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July 28, 2014

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Woodbury re-election bid faces legal challenge (UPDATED)

Nevada's 2008 ballot is in chaos.

On the final day candidates may file to run for office, Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury's bid for a final term is likely to be challenged by the state's top election official, sources say.

Woodbury has been informed that Secretary of State Ross Miller, on the advice from Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, will issue a challenge to Woodbury's bid for another term.

Woodbury is the longest serving county commissioner in state history, having been first appointed to the board in 1981.

Clark County School District Board President Mary Beth Scow also will be challenged.

Woodbury vowed to fight the challenge.

“This is coming out of left field,” he said.

Woodbury, who filed for re-election 10 days ago, said he doesn’t understand why a challenge would come hours before the deadline to file for office.

“It’s a very uncomfortable situation,” he said. “If there was a determination some time ago that I was term-limited and that was a legitimate determination, it would have been nice to have it at a time when

others could file.”

Woodbury spoke with District Attorney David Roger today. Roger plans to stand by his office’s 2003 opinion that Woodbury is eligible for another term.

Miller said no complaints have been filed against elected officials seeking reelection in Clark County so far.

"We're still waiting for guidance from the attorney general's office on who can file," he said.

Miller said his office has relied on the verbal advice from the Attorney General's office on who can file.

A 1996 opinion by former Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa is cited by the Roger opinion that Woodbury used to file for office.

That opinion seems contradictory in places. It says, for example, that the term limits "will not apply to affected officials elected in the 1996 general election," but would take effect with the 1997 municipal races.

The next paragraph, however, says: "If the voters approve the initiative to limit terms of state and local Officers in the general election in November 1996, only periods of service commencing after November 27, 1996, will be counted as a term for limitation purposes."

School board members and county commissioners are sworn into office in January. That makes the key legal question, as far as the issue relates to Woodbury and other candidates, whether the 12-year limit began ticking for those elected in 1996 at the same time the state constitutional amendment was approved, but who did not get sworn in until after the critical Nov. 27, 2006, date.

Woodbury wondered aloud whether the anticipated challenge is part of an orchestrated attempt to challenge the constitutionality of term limits. As the Sun reported in April, Sen. Harry Reid and other elected officials have been considering a challenge to the limits.

Although Woodbury said he does not "have an opinion one way or the other about the constitutionality of term limits,” he said he would rely on the district attorney’s opinion and fight any attempt to prevent his re-election bid.

Miller, citing the term limits, has challenged candidates for school boards in northern counties.

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