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October 1, 2014

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Nevada Wonk

The real primary race for Las Vegas mayor was for second place

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Christopher DeVargas

Mayoral candidate Chris Giunchigliani and her supporters celebrate as she beats out Larry Brown in the primary election, Tues. April 5th 2011

Municipal Primary Election 2011

Carolyn Goodman takes a call from a supporter at her campaign headquarters Tuesday, April 5, 2011.  Launch slideshow »

Las Vegas mayoral candidate Carolyn Goodman’s primary win to advance to June’s general election isn’t surprising. She was considered a frontrunner since February, when she announced her candidacy and intention to succeed her husband, Mayor Oscar Goodman, who could not seek a fourth term because of term limits.

As expected, goodwill for Mayor Goodman translated into votes for his wife. As downtown voter Genia Williams put it Tuesday, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

The real race was for the second spot on the ballot. County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani narrowly edged out fellow Commissioner Larry Brown, taking 17.35 percent of the vote to beat Brown by just 15 votes.

Polls leading up to the primary consistently showed Giunchigliani and Brown in a dead heat, with businessman Victor Chaltiel nipping at their heels.

Brown was the first to announce his candidacy and was considered the man to beat before Goodman entered the race.

Chaltiel finished fourth with 14 percent of the vote. He showed impressive momentum in the final weeks of the race, transforming himself from a virtual unknown into a real contender.

He ended up behind Giunchigliani and Brown by 3 percentage points.

Chaltiel’s success can largely be attributed to the money he pumped into the race. He spent the most of any candidate, plunging $1.36 million from his personal bank account into the campaign. That accounted for the bulk of the $1.44 million he raised, with the majority spent on television commercials.

Many voters also were impressed by his resume. He attended Harvard Business School and is a successful venture capitalist.

“He’s seems like he’s got the business know-how to take us in the right direction,” Sun City Summerlin voter Nancy Whisler said.

Goodman raised the most money of all candidates from outside contributors, taking in $718,000 in campaign contributions. She has close to $200,000 remaining in her account for use in the general election.

Giunchigliani has just less than $40,000 left from the primary.

Both candidates are continuing to raise funds.

Brown likely was hurt by a combination of factors: a reserved personality, backlash about alleged county firefighter abuses, and a Northwest base split by City Councilman Steve Ross, the fifth-place finisher with 6 percent of the vote.

Brown and Ross represent the same area — Brown on the commission and Ross on the council. Portions of their districts overlap, so constituents who have previously supported both had to choose sides Tuesday.

While opponents slammed both Brown and Giunchigliani for being career politicians and for failing to identify and stop reported Clark County firefighter sick leave and overtime abuses, Giunchigliani appeared to weather the criticism better.

She’s a master at grassroots campaigning and won the support of many minority and underrepresented groups, who campaigned hard for her.

Brown, on the other hand, turned some voters off by saying he’d support repeal of Nevada’s domestic partnership law.

Giunchigliani also worked doggedly to register first-time voters.

Of the other candidates on the ballot, businessman George Harris picked up 5 percent of the vote, and political newcomer Katie Duncan won close to 500 votes, earning 1 percent of the total.

Each of the remaining candidates netted significantly fewer votes, with several collecting only a few dozen.

The general election is expected to be a no-holds-barred match up with plenty of mudslinging.

And while Goodman bested Giunchigliani more than two to one, Giunchigliani has a chance to win if she can consolidate support from the losing candidates.

Brown on Tuesday night said Giunchigliani is “as qualified as anyone” but stopped short of endorsing her. That announcement will likely come in the next few days.

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