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Nevada Wonk

Ward 3 City Council candidates trade barbs at debate

Updated Tuesday, May 10, 2011 | 11:10 p.m.

Sun Coverage

The race for Las Vegas’ Ward 3 City Council seat heated up Tuesday night, with Adriana Martinez accusing Bob Coffin of “promoting stalking” because a private investigator followed her and Coffin accusing Martinez of lying about endorsements and her residency.

The candidates, separated by fewer than 50 votes in the primary, met at the Mesquite Club for their first general election debate. It was a no-holds-barred battle.

Coffin again accused Martinez of living outside Ward 3, a claim he has made throughout the race. Martinez owns two homes, one inside the district and one outside, but insists she lives in Ward 3.

“Do you know your neighbors?” Coffin asked. “Because the neighbors on either side of you have my sign in their yard. They say they don’t know you.”

“I know them well, and I’m well respected by them,” Martinez answered.

A woman in the audience, presumably a Coffin supporter, yelled, “Which neighbors?”

A private investigator who monitored Martinez’s Ward 3 home documented her spending only three hours there over the course of two months.

Martinez said she was working and caring for her sick mother at the time.

It is not known who hired the investigator, but Martinez blamed Coffin, just the same.

“I think it’s deplorable, these negative campaign tactics you are using to have someone stalk me and my daughter,” Martinez continued, speaking to Coffin. “Nevada has the highest rate of domestic violence, and you are promoting stalking.”

Martinez then turned the table on Coffin, accusing him of wanting to open brothels in Ward 3.

She pointed out that in the Legislature, Coffin sponsored a bill to impose a tax on brothels. She also said he wanted to legalize prostitution in Las Vegas. In fact, Coffin said he would be willing to grant a hearing on proposals to legalize prostitution in urban areas, not that he supported doing so.

Still, Martinez said, “That would open our neighborhoods up to prostitution. I would never be open to a brothel in Ward 3.”

Coffin defended the legislation, saying schools should benefit from money made from prostitution in areas where it is legal. He said all reasonable ideas should be considered and discussed by lawmakers.

As the debate continued, Martinez accused Coffin of being unfamiliar with how city government works.

Coffin, in turn, said Martinez has no record, so she is running on the accomplishments of her boss, City Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian. Martinez works as a council liaison for Tarkanian, who was in the audience.

In his closing statement, Coffin also implied that Martinez lied about receiving endorsements from Mayor Oscar Goodman and others. Goodman is quoted on Martinez’s campaign website and his picture is featured. Martinez said the mayor gave her permission to use the quote and photograph.

The audience of about 50 people appeared split in their loyalties. Martinez received more applause, but she also received more heckling.

At one point in the debate, as Coffin slammed her about her residency, Martinez bit her lip and refused to turn toward her opponent. Coffin remained calm and metered as he spoke.

As for the issues, Coffin and Martinez both promised to immediately open Circle Park — which Coffin called Huntridge Park, noting that it is oval not circular — and both said they’d oppose pawn shops and bail bond stores in residential areas.

But they differed on public safety. When asked about crime near Las Vegas and Oakey boulevards, Martinez said she felt safe there.

“I walk to Luv-It (a frozen custard store),” Martinez said. “I’m perfectly fine. I’m certainly pleased with my neighborhood.”

Coffin said he worried about the area. He pointed out that a woman was gang raped near the business in March.

The debate was hosted by the Southridge Neighborhood Association. The Stonewall Democratic Club of Southern Nevada will host another Ward 3 debate Friday.

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