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Quality field seeks to replace Oscar

We may be saying “Mayor Goodman” for at least four more years.

Only if we do, that will be “Mayor Carolyn Goodman.”

But before incumbent Mayor Oscar Goodman’s wife can take the oath of office, she’s got to run a gantlet that includes some tough competition, from a pair of county commissioners to a wealthy businessman.

One of the top names among the 15 candidates who’d filed by press time Thursday is Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, the progressive former assemblywoman with a grass-roots network all over the neighborhoods of old Las Vegas. Giunchigliani sells herself as that rare combination: A person with government insider’s experience but who’s seen as a political outsider willing to shake things up.

She’s taken on people (Jim Rhodes) and companies (Republic Services) who are usually big donors to commissioners, all in the name of standing up for her constituents.

“I’m very effective when I put my mind to it,” Giunchigliani said. “To me, I think people are looking for excitement, but not only that, but preserving our neighborhoods.”

It was the cause of preserving the downtown specifically — the cause of Oscar Goodman’s mayoralty — that the mayor said might prompt his wife to enter the fray. As she filed for office on Wednesday, Carolyn Goodman said she wasn’t worried downtown would fall by the wayside as much as the fact that she was the right person to carry it forward.

“I think I am so well suited for it,” she said. “I have a lot to learn, but I have a lot to give.”

Carolyn Goodman founded The Meadows School after a meeting with the administration of the Clark County School District in 1978 turned sour. She’s run the organization and managed its budget for decades, and dozens of high-profile members of the community have a personal connection with her through their children. Many will surely line up to donate to her campaign.

Another top-tier candidate is Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown, a former city councilman who has developed a quiet reputation as a moderate, competent budget hawk. That’s got great appeal these days, as the state struggles with a big budget deficit and local governments deal with deep cuts of their own. Brown says his longtime approach to dealing with public money will be a selling point to voters. And don’t forget he was considered a potential candidate for lieutenant governor.

“It’s about changing the face of government,” Brown said. “It was a choice then” in the early 2000s. “It’s a mandate right now.”

A big game changer could be the candidacy of businessman Victor Chaltiel, who was expected to file his candidacy papers at noon today. Chaltiel brings plenty of his own money to the race, and has enlisted some top-notch political talent to help him run his campaign.

One candidate almost certainly doomed by the late entries in the race is Steve Ross, who had a clouded path to victory anyway because of a negative ethics commission finding. His only chance — to position himself as the natural successor to the mayor based on their identical voting records — vanished when the mayor’s wife jumped into the fray.

All four top candidates will be able to raise money, or already have it. All four have high name recognition, or can buy it. All four candidates will be able to turn out voters. (Municipal elections, held in odd-numbered years on a truncated schedule, are won and lost at the front door.) The only question now is, which two will survive the April 5 primary to face off on the general election ballot in June?


Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist. His column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 387-5276 or at ssebelius@reviewjournal.com.

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