Education Race Roundup: Brooks re-elected in Clark County trustee race; Church leading in Washoe County trustee race

The back end of a Clark County School bus

Three new members appear poised to join the Clark County School Board of Trustees, and an incumbent will be returning for a second term.

Incumbent Lola Brooks, who serves as board president, has defeated Alexis Salt, a Clark County School District teacher, to retain her District E seat. As of early Wednesday morning, Brooks has captured 57 percent of the votes, while Salt snagged 43 percent.

“Although I am leading in my race, final election results won’t be available until all the votes are counted,” Brooks tweeted Wednesday morning. “Let’s wait until every vote is counted.”

Brooks was the only incumbent running for the four Clark County School Board seats up for grabs in this election. Existing trustees Deanna Wright (District A), Chris Garvey (District B) and Linda Young (District C) are term limited, leaving those seats wide open to board newcomers.

In District A, voters chose Lisa Guzman to represent them on the school board. Guzman, executive director of the Education Support Employees Association, had scooped up 53 percent of the votes by early Wednesday morning, compared with Liberty Leavitt’s 47 percent. Leavitt, wife of former state Sen. Michael Roberson, works at a nonprofit serving underprivileged children.

The race for the District B trustee seat is not nearly as close. Katie Williams — a veteran, former small business owner and outspoken conservative — has amassed 61 percent of the votes, defeating Jeffrey Proffitt, who has received 39 percent. Proffitt’s loss comes despite him out-fundraising Williams by a significant margin and racking up a lengthy list of endorsements.

On Wednesday morning, Williams took to Twitter, where she thanked voters and said she looked forward to serving them.

“People degraded me daily, but I didn't care because I knew I was right,” she wrote in a tweet. “The district needs help and I want to thank all the voters who believed in me and who cast their votes for me.”

In District C, meanwhile, Evelyn Garcia Morales holds the lead early Wednesday morning after stockpiling 53 percent of the votes. Her opponent, Tameka Henry, has earned 47 percent.

The revamped cast of the school board comes as trustees grapple with the aftermath of pandemic-disrupted learning. The new trustees will assume their roles in January.

Washoe County School Board of Trustees

Jeff Church has triumphed in the race for the Washoe County School Board seat in District A, denying Scott Kelley’s bid at a re-election comeback.

“I thank the voters and those that supported me for change at WCSD,” Church wrote in a statement shared with The Nevada Independent. “I hope to earn the trust that the voters placed in me and I will do whatever it takes to improve the quality of education and represent the needs of the taxpayer.”

That race took a weird twist in August when Kelley resigned from the school board after a This Is Reno story detailed information about his divorce, including placing a tracking device on his wife’s vehicle and operating fake social media accounts. But Kelley remained on the general election ballot, hoping to revive his school board career by letting voters decide his fate.

After Kelley resigned, the board appointed former Incline Village Middle School Principal Sharon Kennedy to serve the remainder of his term.

Results posted early Wednesday show that Church, a retired Reno police sergeant, has snagged 60 percent of the votes, while Kelley has only grabbed 40 percent.

But, in the District E trustee race, incumbent Angela Taylor handily sailed to re-election after scooping up 63 percent of the votes by early Wednesday. Her challenger, Matthew Montognese, has received 37 percent.

“It’s an honor that the people in District E would entrust me once again to represent them,” Taylor said during a phone call with The Nevada Independent. “It makes me feel good as an incumbent that the district likes what they see with my work and want to keep that going.”

The closest Washoe County School Board race is for the At-Large District G seat. As of early Wednesday, Diane Nicolet, a previous board appointee, maintained the lead with 54 percent of votes tallied. Her competitor, Craig Wesner, has captured 46 percent.

State Board of Education

Rene Cantu appears on track to defeat incumbent Mark Newburn to represent District 4 on the State Board of Education. 

It’s a tight race: Cantu, who is executive director of Jobs for Nevada’s Graduates, has earned 51 percent of the votes tallied so far, while Newburn has received 49 percent. The margin separating the two in that race is 4,001 votes.

Cantu’s victory comes amid very little campaign spending and fewer endorsements. Newburn, however, had voiced concern that parents’ disappointment with school reopening decisions could hurt his shot at re-election.

The District 1 race, meanwhile, isn’t quite as close. Tim Hughes has the edge with 52 percent of votes as of Wednesday morning, while his opponent, Angelo Casino, has 48 percent.

Hughes, vice president of The New Teacher Project (TNTP), a teacher training program, mounted a significant fundraising advantage during the course of the campaign. Casino is a charter school teacher in Las Vegas. 

Board of Regents

The Board of Regents, which oversees Nevada’s higher-education system, had four positions on the ballot this year. 

In District 2, Lois Tarkanian, a longtime Las Vegas City Councilwoman who was termed out last year, has won with 60 percent of the votes tallied as of Wednesday morning. Her opponent, Brett Whipple — a former regent and attorney with the Justice Law Center — has 40 percent.

Tarkanian, the wife of the late UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian and mother of Douglas County Commissioner-elect Danny Tarkanian, lamented the untraditional election year that robbed candidates of connecting with voters personally, though it didn't affect her election. She said she looks forward to addressing higher education's issues from the pandemic and developing the UNLV Medical School, which broke ground in late October.

"There's lots of aspects to a medical program besides the building, so I've worked on some of them already," she said. "Secondly, [I want] to continue working very hard to become a world-class educational institution. And that means providing what we need and not wasting money."

