn’t want to serve a four-year term, but now that he has it (and must give up his other job, as county treasurer, to term limits) he says he’s ready to “devote all my time and energy to doing whatever I can for the city.”
It may not be so easy, however, now that his two closest allies on the City Council, Diane Moore and Andrew Feldman, are gone. Vince Howell, Moore’s replacement in Ward 2, seems to be lining up with the mayor, but that’s all that appears obvious at this moment.
Which leads me to Gurule-Giron, who has been Ortiz’s chief opponent on the council for the last two years. She just ran unsuccessfully against Ortiz for mayor, getting 45.7 percent of the vote in the runoff, but she retains her Ward 1 seat on the council. And she still has an ally in David Romero, councilor from Ward 4, which means she’s still in a position to flex some muscle.
Whether that muscle can overpower Ortiz, however, leads us to the newest council member, Ward 3’s Joey Herrera, who just won election in a six-man race and a two-man runoff.
I’ve heard it both ways. One line of thinking, prevalent among Gurule-Giron supporters, is that Herrera is going to ally himself with Gurule-Giron, thereby creating a three-person majority on the council. If that happens, the mayor’s ability to get things done will be quite limited. He won’t even be able to control the agenda, since a majority vote of the council can place matters up for consideration whether the mayor likes it or not. And he doesn’t have veto power, though he does have limited executive powers at his disposal.
The other view is that Herrera will become an independent voice on the council, one who considers the issues on their own merit and votes according to what he believes to be best for the city and its citizenry. He’s already made it clear that he has ambitions beyond his four-year term on the council — “I’m still young enough to look at a 20-year career in politics here in Las Vegas,” he said after winning the Ward 3 runoff last week — so he may already know that a good-government approach is the best way to achieve those ends.
Now consider another comment he made on election night:
“When I run again in four years, I plan on winning because of my accomplishments and my accomplishments alone.”
That sounds like someone who really wants to get things done. Someone who wants to rise to the occasion. Here’s hoping he does exactly that.
• • •
Of course, the political future for Gurule-Giron, who has run twice for the city’s top spot, again hinges on her performance as a councilor. She still has two years left on her first term and could easily seek re-election, then run for mayor again two years after that.
Not surprisingly, I’ve heard plenty of speculation as to why she failed to unseat Ortiz this time around, but the one that makes the most sense to me is that people see Ortiz as a stabilizing force at City Hall, while Gurule-Giron is anything but. More than one person told me they thought Ortiz was the “safe bet” while his opponent was “divisive.”
Whether Gurule-Giron can reverse this perception depends on the next two years. If she continues to oppose Ortiz at every other turn, I doubt the perception will change. But if she uses her senior experience on the council to offer up sound ideas and demonstrate some solid leadership, she could place herself in a good position for another run for mayor. After all, if just 113 votes had gone the other way this time around, she would be mayor right now.
There’s a big difference between obstinacy and leadership. We all know she can provide the former; she must still prove herself capable of the latter.
Tom McDonald is editor and publisher of the Las Vegas Optic. He may be reached at 505-425-6796, ext. 237, or email@example.com.