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Jun. 04, 2006
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal


CLARK COUNTY COMMISSION: Corruption cases cloud races

Challengers hope trials will sour voters on incumbents

By ADRIENNE PACKER
REVIEW-JOURNAL



Lynette Boggs McDonald
Faces four opponents but is only Republican in her race



Rory Reid
Commission chairman is only incumbent who doesn't face crowded field of challengers



Myrna Williams
She's the only incumbent who served alongside those who are disgraced

As Clark County voters were bombarded with reports of sordid acts by two former commissioners, candidates filed into the county Election Department with hopes of winning seats on the state's most powerful governing board.

Incumbents hope the political corruption scandal won't taint the minds of potential supporters. Newcomers hope it will.

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John Wickett, who is employed by a local insulation contractor, always has been interested in running for a public office. What better time than when residents are skeptical of all veteran politicians, he reasoned.

"With the current climate and dissatisfaction with incumbents, there is an opportunity of an unprecedented level," said Wickett, a Democrat aiming to oust Lynette Boggs McDonald.

Commissioners Boggs McDonald, Myrna Williams and Rory Reid are up for re-election. Only Reid doesn't face a crowded field of contenders.

Williams is the only commissioner who served alongside Erin Kenny, Dario Herrera, Mary Kincaid-Chauncey and Lance Malone. All four were indicted in 2003 of accepting cash bribes from then-strip club owner Michael Galardi.

Kenny, who governed the same district as Boggs McDonald, pleaded guilty to the charges. Malone, who later became Galardi's bagman, is set to go to trial in August. Herrera and Kincaid-Chauncey were convicted of wire fraud and extortion last month.

"When you have a whole lot of people that were taking things for nothing and getting caught, people start to wonder whether the other ones were or weren't," said Joe Thibodeau, a Republican running against Williams. "Maybe they need to investigate what the incumbents are doing."

The skepticism is not lost on the current commissioners. And not all of them believe cynicism is a bad idea.

"People should scrutinize any elected official and make a decision on whether they've performed well and if they haven't they should vote them out," Reid said. "I think incumbents have to run on their record and I'm happy to run on mine."

Reid has only one opponent, Matthew O'Neil. The phone number listed on O'Neil's campaign report was not in service.

Reid said that since the indictments in 2003, the commission has made an effort to restore faith in the seven-member board. He acknowledged, however, that the eight-week trial of Herrera and Kincaid-Chauncey that ended last month could have stirred the same doubts constituents had three years ago.

The commission has engaged the public by creating numerous task forces to offer recommendations on ethics, growth, the operation of the University Medical Center and even fuel supply. Reid said the county is approaching "task force fatigue," but its efforts have been worthwhile.

"We've done a good job trying to recapture the community," said Reid, chairman of the commission. "People will continue to be cynical unless they are invested in the decisions we make."

Williams' toughest challenge could be defeating Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani in the Democratic primary, simply because Giunchigliani has experience raising money and her name is well known in Southern Nevada.

Completing the field in the race for District E is Thibodeau, Priscilla Marie Flores, a 20-year-old University of Nevada, Las Vegas student, and Itzhak "Isaac" Shoham. Aside from their belief that Clark County politics needs new blood, they have other reasons for challenging Williams.

Each believes the mature neighborhoods of the district, which is centrally located east of Interstate 15 and north of Flamingo Road, have been neglected.

"Our commissioner has been there too long," Thibodeau said of Williams, who is working toward serving her fourth four-year term on the board. "When you look at something constantly without a new set of eyes, you miss things. You miss things because it becomes part of the background."

"There has been a lot of concentration on the west side, but not on the east side," Shoham said, referring to new commercial centers and neighborhoods in the Summerlin area. "The east side used to be a beautiful neighborhood, I don't see anybody taking care of it."

"Growing up here and living here my whole life, I've kind of seen this whole area deteriorate," Flores said.

Williams did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Boggs McDonald faces four opponents but is the only Republican in her race and therefore does not face a primary. Repercussions from the political corruption trial already have played a slight role in her bid for re-election.

Earlier this week, the Las Vegas Police Protective Association announced it endorsed Clark County School Board trustee Susan Brager because of the scandal involving former commissioners.

Brager's campaign material includes a note about incumbent politicians.

"Today's headlines are full of stories about politicians making deals and wasting your taxpayer dollars. We need people with unquestioned integrity representing us," her message says.

The endorsement did not faze Boggs McDonald, who pointed out the police union also supported Herrera, Kenny and Kincaid-Chauncey. She questioned the character of the candidates endorsed by the police officers.

"I don't ever want to be endorsed by them," Boggs McDonald said.

During a series of neighborhood meetings Boggs McDonald hosted during the trial, she said not once did participants raise the issue of corruption. Residents were more interested in parks, traffic and flooding.

"For me it's keeping your eye on the ball and continuing to do the job I've been empowered to do," she said. "I inherited a lot of things two years ago that I've been able to straighten out or at least have a game plan to straighten out. I consider myself the cleanup crew."

Wickett had no major qualms with Boggs McDonald's representation, but said the board as a whole has failed to address matters important to the county. He said taking advantage of open federal land to build affordable housing should be a priority.

Wickett realizes the battle that lies ahead, going up against an incumbent with experience as a Las Vegas City Council member and commissioner.

"It's going to be an uphill battle, that's for sure," he said. "One of the strategies I'm going to have going into the election is forcing people to talk about all of the issues. I will create an issue-based campaign and an idea-based campaign. That gives me an advantage over the incumbent."

Others in the race for District F include Democrats John Sheehan and American Independent Whitney Hansen. They could not be reached for comment.

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