Byron Brooks, a principal managing partner of a Henderson spa, has won the District 3 seat with 55 percent of the votes counted so far. His competitor, Swadeep Nigam, a financial analyst for a Las Vegas law firm, has 45 percent.

The race for District 5 remains contested. Patrick Boylan, a former adjunct professor at the College of Southern Nevada, narrowly leads with 51 percent of the votes tallied. His opponent, Nick Spirtos, medical director of the Women’s Cancer Center of Nevada, has 49 percent.

In District 10, Joseph Arrascada has won with 54 percent of votes, while Kevin Melcher, a former regent, has 46 percent. 

Arrascada, who works at the Reno Veterans Administration Hospital and is co-owner of a local community service agency, attributed his win to his platform, which focused on increasing communication between regents, students, faculty and university leadership, and keeping pandemic-driven budget cuts out of classrooms. 

"Even before the closing of the polls, I truly feel that I had won. I know it sounds strange but I'd won because the community that I've called home my entire life, they embraced my candidacy," he said. "It's those items that truly infused my tenacity to continue with throughout this process to bring success."

Election Preview: Board of Regents candidates from the education realm face off against outsiders who think the board needs a new perspective

regents meeting

Candidates for the Nevada Board of Regents will be entering an unprecedented higher education landscape if elected — campuses that look like ghost towns, millions of dollars in budget cuts after years of progress and continuing fallout from the global health crisis. 

Some of the responsibilities of the job, which pays $80 per meeting attended and has a six-year term, are the same as they were before the pandemic such as making leadership appointments for the state's seven higher education institutions and for Desert Research Institute. Candidates expect to inherit new issues if elected, including a $135 million cut to the Nevada System of Higher Education budget from the special legislative session in the summer.

Some issues they likely will have to deal with — ranging from changes that may come with the outcome of Ballot Question 1, which will determine whether the elected board is put under the oversight of the Legislature per Assembly Joint Resolution No. 5 to unknown consequences from the continuing pandemic — are yet to be seen. 

Despite the uncertainties, candidates say they are looking to diversify higher education programs in order to help further diversify the state's economy, make higher education more affordable and move forward with plans for the UNLV Medical School.

The four open seats pit candidates who have a history working in education against community members who would say they want to add a new perspective to higher education.

District 2

The race for District 2, which covers a part of Las Vegas and the southwest corner of the City of North Las Vegas, features a 30-year politician versus a former regent.

Lois Tarkanian, who termed out of her 14-year run on the Las Vegas City Council last year, said her experience on the City Council and as a trustee with the Clark County School District for 12 years, particularly in addressing the district's finances, will help her address concerns as a regent.

Tarkanian thinks Question 1 is an example of "don't throw the baby out with the bathwater" and says that she would be able to address many of the concerns about regents that motivated the creation of the ballot measure, such as members lacking experience in education and mismanagement of finances.

"I feel I have a working relationship. The years that I've had in education and on the city council, you had to work with other people in the community," she said. "I just think I have had a lot of experience with that and I could help."

Tarkanian, the wife of the late, legendary UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian and mother of future Douglas County Commissioner Danny Tarkanian, joined the race in part to continue work she did as a councilwoman on the Las Vegas Medical District with the long-awaited development of the UNLV Medical School. 

While donors are looking to create a private development corporation to largely bypass the wait and red tape that comes with working with regents and elected officials, Tarkanian said she has many connections with stakeholders and can help facilitate conversations. She said she's already talked with donors and stakeholders throughout the process of creating the plan for the medical school.

Tarkanian said she would need to see the regents’ current financial situation to decide how to move forward as a regent amid the $135 million budget cut and find creative solutions to cut costs and possibly add funds to the medical school's development. 

Tarkanian said her passion for education is a crucial factor in how she would serve as a regent if elected.

"The most important thing is I have passion and persistence," she said. "I've stuck with things until we got 'em and we got 'em right."

Tarkanian spoke highly of her challenger, Bret Whipple, but said that based on her conversations with him, she has more passion for the job. 

Whipple, an attorney at Justice Law Center, served as regent from 2002 to 2008 and at one point chaired the board. Now that he has two college-aged children, who were in elementary school during his first term, he said he's looking to return and help improve the system.

As a regent, Whipple boasted about efforts made to improve the student experience statewide. Whipple pointed to his participation in orchestrating a "one-stop-shop" technology system in 2008 for students to use when registering for classes, paying tuition and completing other tasks, a system he recently used as a parent when his daughter was paying and registering for classes. He also helped create common course numbering that allows students to transfer 100 percent of their credits across higher education institutions in the state.

"I just want to continue to make the system a strong system for the entire state that all of our children can be proud of," he said. "People tend to be critical sometimes of our state, but I think we've got an amazing system here, and I was glad to be part of it. And I think I made it much better after when I left, and I'm just hoping to be involved with things that I can improve."

Whipple highlighted the UNLV Medical School and COVID as "hot topics" regents will have to address if elected but said there are other important issues that get less attention, similar to the technology issue he addressed in his first term, that he would learn about as a regent and work to solve.  

Whipple, 57, said that he has "time and energy" to be a regent that might be more difficult for 86-year-old Tarkanian. He said in his first tenure, he didn't just "show up and vote" — he put in time outside of meetings researching and made extra commitments, such as when he made himself the chair of the committee choosing the technology system.

Despite challenges facing the higher education system, Whipple said, he was proud to be a part of what he characterizes as a strong and affordable higher education system and hopes to rejoin.

