Las Vegas Sun

October 2, 2014

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Ross barely beats Gillins following ugly campaigns

In a campaign that featured more lowlights than highlights, first-time candidate Steve Ross eked out a 128-vote victory Tuesday night to win the Ward 6 seat on the Las Vegas City Council.

Ross, a 42-year-old electrical contractor, beat Mary Gillins in a race that turned negative before the April primary, which Ross also won. In the Tuesday general election Ross received 3,199 votes, about 51 percent, to Gillins' 3,071 votes, about 49 percent of the vote.

"I've got a lot to learn," Ross said minutes after the results were flashed on television. Ross said he has no specific initiatives or policies he will push for immediately. "First I'll get this learning curve figured out, but nothing's going to slow me down."

During the campaign, Gillins, 43, a legal assistant and operations manager for the Metro Police officers' union, and her supporters painted Ross as a liar and abuser, playing up his 1991 arrest for domestic violence and the sordid details from affidavits from his first wife that were part of divorce or child custody proceedings.

Ross fought back with a slew of campaign mailers, some of which included letters from his first wife that praised Ross.

Also, Ross portrayed Gillins as a pawn of the police union, which supported higher taxes. A key part of that pitch was the candidates' opposing views on the so-called More Cops Initiative, which proposes raising the sales tax to pay for hiring more police officers.

Gillins supports the increase, and Ross opposes it, although the Clark County Commission -- not the City Council -- will act on that proposed tax increase.

The negative back and forth seemed to turn off many voters.

Mike Hardy, 59, owner of an advertising and marketing company, said he was turned off by the negative campaigning of Gillins and her supporters.

"You don't have to do that," Hardy said about negative campaign tactics. Hardy said he was also influenced by Ross' ex-wife support for Ross.

"If there was a problem and it was that big, someone's going to hold a grudge," Hardy said.

Julie Leavitt, 47, said the negative campaigning also turned her away from Gillins.

"I just didn't like it. Also, it was so long ago," Leavitt said about Ross' domestic violence arrest. "And we all make mistakes."

Gillins said she stayed away from attacking Ross, and blamed outside third parties for the negative campaigning that marked the last few weeks of the campaign.

"I know I was positive, but it was the third parties that got involved and made it negative and I had no control over them," Gillins said. "I'm just so glad it's over, and that this is done."

Gillins said she did not know if she will ever run for elected office again.

"I guess you never say never," she said.

Gillins said she thinks the negative campaigning depressed voter turnout.

About 11.9 percent of the 52,555 registered voters in Ward 6 cast ballots in the general election.

Ross said the voters lose in a negative campaign because it draws attention from the important issues.

Ross and Gillins anxiously awaited the results of the Tuesday election, and cheers erupted at Ross' home around 9:25 p.m. as he told about 50 supporters of the final, but unofficial, results.

Ross thanked his family, campaign team and supporters for helping his victory.

"This has been awesome for me," Ross told his cheering supporters huddled in and around his kitchen. "We're not done. We have an awful lot ahead of us. This is for everybody in the community."

During the campaign, Ross said he hoped to use his position on the council to lobby against the proposed sales tax increase.

"I keep getting the same message from voters, 'we've had enough of taxes.' There's other money out there," he said, although he says he doesn't know where that money would come from.

Clark County voters approved the initiative last fall, and the Legislature approved it this year. All of the city councils in Southern Nevada have shown support for it.

The Clark County Commission will make the final decision some time in the next few months and is expected to approve the quarter of a cent increase, which will be added to the sales tax in October.

Ross will be sworn in July 6, replacing Councilman Michael Mack. Mack, who supported Gillins in the campaign, decided not to seek re-election. Mack said he wanted to spend more time with his family.

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