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November 18, 2017

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Tight mayoral race now a battle in Henderson

More specifically for volunteers, the right votes

Henderson mayoral campaign

Henderson City Councilman Steve Kirk uses a Segway as he canvasses an Anthem neighborhood on Thursday in his bid for mayor. Launch slideshow »

Henderson Mayor Debate

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Politicians love to remind us that every vote counts. They want to get every last voter to the polls.

On Tuesday in Henderson, the mayoral candidates really do need to get people — their people — to the polls.

Here’s how close the Henderson mayoral race is between Councilmen Andy Hafen and Steve Kirk: Both campaign say the race is a dead heat heading into Tuesday’s general election.

Because campaign bosses spin, it’s possible each campaign feels it is slightly behind.

This, after spending a combined $770,000, running television ads for the past three months and filling mailboxes with dozens of fliers.

The Hafen campaign says it was behind at the beginning of the race and credits a series of four television ads for closing the gap.

After hammering the anti-tax Kirk on the $4,500 he gave to a pro-tax committee in 2001, the Hafen campaign thinks it has momentum.

Hafen outpolled Kirk in the April primary, 36 percent to 31 percent.

But Kirk has outspent Hafen $450,875 to $312,841 since January.

The Kirk folks say they’ve considered the race a tie from the start.

This week Kirk sent a series of mailers quoting residents saying Hafen had not been responsive to their concerns — including one featuring a man in wheelchair claiming Hafen did not return his calls.

(Hafen said he’s never heard of the man. His campaign manager said the fliers seem desperate.)

Hafen this week mailed fliers focusing on the tax issue.

What this race will come down to, the campaigns agree, is the ability to get voters to the polls.

(Remember, every vote counts.)

By Thursday, 7,362 people had voted early, compared with the 5,718 early voters in the 2005 mayoral race.

The campaign managers expect a total turnout of 18,000 to 20,000 — or about 15 percent of the city’s registered voters, which is typical for municipal races.

(Does every vote really count? In 2007, Hafen won his City Council seat by fewer than 200 votes.)

The campaigns try to corral votes by first getting the names of the roughly 20,000 residents who have a history of voting in Henderson elections, plus the 2,000 who voted for the first time in the April primary.

Throughout the campaign they purge the list of those who will not vote in their favor and those who have voted.

Kirk’s campaign said it has about 3,000 targeted voters left on its list. The Hafen campaign said it has about 1,000.

These are voters each side thinks will vote for its candidate based on months of speaking to voters during door-to-door campaigning.

The candidates also maintain databases of voters from previous races. So someone who, for instance, said he would vote for Hafen two years ago will get visited again this year.

The campaigns will spend the weekend and Monday on the phones, reminding targeted voters about the Tuesday election. Voters will likely get two or three visits or calls from campaign workers.

The first calls will ask, “Can we count on your support?”

The second will say, “We could use your support.”

On election day the intensity ratchets up. It’s then callers and visitors will ask if voters need a ride.

Conversations will begin with, “We really, really need your vote today. Right now.”

“On Tuesday it’s a harder sell,” said Dave Thomas, Hafen’s campaign manager. “The language gets stronger.”

Words like “need” and “really” and “depending” get tossed around.

The Kirk campaign assigns each volunteer and worker a list of 50 to 100 voters whom they are personally responsible for getting to the polls.

“We really do need to get everybody out,” Jim Ferrence, Kirk’s campaign consultant, said.

Because, as both sides say, it’s a tight race — and every vote counts.

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