"Nevada is one of those states that anybody can move to and if you're willing to work hard, you can really succeed," he said. "I'm just very proud of the fact that … you don't have to come from a blueblood family to get into our universities. You don't have to be a millionaire to go to school. You can go to school here and still work and you can make it."

Whipple said he's mostly relying on word of mouth for his campaign, along with name recognition from his previous term as regent 12 years ago. Whipple expected to win his 2008 re-election bid against newcomer Robert Blakely but lost by 7 percentage points after doing little campaigning, including not sending out mailers or having a website. 

Like the first period, Whipple reported no donations or expenses for the second period and had no available cash. 

Tarkanian said she has been sending out mailers and will soon start calling voters. She said she has been touting her endorsements from three sitting county commissioners, including Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick, and three sitting Las Vegas City Council members, including Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Michele Fiore, in her campaign materials.

In the second quarter, Tarkanian raised $4,000 with $2,000 coming from herself and the rest from Las Vegas developer Ernest A. Becker III. She spent more than $17,000, almost $3,000 of which was spent on advertising and the rest mostly on consultants. She had $747 in available cash at the end of the quarter.

District 3

Both candidates for District 3, which includes the UNLV campus and a part of Henderson, have run unsuccessfully in Republican primaries: Swadeep Nigam in 2012 and 2016 for two different Assembly districts and Byron Brooks in 2018 for Senate District 20.

For Nigam, education was his "ticket to prosperity" and is his motivation for running for regent. Coming from a family of educators, Nigam has been a member of the Advanced Technologies Academy advisory board and a scholarship creator and donor for high school seniors in Southern Nevada.

"I'm about education. That's the reason I want to make a difference, especially in this city where UNLV is one of the top campus when it comes to diverse student population," he said. "My goal is to make sure everyone has access to different financial opportunities ... while paying for the college costs." 

A former commissioner of the Nevada Equal Rights Commission that handles the state's employment discrimination complaints, Nigam would like to work on securing more private-sector funding for scholarships amid the rising costs of going to college. He said he would also try to stop annual cost increases or implement a tuition freeze for students for their first five years.

Nigam, a financial analyst for a Las Vegas law firm, has financial experience in both the private sector as a former manager of a health care company and the public sector through his work with the Las Vegas Valley Water District where he supervised the budget as it grew from $150 million to close to $1 billion. He said he knows how to support necessary programs even during economic rough patches and budget cuts.

If elected, Nigam said he would consider delaying university capital projects and future programs to save money.

"[With] my unique professional background coupled with my passion and dedication to higher education policy, I will bring some good, exceptional support to the existing board," he said.

Nigam, who has advanced degrees in economics and finance, said that voters have told him that they're concerned his opponent, Brooks, doesn't have a college degree. 

Although he doesn't have a degree, Brooks attended California State University San Marcos where he studied literature, putting himself through school after leaving the military. He said he participated in a graduation ceremony, but got caught up in working and never went back for three credits in Spanish required for his degree.

"If anybody understands the struggles that students have, some of the things that they have to deal with while they're going to school at the same time, it's me," he said. "Even though there are certainly things that people would like to achieve from an education standpoint, it doesn't mean that they're not dealing with challenges … and I believe that's why we have to have resources."

Brooks, a principal managing partner for a Henderson spa, said he sees regents as facilitators and hopes to use the position to empower students, including older students who may be trying to get into a new field or move up in their own. He would like to provide resources to help them move through coursework quickly and efficiently while they address other challenges of being a nontraditional college student.

As a seven-year mentor for the Veteran Treatment Court and a member of the school organization team (SOT) for his son's elementary school, Brooks said that being involved in the community made him want to run for regent.

"Voters should take a look at me and be confident in knowing that if they choose to elect me,  then I'm going to continue in the same manner that I have for the last seven years and really make this about where I can serve and what I can do to facilitate the needs of others," he said. "[I'm going to] make sure campuses have what they need for student success."

Brooks said his experience overseeing multi-million dollar projects for the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of State will transfer well to being a regent. If elected, he said he would listen and learn from the other regents, figure out the status of various issues and work to help solve them.

Neither Nigam nor Brooks reported raising or spending any funds in the first period, but Nigam dominated in fundraising in the second quarter. He raised $16,400, with his biggest donation being $2,000 from Aurangzeb Nagy, a Las Vegas neurosurgeon. He reported two separate gifts of $1,000 from other Las Vegas residents in the medical fields and two separate gifts of $1,000 from two Vegas businessmen. He also received an in-kind donation of $400 in consulting services from Sanjay Palherkar and $600 in graphic design and staffing services from Red Chimp Media.

Brooks raised $1,900 in the second period with a $500 donation from Las Vegas City Councilwoman Victoria Seaman and another $1,000 from Seaman and her husband. 

Of his $1,500 expenses, Brooks spent $500 on Facebook ads and $1,000 at a consultant business which left him with $400 in cash on hand. Nigam spent about $2,400, of which $1,750 was spent on Facebook advertising. He also made a few small payments of less than $50 each for special events to Hispanics in Politics, Nevada Republican Club (formerly the Nevada Republican Men's Club) and Southern Hills Republican Women's Group. He had about $13,000 in available cash at the end of the period.

District 5

Dr. Nick Spirtos originally ran for the District 5 seat, covering parts of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, in 2014 and lost in the general election to Sam Lieberman. When he chose to run against Lieberman again, he said winning wasn't on his agenda — he wanted to bring attention to his platform through campaign events and "light a fire" under Lieberman to get him to take his issues to the regents. 

