Las Vegas Sun

January 29, 2015

Currently: 56° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account


Despite charges against Collins, opponents face steep hill in effort to unseat county commissioner


Steve Marcus

Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins waves to the crowd during a Veterans Day parade in downtown Las Vegas on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010.

Commissioner's bull escapes

KSNV reports on bulls that escaped from the yard of Commissioner Tom Collins. Aug. 17, 2012.

Charges filed against Commissioner Tom Collins

KSNV reports that Clark County commissioner Tom Collins faces two misdemeanor charges for allegedly firing a gun on his property, Aug. 15.

First, he allegedly shot a tree that stubbornly refused to be cut down on the night of July 3; then, one of his bulls escaped its North Las Vegas enclosure Saturday and he faces more misdemeanor charges, this time for “livestock at large.”

The incidents are funny to some, but to those trying to unseat “cowboy” Tom Collins from his Clark County Commission position, they point to a character, flawed or comical, who shouldn’t be sitting on arguably the most powerful political body in Nevada.

What’s difficult to gauge is how those incidents will persuade voters in November. Collins, a Democrat, is in a three-way race against Republican Ruth Johnson and Independent American Warren Markowitz.

Collins holds a significant advantage in the number of Democratic voters in his District B. After redistricting in 2011, Democrats held a roughly 11,300-vote lead over Republicans or others in that district, almost equal to the number of votes Collins beat his Republican and Libertarian challengers by in 2008 (11,113 votes).

Markowitz could not be reached for comment. Johnson’s campaign manager, Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, believes Collins’ gaffes, along with the ensuing media coverage — his shooting incident is scheduled for a court hearing in late September — should move some independent and Democratic voters to Johnson’s side.

“He is in a very powerful leadership role where judgment is important, and, unfortunately, he has had some mishaps that could bring that judgment into question,” DeRiso said of Collins.

DeRiso didn’t have to say the Johnson campaign needed money — if it had enough, you’d already expect fliers to be printed and mailed featuring bulls and guns and trees entwined with Collins’ face in the background.

“We’d certainly like to raise more money,” DeRiso said.

Political analysts with no stake in the race say it would be hard to unseat Collins.

Longtime political campaign manager Dan Hart said Collins’ district was considered a stronghold of “conservative Democrats with a strong rural component.”

“And Tom Collins is the epitome of a leader for that district,” Hart said. “Yeah, he’s had a couple of public relations gaffes over the past few months, but I don’t think that negates what he’s done for the district and the way he’s protected the district over many years. That district is more ... rough and tumble; it includes rural towns that are agricultural, so his persona fits.”

Johnson and Markowitz have shown “little signs of life,” he added, “and haven’t really caught anybody’s attention.”

Grass-roots campaigning and knocking on doors are important, but money is the lifeblood of political campaigning. So it’s easy to understand how difficult it might be to make hay out of Collins’ tree-and-bull act, another political adviser said, since “it’s hard everywhere to raise money.”

“Even given the ‘gifts’ she’s been given, where is Johnson going to get the money to make use of them?” said the campaign adviser, who did not want to be named.

At the same time, he added, nothing Collins has done has risen to the level of the kinds of public corruption Clark County had grown used to when four previous commissioners went to prison in a bribery scam.

“He didn’t steal money. He didn’t take money from strip-club owners. He didn’t do things that you get unelected for,” the consultant said. “Nothing he’s done has affected how he represents the people out there.”

Collins, meanwhile, said he had raised about $700,000 since his 2008 election and had $300,000 in the bank. Even with a Democratic voter advantage, he said, he’s taking nothing for granted.

“You run two ways,” he said. “You run unopposed or you run scared.”

On advice of his attorney, Collins would not talk about the alleged tree-shooting incident.

He ticked off a list of accomplishments he’s managed in his district to demonstrate his effectiveness.

