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December 19, 2014

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North Las Vegas voters prepare to elect new mayor

Click to enlarge photo

William Robinson, candidate for North Las Vegas Mayor, 2009.

Click to enlarge photo

Shari Buck, candidate for North Las Vegas Mayor, 2009.

North Las Vegas voters are returning to the polls to choose their next mayor.

After 12 years, Mayor Michael Montandon is being forced out because of term limits. During his tenure, Montandon oversaw unprecedented growth in the city as the population swelled from 91,000 to about 217,000.

The two candidates vying to replace him oversaw the growth, too. William Robinson has served on the City Council since 1983. His opponent, Shari Buck, has been on the council since 1999.

Both candidates have name recognition and are longtime residents. They both say the economy and crime are priorities they would address as mayor. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

The race is nonpartisan though Buck, 46, ran as a Republican in 2004 for the County Commission and Robinson, 69, has stated he’s a Democrat.

The two have disagreed recently at City Council meetings on the performance of City Manager Gregory Rose.

Robinson criticized Rose for not being able to hammer out a contract quickly enough between the city and Teamsters Union Local 14 while Buck praised Rose for his efforts to cut nearly $17 million from next year’s budget.

The union has backed Robinson.

Robinson has said the city should delay its plans for a new city hall and wastewater treatment facility until the economy improves. Buck said the city projects are bonded already and would create construction jobs.

The outcome of the election likely will be determined by which candidate can better mobilize his or her supporters to vote, said Kenneth Fernandez, assistant professor in the UNLV Political Science Department.

“In many cases, it’s going to come down to media reports. It’s going to come down to a particular vote on a controversial issue and race and gender may pop up,” he said. “You don’t have that label Democrat or Republican that says so much in many cases about social, political and economic issues. These other things end up being weighed more heavily in a non-partisan election.”

Voters on the fence won’t have a chance to hear the candidates debate — none are scheduled. And while Buck has conducted media interviews, Robinson has turned down such opportunities. Robinson did not return messages left through his campaign manager seeking an interview for this story.

But Robinson has been reelected six times, which shows he knows how to motivate his supporters to vote.

Early voting for the June 2 general election is under way and continues through May 29.

In the April 7 primary, Buck received 2,737 votes or 30.63 percent of the total number cast, and Robinson garnered 2,702 votes for 30.24 percent. Turnout is usually 10 to 15 percent and this year will likely be similar, because it is non-partisan election and there are not state or federal offices on the ballot, Fernandez said.

“The only people who turn out are people who have already made up their mind and know exactly why they’re voting for Robinson or Buck,” he said. “There’s not going to be a lot of marginal voters.”

A recent news report that Robinson was the subject of an FBI corruption investigation in the mid-1990s also probably won’t change many voters’ minds, Fernandez said, because it didn’t result in any charges filed.

Robinson said in a statement read on the May 8 episode of “Face to Face with Jon Ralston” that the revelations were “dirty tactics of my opponent” and denied any wrongdoing.

Robinson also faces opposition from the city’s police union. The union backs Buck, the daughter of former Police Chief Jim Avance.

The North Las Vegas Police Officers Association filed an ethics complaint with the state Elections Division regarding an endorsement included in his campaign material.

Robinson is endorsed by the North Las Vegas Police Officers PAC — a political action committee that uses a symbol that bares a resemblance to the North Las Vegas Police Department badge.

The union claims he’s deceiving voters.

Robinson’s campaign manager, Jim Ferrence, previously told The Las Vegas Sun that some officers do support Robinson and that the mailers are legitimate.

The union filed its complaint under the Fair Campaign Practices Act, which governs financial violations but not endorsements. Secretary of State Elections Deputy Matt Griffin said his office does not have the statutory authority to investigate the complaint.

Buck, meanwhile, said she’s met more than 9,000 voters face to face and pushed her plans of economic growth and fighting crime.

“People really need to realize how local government affects them and how important this particular election is because of the vast difference between me and my opponent,” she said. “It’s going to make a huge difference in the future of this city.”

She favors luring businesses to the Apex/Kapex industrial area with incentives to make it cheaper for them to relocate to the city.

She also supports the More Cops Sales Tax Initiative and community policing in which officers assigned to particular neighborhoods become more familiar with the residents, partly by attending neighborhood meetings.

As mayor, Buck said she would help residents facing foreclosure to receive assistance in modifying or refinancing their loans.

Regardless of which candidate wins, he or she will have to work with the other for two more years on the council. Both are term-limited and have two years remaining on their final incumbency.

The council will appoint someone to serve out the term of the candidate who becomes mayor.

Buck said she and Robinson have always been cordial and expects they will remain professional to each other during the next two years.

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