But Lieberman's death in early April left the race without an incumbent — and left Spirtos thinking "somebody better step it up."

One of Spirtos' priorities if elected would be the development of the UNLV Medical School. He said he wouldn't try to stop any plans already in place, including the private development corporation, if he takes the seat, but would participate in future discussions if plans fall through. A former member of the UNLV School of Medicine Community Advisory Board, Spirtos said the medical school is not only important as a physician training center but also as an "economic engine" that would create jobs and help foster another industry outside of tourism.

The medical director of the Women’s Cancer Center in Las Vegas, Spirtos said he would also like to develop programs with incentives to keep Nevada's best students pursuing degrees in state and would like to devote more funding to the recruitment of high quality faculty and researchers.

Spirtos said he's interested in implementing different grading systems that allow students to explore various fields without worrying about being punished with a bad grade for taking a risk. For example, he pointed to Brown University, which allows students to take most classes as a satisfactory/no credit option instead of receiving a letter grade.

"You have kids who are not taking classes that may be difficult, and they're not taking classes that they don't think they're going to do well in. And college to me seems that that should be the time that you have to explore and to expand your horizons," he said.

A first generation American born of Greek immigrants, Spirtos said he is a firm believer in affirmative action policies to give disadvantaged students opportunities to advance themselves, whether that be studying at a university or a trade school. In higher education, affirmative action policies aim to increase the representation of groups that have historically been excluded from educational opportunities. 

"I truly believe one of the issues that needs to be addressed is how to graduate the kids who come into the program … first with the affirmative action, disadvantaged students, and then all the students and look at ways that you might allow them to achieve, be more successful," he said.

Spirtos said his position on affirmative action is a major distinction from his opponent, Patrick Boylan, a semi-retired safety and security consultant and former adjunct professor at the College of Southern Nevada. When asked about his stance on affirmative action, Boylan said that his belief is that all people are equal and that "pandering to minorities tactics" are just candidates "using minorities to get votes."

One priority for Boylan if he is elected will be diversifying and expanding programs in critical fields such as health care, information technology and manufacturing which will in term diversify the Silver State's economy, which has 33 percent of Nevada jobs relying on the tourism industry

"I also believe that there's a great need that we could fulfill and not just depend on this gaming industry. You can see how it's hit us now it's affected us," he said. "It's ridiculous we depend only on one industry. So I want to change that."

Boylan wants to expand UNLV's masters program in crisis and emergency management, a program he went through, so Nevada can have more expertise to address a wide variety of emergencies.

A former member of the Nevada State Board of Education in the early 2000s, Boylan said he would work with the Legislature and the governor to get more funding for higher education, particularly from the marijuana industry. He said he would seek to cut back on administrative and utility costs when dealing with budget cuts during the pandemic. 

Boylan, who was a candidate in Democratic primaries for Assembly District 15 in 2010 and Congressional District 1 in 2016 and was a board member for the Winchester Township in Las Vegas, said he wants to use elected positions to help his community and work collaboratively with fellow civil servants to find solutions.

"I've worked for my neighborhood, and people in my town and my state. I will do what's right for education. That's our future, those are our leaders," he said. "I want to do something that will help make us the best, make Nevada and the education in Nevada the best."

Spirtos didn't report any fundraising or spending in the first quarter, but reported about $15,700 in the second quarter, $14,700 of which was his own money. The remaining $1,000 came from $500 donations from IBEW Local Union 357 and the Clark County Firefighters PAC.

Of the $14,700 he spent, a little more than half went to consulting services and the rest went to advertising. He had $1,000 in cash on hand at the end of the period.

Boylan reported no fundraising or spending in the first and second quarter and reported no cash on hand.

District 10

The race for the District 10 regent seat, covering most of Reno, features a life-long educator and former regent against a life-long Reno resident who says he wants to add some new perspective to the board. 

Kevin Melcher previously served as regent for District 8, which covers most of the western part of the state and parts of Clark County, from 2010 to 2016. He didn't seek re-election because he was moving back to Reno, where he was born and raised. Once District 10 incumbent and former Chairman Rick Trachok announced he wasn't seeking re-election, Melcher said several people asked him to run. 

A teacher and administrator in Elko's K-12 education system for 28 years and an appointed member of the Nevada State Board of Education, Melcher said his background in education and governance gives him an edge in the race and will allow him to pick up where he left off if elected.

Melcher said he doesn't have a narrow agenda as a regent to allow him to address all important issues brought to the board, but said funding issues will obviously have to be addressed. He said he would make necessary cuts while keeping UNLV and the UNR as "Tier 1" research institutions

"There's going to be a lot of decisions having to be made, tough decisions, and I believe my skills and networking will really help listening to all parties involved and try to come up with really good decisions by an entire board that will help the system move forward," he said.

He also would like to develop a better pipeline between K-12 schools, community colleges and universities and minimize the north-south and urban-rural divide in education.

"I don't believe anyone has the answer, but I think together, if we sit down and really work between the Legislature and the Board of Regents and the governor and all the people that are on campus — the staff, the faculty, the students — we'll come up with good answers," Melcher said. "There's a lot of smart minds out there and a lot of people have seen it done different ways, and we just have to find the best way for Nevada."

Melcher's opponent, Joseph Arrascada, was motivated to run for regent after two renovations of UNR's Mackay stadium in the last five years left the stadium noncompliant with regulations for the Americans with Disabilities Act — and put the project millions of dollars over budget. Arrascada, who has been using a wheelchair for 34 years, has spoken to regents about the stadium's accessibility issues after the failed renovations and UNR's $3.4 million lawsuit against the architect of the renovations.

