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September 2, 2014

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Running anyway

Candidate’s very public problems haven’t kept her from campaigning

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Sam Morris

Republican Assemblywoman Francis Allen faces three primary rivals. She’s going through a divorce, and an ethics complaint has been filed against her.

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These are the obstacles facing one of the candidates running to represent part of Summerlin in the Assembly:

She was arrested for allegedly stabbing her husband, a man she’s now divorcing. The wedding florist who said she got stiffed complained to the state Ethics Commission. Her own Republican Party isn’t fond of her. She wouldn’t talk to reporters. She was very reluctant to disclose how she makes a living, finally acknowledging she owns a sandwich shop. And she’s running against three Republicans who don’t have nearly as much baggage: Andrew Brownson, a waiter at the MGM Grand, and retirees Flo Jones and Richard McArthur.

Having said all that, the seemingly beleaguered candidate — incumbent Francis Allen — has a decent chance of winning her party’s primary Tuesday and, from there, a third consecutive term in the Assembly.

Welcome to the tumultuous and Republican-leaning Assembly District 4, where three little-known candidates hope to knock out the incumbent — but may serve only to so fragment the vote that the better-known Allen wins.

When confronted with all the challenges facing her reelection effort, she shrugs. Sure, she considered not seeking reelection, she says. For about 37 seconds.

Allen, 30, says her pastor encouraged her to run.

She began walking precincts in March — a month before a florist complained to the state Ethics Commission that Allen owed more than $5,000 for her wedding flowers. Allen says she stopped payment on the check because she didn’t like the florists’ service.

The handful of prospective voters encountered for this story seem unaware of the troubles that have shadowed Allen, including the now-dismissed charges stemming from a fight with her husband, Paul Maineri, in May. (She was arrested May 20 on suspicion of battery with a deadly weapon after he claimed she knifed him. Two months later, he told police he had stabbed himself.)

Voters who are aware of the incident generally offer a supportive hand, sometimes a hug, she says. She seems relieved by the pockets of sympathy. Most of the voters, aware or otherwise, are polite.

On her walk through a neighborhood near West Lake Mead Boulevard and North Rampart Boulevard on Thursday, she encounters one woman who tersely recalls that she and Allen spoke two years ago. “We had that discussion and I looked into it, and I was right,” the self-righteous woman tells Allen, leaving unclear what the topic was.

Late in the primary campaign — on July 29, two days before she filed her divorce papers — Allen moved to preempt discussions about the knife incident by writing an open letter about “personal problems in my marriage.” It came after months of deflecting media calls over the incident, which she justified because her policy “has been to leave personal issues out of politics.”

She says she debated for months whether to issue the letter. “It’s been in the newspaper, so I thought the electorate deserved a statement on the matter.”

•••

Andrew Brownson, a 35-year-old waiter, sits in the middle row of seats in a silver Toyota Siena minivan, sliding the door ajar so he can hop in and out while a campaign aide drives him around. It’s the Tuesday before primary day and there are still some doors of likely Republican voters he has yet to knock on.

Before each stop, Brownson is briefed on who the voter is.

Like Allen, Brownson doesn’t introduce his platform to voters in any detail. He’ll engage voters on the issues when prompted, but with the primary so close, handshakes and pamphlets suffice.

About a month ago, Brownson took a leave of absence from the restaurant he works at in the MGM Grand to campaign up to 10 hours a day. He hopes to win by pushing his conservative bona fides — and as someone disillusioned with a Republican Party that he says has lost its bearings.

•••

Flo Jones, 69, leads the most understated campaign of the four candidates, not by design but by circumstance. She contributed little money to her campaign, and it’s too hot to walk the district like her opponents.

On Thursday, Jones, a resident of Sun City Summerlin and a retired teacher, and her friend, neighbor June Wood, are calling prospective voters by phone. Jones is outside with her cell phone, under an awning; Wood sits in the cool kitchen.

They make calls in the morning, before noon, and then again after 6 p.m. Jones believes the odds of reaching voters are better at these times. She tells voters she’s against a failed Assembly bill that she fears would have raised their homeowner association fees and that she’s a lifelong resident of Nevada, with a decade in her current community.

•••

Richard McArthur, 65, is home Thursday. He said he’s been walking the district since March and he’s about done campaigning for Tuesday’s primary. Rush Limbaugh’s baritone wafts through the kitchen.

McArthur’s resume appears to be a Republican consultant’s dream: retired Air Force and retired FBI who’s lived in Nevada for 27 years, nine in his hilltop home in the northwest reaches of the Las Vegas Valley.

For good measure, he calls some voters by phone. The messages are succinct — his name and a mention that he’s running for office, thank you. Issues are not broached.

•••

Allen approaches another home, the second to last one she plans to visit today. There’s a sticker affixed to the door, apparently to ward off door-knocking campaigners: “I VOTED.”

All she can do is laugh.

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