“I’ve got bridges done seven years early, got traffic lights in three years early. I’ve got rec centers built, walking paths built, trails built. I’ve been able to work with a federal delegation to forge ahead with a national monument,” he said. “Tom Collins is a guy who works for his district. If they want a ‘purty’ face, then they can vote for the Mona Lisa or something.”

Collins’ district encompasses most of the northern part of the county, a section few Las Vegans venture into unless driving to Mesquite, Valley of Fire or Zion National Park. The Moapa Valley, about 60 miles northeast of Las Vegas, is one of the few populated areas. Looking at it from satellite imagery on Google Maps, it is a long sliver of green jutting out from the northern fingers of Lake Mead.

One of the towns in that sliver is Logandale, where Chris Cook manages the Inside Scoop ice cream parlor and restaurant. Cook said Collins has been the talk of the town lately, with those who like him saying they aren’t bothered by the bull and tree incidents, and those who don’t like him saying it justifies their dislike.

Cook, though, guesses that from all the people who visit his store, it’s about a 70-30 split in Collins’ favor.

“He’s a human being, and I think the things that he’s done for the district outweigh the ill-thinking things he’s done,” Cook said. “I don’t think it should overshadow his commission work by any means. I just think he’s been a blessing to us out here.”

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 8 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. Clarence Weldon Collins Jr. is the poster boy for just how dumb many voters in Clark County are. He has little honor; no ethics; is a violent pyscopath as evidenced by his propensity for assaulting those he disagrees with; a serial law-breaker; and an all-around piece of fecal matter; yet the morons in our district blindly vote the cretin into office. For more years than I can remember, I've been saddled with such a low-life "representing" me in Carson City and on the CC Commission. Hopefully, because of term limits, this is the last time he will pull the wool over the eyes of so many stupid voters.

  2. Horse Feathers...

  3. The Las Vegas Sun sure selected a symbolic picture of Commissioner Tom Collins on his horse. I live in the Nellis AFB area where a new rec center was built, and the fitness trails next to it, new fire station (why did we need a new one?), senior center, and Shadow Mtn. Dog Park.

    Although these are all noble accomplishments, my neighborthood had a NEW City of North Las Vegas Waste Water Treatment Plant shoved down our throats with very intentional and creative political manuevering. Few, if any, next door neighbors to this plant received notice, nor were they able to input opinions as there was a "straw committee" put up to decide landscaping, community involvement, etc.; they soon left the area and the neighborhood once the shovels hit the dirt! There is virtual no landscaping around the perimeter, and our values have significantly dropped, and no one wants to buy a home next to this monster that we receive ZERO benefit from!!!!

    Part of the negatives are the hundreds of dead trees and shrubs and lost wildlife habitat on the old Nellis AFB dedicated Golf Course. It looks like a wasteland now that us neighbors get to look at every day as a reminder of the good intentions by our local political bodies, including Nellis AFB.

    Oh, and let's not forget those pesky bugs and smell from the Sloan Channel now, besides the 24/7/365 roaring sounds from that waste water treatment plant!

    Hope Commissioner Colins owes up to that one!

    Blessings and Peace,

  4. Commissioner Collins by extension is responsible for out-of-control and excessive Clark county public union wages and benefits. Helping those employees take your tax dollars to retire with 80% of their ending salary. Who in the private sector receives a deal like this? Not even people receiving Social Security get this special deal? People wonder why municipalities are going broke... is it because of elected officials like shoot'em up/beat'em up, let'er buck Cowboy Tom?

  5. This is Nevada. The wild, wild west. Ruled by casino owners and crony politicians. This kind of behavior by the ruling class is acceptable - and as long as we non-rulers keep electing them to office it will continue.

  6. Star,

    In the history of this town or any other town Mobil Homes have not increased in value.

    I know it is fun to blame the worlds problems on everyone else but since you are an educator I would think you would use common sense when posting.

  7. ......I punched a tree once because it was looking at me funny.

  8. Re Jerry Fink. Collins is everything a 'bagger like you should support. A DINO is as close as you can get Jerry. Reread your post. It's the definition of a 'bagger. You should be proud to vote for him.