Even though he knows much of the money for the stadium will be coming from donors, Arrascada said that it is "unfortunate" that so much money is going toward something not directly for education nor for the whole student body. He said he'd like to look into the misappropriation of funds as a regent.

"After my diagnosis of quadriplegia, I can empathize with hearing 'no.' Too often, I've been told no way too often," he said. "I want to say yes to students. I want to say yes to faculties, community members. I want to listen to them and respect their opinions … it's not happening now."

Arrascada said there's been a breakdown of communication between regents and the faculty, staff and students they serve as well as between regent themselves. He said there's a clear north-south divide on the board and the hostility between regents is palpable.

A worker at the Reno Veterans Administration Hospital and co-owner of a local community service agency, Arrascada said he exhibits qualities such as leadership, communication and passion that will benefit the board. 

"There needs to be a new direction, new thoughts, new ideas, a new set of eyes on the board, in which it can truly take the board to a new direction, new positive direction because that's what's desperately needed — an infusion of new ideas, new thoughts and a new mindset," he said.

Arrascada described the higher education system's financial situation during the pandemic as a "budget crisis" and said that he would try to keep cuts out of the classroom, specifically reducing red tape or departments that don't directly benefit students.

In the first quarter, Melcher topped all candidates in his district in fundraising and spending and again beat out Arrascada in both categories and cash on hand for the second quarter. He raised more than $11,300, propelled by a $5,000 donation from Michael Hitchcock, a UNR adjunct faculty member, and a $1,000 donation from Nora and Bruce James, who is a member on the advisory board for Sierra Nevada University, a private school, and the president and CEO of a technology investment company. 

Melcher spent $9,800 on almost completely advertising and had $11,500 in cash on hand at the end of the period.

Arrascada reported no fundraising or spending in the first quarter, but raised $9,200 in the second quarter. His biggest donations were from a family member, who gave $2,100, James Cryer, a car dealership owner who gave $2,000, and Western Nevada Supply Co., which donated $1,000. All of his $4,650 in expenses went to print advertising, leaving him with $4,200 in available cash.

What to watch in Nevada’s 2020 primary election

The first results from Nevada’s unique, mostly mail primary election will finally be released on Tuesday after more than a month of voting, but calling some of the state’s top races could take up to 10 days. 

A substantial number of high-profile races will eventually be decided out of Tuesday’s election, including Republican challengers to Democratic Reps. Susie Lee and Steven Horsford, both who represent swing districts and have attracted a broad field of GOP candidates.

But congressional races aside, several major legislative races will be decided in the primary election, and two state Supreme Court seats could also be decided if candidates achieve more than 50 percent of the vote. Other major races include contests for seats on the Clark County Commission and a hotly contested Reno City Council race.

Polls will close at 7 p.m. on Election Night, with counties expected to turn in their initial vote totals to the state by about 8:30 p.m.

As of Monday, more than 343,000 people had cast a ballot for the primary election, or about 18.7 percent of all registered voters. The vast majority of ballots have been cast by mail (339,853), while around 2,971 people have cast a ballot through in-person early voting.

The change in process is likely to help contribute to a higher turnout than most primary elections. The 2018 primary election saw about 22.9 percent of registered voters cast a ballot, for a total turnout of 329,863. 

But the switch to a primarily mail-only election has a drawback: potential delays in determining the winners of close election contests. Ballots postmarked by Election Day and received by election officials within seven days will be counted, and county election officials have 10 days to certify the results of an election and declare a winner.

Below, check out The Nevada Independent’s preview of the major races up on Election Night. Editors Jon Ralston and Elizabeth Thompson will host a live election show beginning at 7:30 p.m., which can be viewed here.

The Washoe County Registrar of Voters on June 8, 2020. Photo by David Calvert.

NEVADA SUPREME COURT: Two seats are on the ballot: Chief Justice Kristina Pickering is defending her seat amid challenges from lawyers Esther Rodriguez and Thomas Christensen. And in the open seat held by Mark Gibbons, Judge Douglas Herndon faces off against lawyers Erv Nelson and Ozzie Fumo, the latter of whom is a sitting Assembly member.

CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 2: Several Democrats including Clint Koble, who ran unsuccessfully in 2018, are vying for the nomination and chance to face off with Republican Rep. Mark Amodei. The district is safely Republican, meaning even the winner of the Democratic primary enters a long-shot general election contest. Read our preview here.

CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 3: A feisty Republican primary is playing out in this swingy Southern Nevada district held by Democratic Rep. Susie Lee. The GOP field includes former wrestler Dan Rodimer, former state Treasurer Dan Schwartz and pro-Trump actress Mindy Robinson. Read our preview here.

CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 4: A parade of Republicans is vying to face off with Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford in a district that includes North Las Vegas and rural, central Nevada. GOP contenders include businesswoman Lisa Song Sutton, former Assemblyman Jim Marchant and Nye County Commissioner Leonardo Blundo, among others. Read our preview here.

REGENTS: Four of the 13 nonpartisan seats on the board overseeing the Nevada System of Higher Education are up for grabs, and the primary will narrow the field of candidates to two. One district features former Assemblyman Stephen Silberkraus and former state Senate candidate Byron Brooks; another pits former regent Bret Whipple against former Las Vegas City Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian. Read our preview here.

