Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008 | 12:24 a.m.
It was a first for many Boulder City voters Aug. 12 — to not check Bruce Woodbury’s name on their primary election ballots.
Though Woodbury appeared on voting forms throughout his County Commission District A, he is ineligible for re-election this year, the State Supreme Court ruled July 25, the day before early voting started.
The state didn’t have time to remove 21 incumbents statewide who were affected by the ruling from the ballots, but signs at polling places announced the candidates do not qualify for re-election.
While 33 percent of voters ignored the ruling and voted for Woodbury anyway, Brian Scroggins captured 55 percent of the vote and will represent the Republican Party in November. He’ll face Steve Sisolak, who won the Democratic primary with a commanding 66 percent of the vote.
Two races for seats on the Clark County School Board yielded some surprises: Incumbents Mary Beth Scow and Ruth Johnson, who were also made ineligible under the term limits ruling, each finished with enough votes to move on to the general election. Instead, both will be replaced by the third-place finisher in their respective races.
In Clark County, almost 103,000 people voted, a turnout of less than 15 percent.
Woodbury, who said he paid more attention to the Olympics than the returns on election night, was aware that a significant number of voters still gave him the nod.
“I’m gratified that a substantial number of people chose to vote for me, even though I wasn’t eligible,” he said.
Voters will now have to decide between Scroggins and Sisolak, a contest that Woodbury predicted would be hard-fought.
But victory, he said, will depend on a candidate’s ability to reach out to all of the voters in the far-reaching seat, which in addition to Boulder City includes Mesquite, Laughlin, Searchlight and a handful of other rural towns as well as parts of Henderson and unincorporated areas in the Las Vegas Valley.
“It’s going to take a lot of hard work,” he said. “I know a lot of emphasis is always put on money, but it’s going to take getting out into the district and letting the voters know that you care about them.”
Both Sisolak and Scroggins said that’s exactly what they plan to do.
For Sisolak, Woodbury’s dismissal from the ballot means that the one-time Republican stronghold is now fair game.
“It’s not a matter of capturing the seat back,” he said. “It’s not in anyone’s hands right now. In my opinion, it has always been in the hands of the voters.”
Scroggins, who entered the race in the final hours of filing with the promise that he would run only if Woodbury were declared ineligible, said the Supreme Court’s announcement last month touched off a whirlwind campaign that he plans to build on in the general election.
“We’re ready to work as hard for the next 2 1/2 months as we’ve worked in the last 2 1/2 weeks,” he said.
Many voters in Boulder City said no matter their feelings on the term limit rule, which was passed by voters in 1996, they regretted to see the commissioner from Boulder City go.
Lifelong resident Michele Walker said she’d consistently supported Woodbury, a man who replaced her father, Bob Broadbent, on the commission in 1981.
“I appreciated his integrity and how he represented Boulder City, and that’s one of the things I’ll miss the most,” she said. “I don’t know when we’ll have somebody like that again.”
She said she understands term limits at national and state levels, but isn’t sure she supports cutting county commissioners’ service short.
Jerry Gatch, who moved to Boulder City from Las Vegas two years ago, said he used to think he favored term limits, but was “very, very disappointed” Woodbury couldn’t run this time.
He said three of Woodbury’s accomplishments stood out: The commissioner established the Regional Flood Control District, the Las Vegas Water District, and pushed for the completion of the Interstate 215 beltway, which now bears his name. Moreover, Gatch said, the man worked for Boulder City as much as he did the rest of the county.
“He’s lived in the same house, raised four kids right here in town and is the pride of the community in my estimation,” he said. “He’s the only truly honest and productive politician.”
Woodbury said he’s “kind of looking forward” to time off from public service, but will work to assure Boulder City continues to be a priority for the County Commission when he’s gone.
“Of course Boulder City is home and it’s a wonderful place with great people” he said. “We have to make sure that the interests of Boulder City are protected on the county level, and it’s going to be number one on my list of items to go over with my successor, and even before the election, to go over with the candidates.”
He said his replacement will need to understand residents’ hopes for the unincorporated Eldorado Valley, which the commission zones.
He said the commissioner will need to be sensitive not to approve high density housing, and should work with the City Council about possible annexation of the area.
Carol Oransky, a 22-year resident who said she votes in every primary — “that’s my American duty” — said she also supports term limits, regardless of her affection for Woodbury.
“As much I loved our commissioner, I believe in them,” she said. “He’s relatively young. He can reapply in four years.”
Cassie Tomlin is a reporter for the Home News. She can be reached at 948-2073 or firstname.lastname@example.org.