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October 21, 2014

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election day:

Blow by blow with hired gun

Sun spends voting day’s anxious moments with consultant to 5 hopefuls

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Steve Marcus

3:01 pm - Jim Ferrence, a local campaign manager, checks on voting numbers at a polling station at the Valley View Recreation Center in Henderson Tuesday June 2, 2009. Election worker Sharon Galaz is at right. Ferrence had three races going on election day. He represented Steve Kirk for Henderson Mayor, Kathleen Boutin for Henderson City Council and William Robinson for North Las Vegas Mayor.

Municipal Elections Play-by-Play

2:07 p.m.  - William Robinson, right, candidate for North Las Vegas Mayor, looks over district maps with campaign manager Jim Ferrence at the Robinson campaign headquarters in North Las Vegas Tuesday June 2, 2009. Ferrence had three races going on election day. He represented Robinson, Steve Kirk for Henderson Mayor, and Kathleen Boutin for Henderson City Council. Launch slideshow »

Municipal General Election

David Sweningsen joins his parents, Jean and Charles, in voting at Garrett Middle School in Boulder City. Launch slideshow »

Jim Ferrence woke up on Election Tuesday hoping he’d end the day tens of thousands of dollars richer — and having ushered candidates in four cities to victory.

Ferrence is one of a handful of political campaign consultants in the Las Vegas Valley. When his clients win, they him pay as much as $20,000 in bonuses. And on Tuesday, Ferrence was running four different races — Glenn Trowbridge’s campaign for Las Vegas City Council Ward 4, William Robinson’s mayoral campaign in North Las Vegas, Steve Kirk’s race for mayor in Henderson, and Kathleen Boutin’s campaign for Henderson City Council.

He was also helping Cam Walker get elected to the Boulder City Council, but that was for free. They’re friends.

On election day, his job isn’t so much about making last-minute tactical decisions as it is comforting his nervous clients.

Ferrence, 41, earns about $20,000 for each candidate he consults during the four-month-long municipal races, plus a percentage of the money the candidates spend purchasing TV time. It can add up.

But the big money rolls in when his horses win their races. Today is race day.

6:35 a.m.: Ferrence is awakened in his Henderson home by his 19-month-old son, Giacomo, and gets his first call from William Robinson, who wants to know when volunteers will start knocking on doors. Well, not this early.

7:30 a.m.: On his cell phone, he holds a conference call with his field directors, planning which voters in which areas will be targeted. He says he thinks that of all the races, the Henderson mayoral race will be the tightest.

10:14 a.m.: He votes at the Silver Springs Recreation Center in Henderson. Every vote counts.

10:26 a.m.: Back home, he is in his office decorated with memorabilia from Notre Dame, where he graduated in 1990 with degrees in political science and communications.

10:33 a.m.: On the phone, Ferrence asks Amy Kirk, the candidate’s wife, to record a telephone message reminding voters that this is the day. Her first message runs too long. The second one is perfect. Thanks to a robotic phone-calling system, her message is soon being heard on phones in 10,700 households. Why the candidate’s wife? “Sense of family.”

11:12 a.m.: A nervous Kathleen Boutin, seeking her first elected office, calls Ferrence, just to touch base. He says he won’t get nervous until 6. “I’m never surprised when we win. Today, I have only a little bit of a sinking feeling, for Will” Robinson.

11:38 a.m.: Ferrence visits Steve Kirk’s headquarters and phone bank in a Henderson business park. Kirk and three others are on the phone, telling voters where they can vote. Ferrence talks to a field director about the latest tally — updated hourly — of who has voted in Henderson. They revise their lists to focus on who hasn’t voted, and e-mail the names to volunteers in the field.

12:05 p.m.: Secretary of State Ross Miller and Ferrence have one of their several phone calls of the day, discussing whether there have been any polling-place incidents. Nope, none.

12:21 p.m.: Driving to Summerlin to check on the Glenn Trowbridge race, Ferrence’s phone rings with calls from supporters and donors wondering what the exit polls are saying. There aren’t any exit polls today, Ferrence says. They’re too expensive. It adds to the suspense.

