Municipal politics somehow seem less ugly than what goes on in Congress or the legislature. After all, city officials are supposed to be making sure our potholes are filled in, not deciding war and peace. That theory is wrong on two levels. One, the closer our politicians are to us, physically and on the issues, the easier it is to argue with them and about them. Two, and more important right now, the non-partisan races involving city officials are just as partisan as Speaker of the House John Boehner telling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to do the biologically impossible.
The Las Vegas City Council provides the best—but not only—example. In Ward 2, Bob Beers is seeking a full term against Fayyaz Raja. Raja has been working quietly and hard on his campaign while Beers has seemed a little less active. But Beers has ample name recognition, not only as an incumbent, but also for serving in the assembly and state senate and running for governor.
Beers is a conservative and Republican, and makes no bones about it. Raja has been gaining Democratic support, which could help in that district, where registration doesn’t favor Beers. Even the Review-Journal, which at times over the years has seemed to love Beers more than it loves life itself, noted that in the 2012 special election that Beers won against a large field, the “anybody but Bob Beers” vote was strong. When Beers recently went after a funding program for public art that generated all of $3,000 last year, some in the arts community became a trifle upset, and the councilman might want to remember that Las Vegans are like other Americans: we’re all for cutting the budget until something has to be cut, and if Beers is as great a watchdog of the public treasury as he and his allies claim, he might have done better than
So, this seems to have morphed into a Democrat (Raja) vs. Republican (Beers) supposedly non-partisan municipal election. Nor are they alone.
Beers and another Republican member of the council, Stavros Anthony, are teaming up for a fundraiser with Suzette LaGrange, who is opposing their colleague Steve Ross. Why would they be so upset with one of their colleagues? Well, Ross is a Democrat and union official, and LaGrange is a Republican real estate
executive, with “the majority” of her “real estate experience … in landlord and developer information,” as her website says. Whether or not landlords and developers really need more help from the city than they already get, it’s interesting that Beers and Anthony would be so obviously political and partisan.
Meanwhile, in North Las Vegas, John Lee, who lost his state senate seat in a primary because Democrats saw him as far too conservative, is running for mayor of North Las Vegas against the incumbent, Shari Buck, who is a conservative Republican. Democrats still don’t adore Lee, but with Buck as the alternative, they seem to have swallowed hard and gone to work for him.
Some political observers seemed surprised that Lee has sent out some nasty mailers about Buck, who can easily be attacked for the disastrous state of North Las Vegas’s budget and finances, since she also was on the city council before becoming mayor (and a close ally of her predecessor, Michael Montandon, a fellow Republican). But she also could be attacked for any number of things, including videotaping the family of a political opponent and once claiming to have graduated from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Lee isn’t the most traditional Democrat, but he is one, and when even judicial races often turn on what we know about the partisanship of the judges, we shouldn’t be surprised when municipal races are affected. Politics is politics, and as Tip O’Neill, the liberal Democrat who served as speaker of the House, once said, all politics is local. And besides, none of this is so shocking as Boehner not having the word Searchlight permanently tattooed on his forehead.