ASSEMBLY: Democrats are all but guaranteed to retain their majority heading into the 2021 legislative session, but the question is whether Republicans can score enough seats to get out of a weak “superminority” status, in which Democrats can pass taxes without a single GOP vote. The most interesting contests include primaries in swingy suburban districts. Read our preview here.

SENATE: One race for state Senate will be decided in the primary — Senate District 7, a seat held by termed-out Democrat David Parks. The Democratic primary pits two Assembly members — Ellen Spiegel and Richard Carrillo — against former Nevada State Democratic Party Chair Roberta Lange, who has the endorsement of state Senate Democrats. Read our preview here.

CLARK COUNTY COMMISSION: Four seats are up for grabs on the powerful Clark County Commission, including incumbents Marilyn Kirkpatrick and Michael Naft running for additional terms. Crowded Democratic primaries in seats held by termed-out Commissioners Lawrence Weekly and Larry Brown have drawn some familiar names, including former Secretary of State Ross Miller (District C) and Assemblyman William McCurdy, state Sen. Mo Denis and North Las Vegas City Councilman Isaac Barron (District D). Read our preview here.

RENO CITY COUNCIL: Four councilmembers are running for re-election in 2020, including Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus who is in a bitter fight with two well-funded opponents, including one endorsed by Mayor Hillary Schieve. Council members Devon Reese, Neoma Jardon and Oscar Delgado are also running for re-election. Read our preview here.

SPARKS CITY COUNCIL: Three seats on the Sparks City Council have attracted 10 candidates, with each race seeing well-funded incumbents try to fend off multiple opponents. Read our preview here.

CARSON CITY MAYOR & SUPERVISORS: Longtime Mayor Bob Crowell is termed out, and with two incumbents not running for re-election, the Carson City Board of Supervisors will have three new faces come 2021. Read our preview here.

DOUGLAS COUNTY COMMISSION: Three of the five seats on the Douglas County Commission are on the ballot, and they’ll be all but decided in the primary because no Democrats filed for the seats. One race features Danny Tarkanian, who has run unsuccessfully for major offices in Southern Nevada before moving north, against incumbent Dave Nelson. Read our preview here

WASHOE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT: Fifteen candidates have filed to run in the four seats up for election for the board overseeing the state’s second-largest school district, including incumbents Scott Kelley and Angela Taylor. Read our preview here.

CLARK COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT: Thirty candidates are competing for four nonpartisan seats on the board that governs the nation’s fifth largest school district. Three seats are open after trustees termed out; in a fourth, Trustee Lola Brooks is seeking reelection. The primary will narrow the field to the top two, although a candidate who wins more than 50 percent of the vote wins outright. Read our preview here.

NEVADA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION: The four elected positions on the 11-member board that works in tandem with the state Department of Education are up for grabs. Felicia Ortiz and Mark Newburn are defending their seats, while five candidates are vying for a spot representing a Las Vegas district and a lone candidate — Katie Coombs — is seeking a seat in a Northern Nevada district. Read our preview here.

JUDGES: Numerous judge positions are on the ballot, including District Court and Family Court hopefuls. Read our guide on Clark County judge races here.

Election Preview: With no incumbents, regents race is between political novices

A women turns in her ballot

The position regent candidates will be in if they get the gig in November is a lot different than what they signed up for when they filed to be candidates in early March. 

Then, campuses were flooded with students and the Nevada System of Higher Education, which the 13 regents govern much like school district trustees, was riding a high of growth and improvement, most notably when UNLV  and UNR were granted “Tier 1” classifications at the end of 2018, designating them as institutions with “very high research.”

Now, the campuses have been empty for months with no students, conference attendees or sports fans in sight and the growth over the past few years risks being stalled by budget cuts from the economic impacts of the pandemic.

On top of this, the board might lose its “fourth-branch-of-government” status if a ballot measure to remove the regents from the Constitution is approved in November. Assembly Joint Resolution No. 5 seeks to place the board under the oversight of the Legislature, which critics argue could lead to at least some regents being appointed rather than elected to the board.

The primary on June 9 will narrow the pool to just two candidates for each of the four nonpartisan seats up for grabs. With no incumbents seeking re-election, the race for regent is between candidates who have attempted to run for other offices, most with little to no success.

Though the winners won’t have to deal with the most direct tough calls from the pandemic, such as the decision to go online for the fall semester, whoever is elected will make vital decisions about budget cuts and leadership appointments of the seven higher education institutions and Desert Research Institute over their six-year term as they determine how to jump back on the upward pre-pandemic stride.

District 10

The race for District 10, which covers most of Reno, boasts the most candidates, most money, and most campaigning, while other regent races lack in all three categories. It is the only seat where more than one candidate is raising and spending money and has a decent chunk of change to their name. 

Leading the money race is Andrew Diss, an executive at Grand Sierra Resorts and a member of the board of directors for the Nevada Resort Association. Despite only raising $5,250 in the first quarter — $2,000 in a loan Diss made to himself and $1,500 coming from Malena Raymond, Diss’ sister-in-law and the president of the Washoe County School Board — he has $30,800 in cash on hand and spent $500 on advertising.

Diss’ first political run came in 2012 when he lost to Republican Marsha Birkbigler for Washoe county commissioner for District 1. He now enjoys endorsements from the Culinary Union and the Nevada State Education Association.

But where his most serious challenger, Kevin Melcher, lacks endorsements, he makes up for in experience and spending. Melcher won his regent race in 2010 for District 8, which includes most of the western half of the state and parts of Clark County, with 53 percent of the vote, but he didn’t seek re-election in 2016. 