12:41 p.m.: Ferrence drops in at a fundraising lunch at TPC Las Vegas golf course for Coaches vs. Cancer, a nationwide organization of basketball coaches who raise money for cancer researchers. He chats with UNLV’s Lon Kruger, but he’s too wound up to eat.

1:13 p.m.: Voting officials at the Mountain Shadows Community Center in Summerlin tell Ferrence that only about 45 people have voted so far today in the Ward 4 race. He shrugs. Down the road at the Desert Vista Community Center, 260 people have voted. That’s more like it.

1:46 p.m.: Heading for North Las Vegas, Ferrence’s cell phone rings again — and as it has 50 times already today, it plays the Notre Dame fight song. On the phone: Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, one of Ferrence’s best-known clients. Good luck, Goodman says. They joke about plotting his campaign for governor.

1:59 p.m.: Ferrence and Robinson are examining a wall map of North Las Vegas peppered with push pins. Let’s make sure, says Robinson, that enough volunteers are being dispatched to black neighborhoods. The candidate sounds upbeat as five volunteers make phone calls.

2:45 p.m.: Ferrence’s hopscotch day takes him now to Henderson City Hall, where 320 people have voted. That’s not a big turnout, which is good: This is the neighborhood where Kirk’s opponent, Andy Hafen, lives. And there’s good news for Kirk, who is a Republican: 400 more Republicans than Democrats have voted in Henderson so far today. This is a nonpartisan race, but still ...

3:21 p.m.: The Notre Dame fight song plays again. Boutin’s on the phone, worried because her opponent, Cathy Rosenfield, sent a last-minute mailer. “Don’t worry about it,” Ferrence says. “Everything is looking good.”

3:34 p.m.: Ferrence checks the turnout at Desert Willow Community Center, where he’s hoping between 400 and 500 people have voted, because this is a Republican neighborhood. The 400 mark was just reached. He calls Kirk: “You’re looking good. Everything is looking good.” He hangs up and confides, “If it wasn’t looking good, I’d still tell him it does.”

3:50 p.m.: Back at Kirk’s headquarters, Ferrence — who hasn’t eaten all day — is working a can of Mountain Dew. Kirk is on the phone, along with his college-age children, and his wife, Amy. This time it’s really her on the phone, not a recorded robocall dialed by a computer.

4:40 p.m.: Ferrence returns home to tend to the other side of his business — sorting out receipts for his invoices. There aren’t any more political decisions to make. Polls close at 7.

5:07 p.m.: Robinson calls Ferrence one last time. Robinson sounds upbeat, but Ferrence’s body language is more cautious. It’s close to 6 p.m. and he’s getting nervous.

6:16 p.m.: Ferrence heads for Boutin’s victory party at Green Valley Ranch Station Casino.

6:50 p.m.: At the resort, he’s taken more than a dozen telephone calls — from Boutin, from Kirk, Cam Walker, Trowbridge and others. He’s tells them to call him when the returns start streaming in for advice on when to make concession or victory speeches. He tells them to relax and enjoy the night. But he’s pacing.

7 p.m.: Polls close, and he opens a can of Coca-Cola at Boutin’s party suite.

7:21 p.m.: As Ferrence heads back to Robinson headquarters, Boutin has 63 percent of the early vote, almost guaranteeing a win. Kirk is behind Hafen by only 110 votes but Robinson is in trouble. He is behind by 800 votes after early voting. Trowbridge is up by 70.

8:15 p.m.: At Robinson’s, he’s anxiously awaiting the count.

8:46 p.m.: At Trowbridge’s results party in Summerlin, everything is up in the air.

9:23 p.m.: The results: Boutin wins handily. Ferrence’s friend Cam Walker has won in Boulder City. William Robinson has been soundly defeated in North Las Vegas, but there will likely be a recount in the other two races. After all this time, Trowbridge is behind by 10 votes. In the Henderson mayoral race, Kirk is behind by 45.

At the end of the night, it’s impossible to tell just how well Jim Ferrence did. The bonus checks may have to wait for a recount or two.

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