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Two incumbents win, another loses

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By The Staff

Voters on the east side kept one incumbent on the school board in Tuesday’s election, while they threw out another.

On the west side, one incumbent trounced three rivals, while a fresh face in politics prevailed with a comfortable margin.

For East’s Position 1, political newcomer Gabriel Lucero won in a landslide with 50.4 percent over longtime incumbent Philip Leger (32 percent) and former Las Vegas Mayor Matt Martinez (17.6 percent).

For Position 2, Elaine Luna, who has been on the board for the last five years, prevailed over Pamela Daves with 63 percent of the vote to 34 percent. Teresa Gray, who was on the ballot but announced later that she would not run an active race, got 3 percent.

For West’s Position 4, political newcomer David G. Romero easily won a plurality with 38.8 percent over former West board member John Trujillo’s 31.5 percent and Luna Community College employee Michael Adams’ 29.7 percent.

For Position 5, Christine Ludi won a second term with nearly 70 percent of the vote Following were Manuel Lucero with 17.5 percent, Yvette Arellanes with 11.9 percent and Jose Salazar with 1 percent.

In both districts, voters passed bond issues that would pay for infrastructure improvements. On the east side, 68 percent approved the bond question, while on the west side, nearly 71 percent  voted in favor.

The bond questions would keep property tax rates the same.

In his campaign, Gabriel Lucero, 49, promised to bring change to the school district. He unseated the 12-year incumbent, Philip Leger, 66.

During a campaign forum last week, Lucero noted that he had been investigated by the school district’s legal counsel, but he didn’t reveal more information about that situation.

“I feel very thankful and appreciative for all the people who got behind me and supported me in this campaign,” Lucero said at his victory party at Dick’s restaurant. “I had a wonderful support staff and encouragement from many parents and teachers. It was a very rewarding victory, not only for myself but for the whole community.”

Concerning the passage of the bond election, Lucero said one of the things he wants to work on is to bring a larger percentage of the money to the classroom, which would be more in line with the national recommendation of 65 percent, instead of the 45 percent the district is now spending.

Luna, 47, who has been on the school board since 2003, has been chairman of the school board before.

“I want to say thank you to the Las Vegas community and certainly the voters in the Las Vegas City Schools district. Tonight, we also have a bond election that did pass and I want to thank the voters for their support on that. We can now move forward to look at each and every school within our district to be able to improve the infrastructure that we have and be able to make those improvements for our community and our children,” Luna said at her celebration at Hillcrest Restaurant.

On the west side, David G. Romero, 32, organized early and had many signs up around town promoting his candidacy. He is the co-owner and operator of Romero’s Automotive Tire and Muffler Center.

Romero campaigned on the promise that he had no personal agendas and stated that the board could become more open and transparent. He is a Robertson High School graduate with two children at West’s Union Elementary.

“I ran on putting children first and I think that was important to the people who came out and supported me. I think that voters are tired of the old political machine, and they wanted a new face and someone who wasn’t politically connected. Of course, I want to thank my family and supporters for everything they did to help me win,” Romero said at a party at his business.

Romero said during his campaign, he promised citizens that he would spend bond money on projects that it was meant to be used for and not pet projects.

“There will be responsible oversight,” he pledged.

Romero will fill the seat that has been occupied by Ralph Garcia since 1981. Garcia decided not to run after a rough couple of years, in which he was indicted in connection with an investigation into the district’s bilingual program.

Ludi, 52, who joined the board in 2005, won with the biggest margin locally. The local head of the State Employees Credit Union made her mark in recent years by aggressively questioning district expenditures.

Before the 2007 board election, Ludi was the only member who criticized spending in the bilingual program after the Optic revealed that the program had forked out $10,000 on an adults-only, invitation-only party.

She also questioned the delays and numerous change orders in the construction project at Valley School. The other members at the time remained silent on such issues.

“I feel fantastic,” she said at her victory party at the VFW hall. “It has been a long month and a half of talking to people and never taking the election for granted just because I was the incumbent. I want to thank all the people of West Las Vegas who went out to vote. This says a lot about the voters’ confidence in me to do the right thing and to continue to work for the education of our children.”

Ludi said money from the passage of the bond issue would go for technology — in upgrading computers, for science, math and other curriculum needs. She said the money would also help the district to complete second phase of West’s stadium.