A member of the Nevada State Board of Education, he raised $11,500 and spent $2,300 on advertising, which leaves him with just over $10,000 in available cash. 

If elected, Melcher said on his website that he wants to focus on technology and workforce development and investment in research. Diss’ website says he wants to improve the relationship between the board and the Legislature and publicly backs AJR5. Leaders of the Board of Regents testified in 2019 that they were neutral on the resolution but raised enough concerns about the measure that several lawmakers argued the regents' position was actually opposition.

Other challengers include John McKendricks, the executive director of the Reno campus of a private Christian school,  Vince Lombardi, a faculty member at the UNR medical school, and Joseph Arrascada, who has spoken to regents about wheelchair accessibility in Mackay stadium amid UNR’s lawsuit against the architect of the renovation. All three have never ran for office and have reported $0 in campaign fundraising.

District 3

The two main candidates for District 3, which encompasses part of Henderson and extends to UNLV, are both coming off losses in 2018 in bids for the Legislature. 

Candidates Byron Brooks, a managing partner at Brooks Brothers Bail Bonds and veteran, and Stephen Silberkraus, a one-term assemblyman in District 29, both lost their most recent runs as Republicans: Brooks in a primary for Senate District 20 and Silberkraus for Assembly District 29, though Silberkraus’ race was tighter, losing to incumbent Lesley Cohen in the general election by 5 percent whereas Brooks lost to Keith Pickard in the primary by almost 18 percent. 

Silberkraus led an attempt to recall Democratic state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse to replace her with a Republican in 2017, which Democrats responded to with a counter-recall effort and an intense lawsuit that eventually defeated the effort. Now, his campaign materials boast endorsements from Democrats such as County Commissioner Jim Gibson and former County Commissioner Mary Beth Scow.  

The third contender, Swadeep Nigam, lost his runs in Republican primaries in the 2012 and 2016 elections in two different Assembly districts. Nigam, the former commissioner of the Nevada Equal Rights Commission and a member of the Nevada State Osteopathic Medicine Board, ran for this regent seat when it was last open in 2014 and took about 11 percent of the vote in the primary.

Nigam’s and Brooks’ websites both highlight their focus on the need for affordable higher education while Silberkraus’ website emphasizes expanding science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs and online learning options. 

Nigam has scored coveted endorsements of the Culinary Union and NSEA, and Silberkraus has support of the Clark County Education Association and the Clark County Black Caucus.

But of the pool of contenders, which includes political newcomer Lachelle Fisher, only Silberkraus has done any campaign fundraising with $4,660 in the first quarter. He’s spent nearly two times that amount and has $20,000 on hand. 

District 2

After terming-out last year as the Ward 1 representative and mayor pro tempore on the Las Vegas City Council, Lois Tarkanian said she would consider running for regent because of her belief in the need for a medical school. Now she is. 

The district covers a part of Las Vegas and the southwest corner of the city of North Las Vegas and overlaps with a majority of Tarkanian’s old Ward 1 Las Vegas City Council area. Tarkanian, the widow of celebrated UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian and mother of recurring Republican hopeful Danny Tarkanian, wants to develop the Medical District in central Las Vegas, which she worked on during her time as councilwoman, and the UNLV medical school, which donors want to create using a private development corporation that would largely bypass the regents and elected officials. 

Tarkanian’s biggest challenger is Bret Whipple, an attorney at Justice Law Center and a former regent from the district who at one point chaired the board. 

During his time as regent in the mid-2000s, Whipple often clashed with then-Chancellor Jim Rogers. Rogers repeatedly called for an increase in taxes to support higher education, while Whipple argued the chancellor and regents should stay out of tax policy. In Whipple's penultimate year on the board, he and Regent James Dean Leavitt called for Rogers’ resignation after Rogers told the chairman in a letter that he would resign if Leavitt ever became vice chairman or chairman of the board. Rogers resigned and then rescinded his resignation two days later. 

Whipple lost his re-election bid to Robert Blakely, an insurance salesman with no political experience, in 2008 by 7 percentage points after doing little campaigning and expecting to win

At the end of the first quarter, Tarkanian raised $235, which she spent on office expenses, and has $14,000 on hand, and newcomer Bonnie Mae McDaniel reported $0 in fundraising. Whipple did not file with the Secretary of State and did not respond to a request to comment. 

District 5

A little over a month ago, the race for District 5, which covers parts of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, looked different. Incumbent Sam Lieberman was running for his second term, but his death in early April leaves this seat without an incumbent even though Lieberman’s name will appear on the ballot.

Kevin Child, a real estate broker salesman and former trustee in Clark County, is hoping to take the seat. Child lost his re-election bid for trustee in 2018 by 38 percent to Irene Cepeda, who had never held office before. 

During his time as trustee, Child faced allegations of inappropriate behavior. Former Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky banned him from going on district property outside of his official duties as trustee. Child then filed a lawsuit against the Clark County School District and four trustees for defamation and conspiracy, which the Nevada Supreme Court dismissed earlier this year

Child’s filings show that he hasn’t raised or spent any funds on his campaign for regent but has $1,046 in cash on hand. 

Neither of Child’s opponents have received any funds in the first quarter. Patrick Boylan, a former member on the Nevada State Board of Education and a candidate in the Democratic primaries for Assembly District 15 in 2010 and Congressional District 1 in 2016, reported $0 in available cash.

Nick “Doc” Spirtos, who is medical director of the Women’s Cancer Center in Las Vegas and lost to Lieberman in the 2014 general election, reported $0 in campaign funds.

