Wednesday, May 24, 2017 | 2 a.m.
The race to represent the far northwest on the Las Vegas City Council is unfolding quietly over pasta dinners and doorsteps rather than high-profile debates.
In Ward 6, former state Assemblywoman Michele Fiore is running against Kelli Ross, a small-business owner turned flight attendant married to outgoing Councilman Steve Ross. And while their counterparts in Ward 2 — incumbent Councilman Bob Beers and challenger Steve Seroka — are scheduled to debate live on KNPR this Thursday morning, Fiore and Ross won’t be facing off before Las Vegans head to the polls.
According to Providence Master Homeowners Association Community Manager Chris DeLong, the HOA confirmed the attendance of both Fiore and Ross for a “Meet the Candidate” event May 19, but that night, only Ross showed up to answer resident-submitted questions about public safety, education and development in one of the fastest-growing parts of the valley.
“I personally called and spoke with both candidates prior to scheduling the event to make sure the day/time was available,” DeLong says. “We wanted to have both candidates there to be of value to the residents.”
Fiore senior adviser Ryan Hamilton vehemently rejects that claim, saying his candidate never committed to the event over concerns about negative campaigning and fairness.
“We couldn’t come to an agreement on a format,” Hamilton says. “I told him well in advance — maybe a month — that she would not make it. … We were not prepared to put her out there and take endless false attacks.”
Hamilton says the Fiore camp has instead been focusing on grass-roots efforts, going door to door and inviting the public to dinners at her home. It's a platform for direct dialogue about her key issues, ranging from stemming the crime rate and lowering taxes to parks and education.
Such an understated approach may seem uncharacteristic for Fiore, a firebrand known for speaking off the cuff and embracing flamboyant promotions like a gun-themed pin-up calendar, but UNLV political science professor David Damore says the new strategy makes sense.
“(The election) will be such a low-turnout affair that the strategy of going directly to people and hitting them repeatedly to make sure they turn out is good,” he says. “There’s very little to be gained from attracting lots of media attention.”
Only 6,081 residents in Ward 6 cast ballots during the municipal primary elections in April. Fiore placed first in that race with 2,802 votes, or 46 percent. Had she secured more than 50 percent of the vote, she would have won outright. Election procedure dictates that if nobody receives more than half of the votes, the top two finishers move on to a runoff during the general election.
“There’s no reason or evidence to suggest Michele Fiore isn’t still the front-runner,” Hamilton says, adding that the ward has supported Republican candidates including President Donald Trump and former U.S. Rep. Joe Heck during his unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate.
The Ross campaign disagrees with the sentiment.
Ross came in second with 1,871 votes, or 30 percent. The eight other candidates who ran during the primary earned a combined total of 1,408 votes. Ross believes those voters will transfer their support to her.
“(Fiore) has gotten all of the votes she can,” Ross says. “She ran a general-election campaign during the primary. She had to win it then. The door is open.”
Municipal elections are nonpartisan, meaning party affiliations are not listed on the ballot. However, Fiore is an outspoken Republican who represented District 4 in the Nevada Assembly from 2013 through 2016. Ross is a registered Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for the Nevada Senate in 2012.
Ross says she is disappointed that she hasn’t been able to address issues head-to-head with her competitor but that she’s not concerned.
She too has been going door to door talking to constituents about her priorities, including public safety, infrastructure, parks and government accountability. She touts her experience as a former business owner, her exposure to city government as the wife of a current council member, and her connection to the community as a born-and-raised Las Vegas native.
“People already knew me,” she says. “And I’m accessible. My cell is listed on my website and people call it, and I answer it.”
Ross has been endorsed by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 357, Seniors United, Unified Construction Industry Council, Southern Nevada Building Trades Council and the Southern Nevada Central Labor Council AFL-CIO, while Fiore has support from the Las Vegas Firefighters Local 1285, Las Vegas Laborers' Local 872, National Rifle Association, Nevada Veterans Association and REAL Chamber of Commerce.
Early voting for Southern Nevada’s municipal elections begins Saturday and runs until June 9, with Election Day following on June 13.