Wednesday, May 20, 2009 | 2 a.m.
- FBI probe in '94 mars candidacy (5-15-2009)
- Henderson City Council candidates stress experience (5-14-2009)
- Commissioner throws weight behind Robinson (5-8-2009)
- In small town, only debate is king (4-28-2009)
- NLV mayor race a clash of generations (4-28-2009)
There’s a well-traveled route toward political involvement in the suburbs. The people running for city council seats typically come from community groups and homeowners associations.
They serve on community boards and planning commissions.
Local government, for all the growth and money that has come to the Las Vegas Valley, has remained community-based in places such as Henderson.
Teachers, police officers and stay-at-home mothers still routinely win seats.
In one race, however, the longtime PTA member who served on the city recreation board is not the favorite. She has been overshadowed by an aggressive campaign by a new and politically juiced opponent.
Most of the attention in the Henderson City Council race has been on Kathleen Boutin, the 41-year-old nonprofit director with connections to big-name Las Vegas politicians.
She had more than $100,000 in her campaign coffers before she registered for the ballot. She has the backing of County Commissioners Steve Sisolak and Rory Reid, former Gov. Bob Miller and political kingmaker Sig Rogich.
Her underdog opponent has a more traditional pedigree.
Cathy Rosenfield, 50, works from home as vacation property rental agent. She doesn’t have big-name backers, although Henderson City Councilwoman Gerri Schroder wrote her a nice letter.
Rosenfield is a traditional suburban candidate, having lobbied for the construction of a senior center, led the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and worked on a feasibility study for a planned science museum.
But for the primary she had only $7,000 — half from her own checkbook — and little political savvy.
She’ll spend two weeks going door to door before the June 2 election, the same strategy she used to take second place in a six-candidate primary. Early voting started Saturday.
Rosenfield has refrained from lashing out against her opponent — even off the record.
This week, over coffee, she refused to say the vast differences in financial backing and political support tilted the playing field.
“I do think I’m the most experienced candidate,” she said in what for her is a bulldog attack. “I am the candidate going up from the service to the community level.”
Boutin said her role as director of the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, a charity she started 10 years ago, has prepared her for administrative tasks and working on budgets.
Left unsaid by Rosenfield is what many in the city have been thinking for months.
Boutin has been viewed as trying to buy the seat.
This frustrates Boutin, who admits much of the backlash against her campaign fundraising caught her off guard.
“It’s what everyone else does,” she said about her 18-month head start on raising money and her profile. “Look at the governor’s race.”
Henderson City Council seems a long way from the Governor’s Mansion. But, perhaps it isn’t.
Henderson Mayor James Gibson used his seat as a springboard to a gubernatorial run in 2006.
Rosenfield concedes getting started on her campaign earlier would have been a wise decision.
Boutin took 45 percent of the vote, a number she said satisfies her. (Privately many say they were surprised she did not get 50 percent to win outright.)
Boutin also has the backing of a pair of former candidates, Jim Dunn and Bruce Cutler, both Republicans, who accounted for a combined 23 percent of the vote.
Rosenfield is a Democrat. Boutin became a Democrat in 2006.
Rosenfield, who received 22 percent of the primary vote, still has a chance, based on how one campaign manager interpreted the numbers:
“More people voted against Kathleen Boutin in the primary than voted for her.”