A week of analysis later, Carolyn Goodman’s 18,040 votes and 37 percent of the vote mean everything and nothing.
The outcome may have repudiated the notion of a Goodman dynasty, or been an impressive outing for a candidate without the political background of her leading opponents. Or neither, since turnout was below 20 percent.
Carolyn didn’t match her husband’s popularity in his first race, when Oscar Goodman won 49 percent of the vote in a three-way battle. Then again, she wasn’t a colorful lawyer running against a bland councilman and a developer. Rather, she was a first-time candidate who made mistakes, sometimes talking too much and sometimes saying the wrong thing, but without her husband’s panache when doing either.
Other thoughts on the primaries:
• In a battle of county commissioners trying to leave the state’s most powerful body for a more ceremonial office, Chris Giunchigliani nipped Larry Brown by 15 votes to get in the runoff against Goodman. The question of why the vote turned out this way may be easier and nicer to answer than whether Brown feels inclined to ask the first 16 people he sees where they were on Election Day.
• In getting only 14 percent of the vote, Victor Chaltiel demonstrated that it’s possible to spend more than $1 million to no real purpose. He wasn’t the first—and won’t be the last—businessman to claim government needs business management and spend nearly $200 for each vote he received in an effort to prove his understanding of fiscal austerity.
Love him, hate him, or find him puzzling, Chaltiel brought to mind two previous candidates. In 1992 and 1996, Ross Perot ran for president with a lot of his own money and drew some ardent followers because he was a billionaire and therefore must know what he’s talking about. Before that, in 1987, casino owner Bob Stupak ran for mayor and led in the primary after a smart campaign of giving voters stock certificates and fruit baskets. Essentially, he anticipated how Jones and Goodman would give the mayor’s office a pizzazz it hadn’t known before.
• What to watch in the general election? Giunchigliani has a steep hill to climb. She carried solidly Democratic areas while Brown, stressing his fiscal conservatism, did far better in Summerlin, an area likelier to back Goodman than a known and proud liberal. Chaltiel and George Harris, who got 5 percent of the vote, presumably attracted those who have no use for government: The question is who those voters associate with real governance—a longtime politician or the mayor’s wife.
All of that adds up to trouble for Giunchigliani. But she also has much more political and grassroots experience, which will help her. And remember: First-time candidate Kenny Guinn was the chosen candidate for governor and nearly blew it a couple of times, and he had more political involvement under his belt than Carolyn Goodman does. Giunchigliani lost by 20 percent but still could make it up. Chances are neither Goodman is taking anything for granted.
• Some voters opposed Goodman because of their concern about a mayoral dynasty. But for municipal court judge, the two finalists in Department 2 are Susan Roger (the district attorney’s wife) and Sonny Bonaventure of the well-known judicial and constabulary family. In North Las Vegas, the leader in the Ward 2 City Council race, Pamela Goynes-Brown, a former councilman’s daughter, disposed of William E. Robinson, a term-limited councilman’s son.
• The following candidates lost: Edward “Toughguy” Hamilton and Bobby “Protect It” Rastifard for Henderson City Council, and Anthony “Little Guy” Wernicke for Las Vegas mayor. That’s a shame. In times like these, we need all the colorful nicknames we can get.
Michael Green is a history professor at the College of Southern Nevada and author of books and articles on Nevada politics.