The political season is about to burst into full swing across the valley as office holders and office seekers both begin their respective campaigns.
Just about every county office is up for grabs, with some races likely to be more interesting than others.
The local judiciary and law enforcement in particular are likely to feature some fun races.
Sheriff Tony DeMeo is not running for re-election, so his seat is expected to be hotly contested. In my opinion this is the big county race to watch.
Assistant Sheriff Rick Marshall is already in full campaign mode, raising money and knocking on doors. He looks like the candidate to beat so far. DeMeo has told the PVT he expects a dozen or more candidates to challenge his assistant sheriff. Marshall faces some interesting dynamics in his run; not everyone in his department is quite on board with him and a few challengers are even expected to emerge from within his department’s own ranks.
On the judicial side, District Attorney Brian Kunzi is up for re-election. District Judge Robert Lane and Judge Kimberly Wanker, appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval to finish the term of the late Judge John Davis, are both running to keep their seats. Justice of the Peace Kent Jasperson will also be seeking to retain his job.
No one really expects Wanker to get a serious challenge, but that hasn’t stopped her from campaigning incessantly since she took the bench. Lane on the other hand will likely get a challenger this time around. That could make things interesting. Lane has a lot of experience under his belt going into the next election and will be tough for anyone to push aside. A challenger might be able to find a few rulings on which to run against him, perhaps dredging up the bit of controversy over the Drug Court’s finances under Lane or its nonprofit status to try to unseat the judge. I don’t think that’s enough to unseat Lane, particularly given his knack for building a good rapport with people.
Jasperson appears relatively safe. The same can probably be said for Kunzi, though as a Democrat in a rabid Republican county, anything’s possible. Kunzi won by a slim margin to take the job in 2010. But unlike 2010, Kunzi today has a strong record of performance in office to back up his campaign. Kunzi’s challenger in 2010 was Ron Kent, today a justice of the peace. Kent would be crazy to leave the bench to challenge the DA again next year, considering Kunzi’s strengths. In all likelihood Kunzi will attract a weak, or no challenger at all.
Other county races to watch are the two commissioner races, pitting incumbents Dan Schinhofen and commissioner Chair Butch Borasky against a few challengers. Current Pahrump Town Board member Bill Dolan says he’s running against Schinhofen. Whispers in town have it that Dr. Tom Waters, another town board member, will challenge Borasky. The same crowd that brought all of us Donna Cox and Frank Carbone are expected to launch a few candidates at these races, too, so look for some candidates from the coalition of the kooky to make their presence felt in these races.
Speaking of the coalition, Shirley Matson’s bid to remain an elected official should be a super entertaining race to watch given her latest troubles. A man named David Roberts — coincidentally Wanker’s love interest — announced he was running for that seat. He even had a booth at the Fall Festival.
I don’t know too much about Roberts, but already I can predict his challenge of Matson could be a disruption for Wanker in her race. Matson and her crew have already made public statements that Wanker is “sponsoring” Roberts’ campaign. Of course, I talked to the good judge the other day, she says that’s total nonsense and that Roberts is more than capable of deciding on his own to seek or not seek public office. In fact, Roberts may have decided to run based on statements Matson made hinting that she would not be seeking re-election. And with an FBI investigation against her ongoing, it may be a moot point soon anyway.
Another ripe county office for the picking might also be the public administrator’s seat. Falkon Finlinson’s tenure since taking office in 2010 has been mixed at best, with some questions raised not long ago about reports the public administrator should be providing county officials. This could bite Finlinson if a serious challenger were to come along. I imagine there are other weak points for which Finlinson could find himself on the defensive, but I have to hand it to him, for the most part he’s flown under the radar since taking office, unlike his predecessor Bob Jones. That will work in his favor.
Like every election, there will also be some really boring races, with not much action, no great barbs or oration to remember. Clerk Sam Merlino is up for re-election, which means it’s nap time. She might be the best county clerk in Nevada, so don’t expect any challengers to make it interesting for her. The county recorder and treasurer are up for re-election, or election in the treasurer’s case. Richard Billman took over for the embattled Mike Maher earlier this year. He had his work cut out for him, but from all outward appearances seems to be getting it done. He might get a good challenger. Deborah Beatty is the county’s recorder. I can’t say I’ve ever seen the woman. Good for her.
These are just a smattering of the races that we’ll be covering in the PVT and doesn’t include any of the federal races. I didn’t mention any town board races since the town board may not be around much longer. Of note, however, is that town board Chair Harley Kulkin is planning to run for lieutenant governor.
That’s awesome, at least from a newspaper reporter’s standpoint. Run, Harley, run. Go bold or go home! Harley should serve as an example to others who may be considering a run for public office. Dream big, be in it to win it and do it because you wish to serve and for nothing else.