This story was updated at 3 p.m. on May 26, 2020 to clarify the position of regent leadership on AJR5.

Police say they're losing battle against massage parlors that are fronts for illegal prostitution, ask for stronger law

Sometimes it’s the sophisticated kitchen setup. Or containers full of condoms. Or ledgers keeping track of lavish tips for masseuses and the taxi drivers who bring customers.

Even when police and city officials see telltale signs that women are living full-time in massage parlors and working illegally as prostitutes, it can be a near-impossible task to get victims to testify against the people who are profiting from them and shut the business down once and for all, officials told lawmakers on Tuesday. 

“We have identified there currently exists in the law a loophole that allows, for lack of a better description, franchises of slavery and human trafficking to occur,” Las Vegas police lobbyist Chuck Callaway told the Assembly Judiciary Committee. “And the people that are running these businesses — it's very difficult under current language in the law to hold them accountable.”

Callaway said he hoped AB166 could close the loophole. The bill, sponsored by Republican Assemblywoman Jill Tolles, makes it a felony to advance prostitution. That includes aiding someone in engaging in prostitution, providing a facility for prostitution or operating a house of prostitution.

The crime would be punishable as a Category D felony if the person is advancing prostitution without force, and a Category C felony if force or the threat of force was involved. Category C felonies carry a punishment of 1 to 5 years in prison.

Opponents, however, say it's unnecessary in light of existing laws against prostitution, would disproportionately affect vulnerable communities and goes against a broader trend toward decriminalizing sex work.

An amendment — aimed at ensuring the law doesn’t rope in legitimate businesses where prostitution happened without the operators’ knowledge — specifies that the law applies to places where business operators know or should know that prostitution was taking place, but do not take action within 30 days to abate that activity. Those actions could include reporting prostitution activity to police or educating employees about how to detect prostitution.

Tolles was explicit that the bill is not targeting Nevada’s legal brothels, although there is a separate measure in the Legislature seeking to outlaw prostitution that is currently legal in the state. She said she’s focused on taking aim at prostitution establishments that are disguised behind other types of businesses — the anti human-trafficking organization Polaris Project estimates that some 9,000 such establishments exist in the U.S. 

Lt. Nate Chio, who leads the Special Investigations Section at LVMPD, offered lawmakers examples of the trouble police face in busting businesses that are illegal fronts to prostitution. A major barrier is that the women working there are often hesitant to testify against the owners of the business — sometimes because they fear for their lives.

“Typically these businesses are staffed by predominantly Asian women who speak limited English and may or may not be in the country illegally. These women usually live on the premises as small cramped quarters to be available for customers 24 hours a day,” Chio said. “During some interviews, the victims state they prefer to be prostitutes here in the United States where they can make some money rather than be in their home country where they come from impoverished conditions. They're afraid to talk to the police and fear of losing their source of income.”

Mary McElhone of the city of Las Vegas business licensing department showed the committee pictures of a massage parlor that was used as a front for prostitution. All looked clean and normal in the reception area, down to the leather sofas and magazines on the end tables, but photos from the back of the house showed a refrigerator nearly overflowing with food and other trappings to support half a dozen women who were living there.

At one establishment, an undercover detective posing as a taxi driver who dropped off a customer received a $200 tip, police said.

Officials say it’s typically the person who solicits prostitution that is charged, but the businesses that facilitate the activity rarely face serious consequences. McElhone said the owners often lose their license and face a fine — typically no more than $5,000. Las Vegas has revoked the licenses of 18 businesses and levied $103,000 in fines since 2014.

But then the owners reach out to a friend or relative who can pass the background check needed to operate a massage parlor. Soon, the same activity is back under the guise of new management — something that Las Vegas City Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian testified that she experienced when she spent four years trying to shut down a business that was a front for illegal prostitution.

“So eventually Metro was able to do a raid ... and we were able to stop them,” Tarkanian said. “And the next thing we knew, they just went to another ward. That's what they did. They just took their own business and moved into another ward.”

Police say it usually takes a pattern of arrests to trigger a city or county to revoke a business’ license. If the penalties are ramped up, though, it could go further to curb the activities.

“If the owners are charged with felony crimes and held accountable without the victim's having to testify or come forward publicly, this will also force the hand of the city/county take action on the licenses,” Chio said.

Opponents of the bill chafe at the characterization of all sex workers as victims, saying many people choose the work because it's their best option, and they need more resources rather than an arrest. They also say the bill is problematically vague and might criminalize actions taken to help and support sex workers.

Lawmakers on the committee raised questions about how far the measure would go, especially the section prescribing penalties for "living from the earnings of a prostitute." Would it criminalize a valet who received tips from a prostitute, for example? A therapist who works with sex workers raised questions about whether it would create a liability for her.

“As introduced, AB166 seems designed only to isolate sex workers and increase fear among their families and others who provide them support,” wrote Las Vegas therapist Jane Heenan. “Its overly broad language criminalizes actions interpreted as aiding a sex worker and creates legal liability for persons who live off earnings derived from sex work creating pernicious unintended consequences for many persons and institutions.”

But proponents of the bill, who included the Washoe County sheriff and Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, said Nevada's existing laws need more teeth.

“The ineffectiveness of existing legislation within the state to address this problem, which has occurred for many years, has led to this industry spiraling out of control despite the best efforts of the LVMPD,” Chio said. “AB166 would address this and assist the LVMPD and the Clark County district attorney's office to hold these suspects accountable and stop the cycle of victimization to the women trapped in this industry.”