Tuesday, June 7, 2011 | 10:45 p.m.
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A fiercely contested race for the Ward 4 seat on the North Las Vegas City Council was decided by a single vote, with Wade Wagner ousting incumbent Richard Cherchio.
Wagner received 1,831 of the 3,661 votes cast, beating Cherchio by two one-hundredths of a percent. Only 72 votes separated the candidates in the April primary, which Wagner also won.
A union-driven attack on Cherchio dominated much of the campaign, as residents were flooded with mailers criticizing his tenure and approach to public safety.
Fliers, one of which featured a masked man smashing a window, blasted Cherchio for higher crime rates, the early release of criminals from jail and participating in wasteful government spending. Several of the fliers were later proven to be inaccurate.
Cherchio was appointed to the council in 2009 and approved a number of cuts to public safety as the city struggled with steep budget deficits. As many as 259 layoffs, including 40 firefighters and 43 police officers, could be needed to close a $30 million hole in this year’s city budget, a move Cherchio supported.
Local dentist Wade Wagner seized on the issue and said the city needed to increase its public safety presence to attract new residents and businesses, a position unions supported.
Residents were widely turned off by the negative tone of the race as the two campaigns and the unions traded barbs, eventually leading Cherchio to threaten a defamation suit against the unions.
“It turned into mudslinging...instead of what they’re going to do for North Las Vegas,” resident Vince Ramirez said shortly after exiting the polls.
Ramirez said he tried to ignore the rhetoric and ended up casting his vote for Wagner because of his “good ethics and good morals.”
Cherchio supporters praised the work he’d done since being appointed to the City Council and said they found the retired mail carrier more accessible than Wagner.
Some raised the issue of what influence the unions will have over Wagner now that he’s in office.
“[Cherchio] made tough choices in a difficult environment,” Jeff Miller said. “More choices will need to be made, and there can’t be any favors.”
Wagner, 48, has insisted he’ll be impartial on the council and said he hopes to use his experience as a small business owner to bring creative ideas to help grow North Las Vegas.
The father of eight moved to the Las Vegas Valley when he was 4 years old and has lived in North Las Vegas since 1997.