Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
Henderson City Council candidate Kathleen Boutin, who has never run for office, has raised more than $150,000 and says she plans to raise $300,000 by the June 2 general election.
Her five opponents have, through Jan. 1, raised a collective grand total of $0.
Boutin has leveraged the connections she’s made as the founder of a nonprofit organization — and as the ex-girlfriend of university regent-turned-Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak — to build her campaign coffers and gain the backing of some of the most powerful people in the state.
Last year she held a pair of high-profile fundraisers, one hosted by former Gov. Bob Miller and the other co-hosted by Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid and Sig Rogich, who advised President Ronald Reagan.
Her opponents aren’t so well-connected.
Bruce Cutler, for instance, is on the Whitney Ranch Homeowners Association board and spent $600 of his own money printing signs.
By comparison, Boutin has paid $18,000 to Polaris Public Affairs, a local company headed by Christina Dugan, an experienced campaign consultant and the former vice president of government affairs of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce.
Boutin also has paid Paladin Advertising, a company headed by Democratic consultants Jim Ferrence and Michael Sullivan, nearly $7,000 and local public relations firm Imagine Marketing more than $3,000.
Cutler, a retired insurance salesman, asked his children to create a MySpace page for him.
“It seems like she’s buying the seat,” he said of Boutin’s spending. “It bothers a lot of people.”
Still, Boutin’s opponents say they have a shot, because if Boutin doesn’t get more than 50 percent of the vote in the April 7 primary, the top two finishers will face off in the general election.
“There are people saying they will donate to someone who finishes second,” said candidate Brandon Casutt, a sign shop owner who has run as a Democrat for state Senate and Assembly seats. “If we can just get through the primary there may be a lot of donations.”
The underfunded candidates say they are not afraid of six-figure bankroll or big-name donors.
“Fundraising is nice,” said Cathy Rosenfield, a member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board who also runs a small business. “But I’m not intimidated by Kathleen. I’m here to serve the people of Henderson and not any special interest.”
Other candidates — Jim Dunn, a member of a local Republican club, and telecommunications consultant Jason Frayer, who recently battled the city over the height of a cell tower, did not return calls for this story.
It doesn’t seem like a threatening group of candidates chasing a job that pays $44,287 a year.
So why does Boutin need the money?
Ferrence, her campaign manager, explains that there are 162,000 registered voters — including 47,000 new voters who registered during the presidential campaign.
The $150,000 raised works out to less than $1 per registered voter.
“It’s gotten to be very expensive to reach the voters in Henderson,” he said, particularly because the candidates typically receive little media attention, making mailers and signs the primary methods of communication.
The plan to raise $300,000 is not out of line with previous Henderson elections.
Two years ago Councilman Andy Hafen raised $323,000 during a tight reelection race and Councilman Steven Kirk raised $251,000 in an unopposed race. (He carried much of it over to his current mayoral campaign.)
Cutler said it’s disheartening that the race for office costs so much.
He figures he won’t get any donations unless he finishes second in the primary and gets a head-to-head battle with Boutin.
Boutin and her advisers don’t see a negative to being flush. The candidate proudly lists her supporters on her Web site, including casinos, developers and Sisolak.
Her ex has donated at least $15,000 to the campaign, according to records.
There is a discrepancy: Sisolak’s reports show a $10,000 donation to Boutin on Dec. 20; Boutin’s records show donations of $4,000 on April 18 and $1,000 on Dec. 18.
Campaign officials say they did not receive the $10,000 donation until after the Jan. 1 deadline for filing campaign contribution records and said they filed an amended version late last week.
Boutin said Sisolak has helped her with advice as well as money.
She said she helped him during his run for County Commission last year.
The two met through Boutin’s role as founder of the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth.
Sisolak “supported me in the same capacity I supported him,” she said. “We made an amazing team. We did amazing philanthropy and we did an amazing campaign. We made an amazing team mentoring children.”
The romance, however, didn’t work out.
Boutin said her connections made from 10 years working for nonprofit groups supporting homeless children have allowed her to raise campaign money and carry political capital.
For instance, County Commissioner Chip Maxfield and Reid, the commission’s chairman, both serve on Boutin’s election committee and both have been involved in her charity work.
“It’s almost offensive to the people who have supported the campaign,” she said about criticism of political favors. “These people have given their hard-earned dollars to children in the community and they have seen my character. They are helping me with my campaign.”
Boutin says she’s running for office out of a desire for community involvement and to use her skills in managing budgets for both nonprofit organizations and private businesses.
Henderson is at a critical juncture as it faces the recession and growth slows.
The city recently trimmed $28 million from its current budget and aims to cut about $20 million over five years, prompting the city to offer buyouts to its most experienced employees.
It also faces critical development issues in the coming years, including possible development on Las Vegas Boulevard South toward the planned Ivanpah Airport, and the need for additional industrial acreage. “I really believe I can make a difference,” Boutin said. “I know the passion I can bring to my job. My record of community service is impeccable.”
Her opponents have a similar feeling.
They’ll be knocking on doors for the next two months.
“Everybody has a right to run for office,” Rosenfield said. “I can’t worry about (Boutin’s) campaign. I can only work on mine.”