Home Part of States Newsroom
News
Berkley, Seaman leading field of 14 vying in Las Vegas mayor’s race

Share

Berkley, Seaman leading field of 14 vying in Las Vegas mayor’s race

May 15, 2024 | 8:18 am ET
By Dana Gentry
Share
Berkley, Seaman leading field of 14 vying in Las Vegas mayor’s race
Description
Las Vegas mayoral candidates Shelley Berkley, Victoria Seaman, and Cedric Crear. (Candidate campaign photos)

Former Congresswoman Shelley Berkley and Las Vegas City Councilwoman Victoria Seaman are the frontrunners in a crowded race for Las Vegas mayor, according to a poll released last month that shows Berkley with 16%, slightly ahead of Seaman with 12%, and Councilman Cedric Crear with 7%. 

The Current spoke with Berkley, a Democrat, and Seaman, a Republican, about their campaigns for the nonpartisan position, and their plans, if elected. Crear did not respond to requests for an interview. 

Berkley, who has been out of politics since she lost a race for U.S. Senate in 2012 to then Sen. Dean Heller, says she has dedicated her life to public service. She began her political career as student body president of the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Berkley was elected to the state Assembly, the Board of Regents, and to the U.S. House of Representatives, where she served seven terms. 

“What are the opportunities we’re providing people? What about that good education for their families? A more sophisticated transportation system, and of course access to affordable health care? You have a bully pulpit when you’re mayor of Las Vegas,” she says. “These are issues that need to be not only discussed, it’s time that we have some action.” 

Berkley says public safety, homelessness, and affordable housing would be her priorities, if elected. 

Berkley leads the money race with contributions totalling more than $1.35 million. She had more than $1 million on hand as of April 15, compared with Seaman, who has raised more than $900,000 for the race and has just under $800,000 in the bank. Crear began the year with about $800,000 in his campaign account. He raised $183,587 in the first quarter of 2024 and had $303,391 in the bank as of April 15. 

Crear, a marketing professional, served two terms on the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents before winning a special election for City Council in 2018. He won election to a full term the following year. 

Seaman served one term in the Nevada Assembly in 2015. She lost a race for state senate to Nicole Cannizzaro in 2016. In 2018, she filed in the Republican primary for Congressional District 3, but dropped out after Danny Tarkanian entered the race. Tarkanian subsequently lost to Susie Lee, a Democrat. Seaman was elected in a special election to the Las Vegas City Council in 2019 to fill a vacancy. She was later elected for a full term that ends in 2026.

Seaman says her priority, should she be elected mayor, is to “streamline how we’re doing business in the City of Las Vegas.” She says she frequently hears from small business owners who complain their plans are delayed by a variety of inspections or other approvals. “It’s really important to streamline and make sure we’re doing everything we can to make sure that the process goes quickly for these people who are the job creators and the bread and butter of our economy.” 

Seaman says she is the “law and order” candidate. She has endorsements from the Las Vegas Police Protective Association and other municipal law enforcement organizations.  

Homelessness 

Southern Nevada’s homeless population is on the rise, especially in the City of Las Vegas, where the bulk of resources for the unhoused are located.

“This is a serious problem from the humanitarian angle all the way to the economic angle,” Berkley says, adding, “homeowners are afraid to let their children go out and play because there are homeless sleeping on their lawn and then they use their garden hose to clean up in the morning. Business people downtown are fit to be tied. If you are a mom and pop business, and you’ve got homeless sleeping in front of your entrance, it inhibits customers from coming in. You’ve got your life savings tied up in this business and you can’t get customers in the door.”

Both women support the city’s “camping ban,” which is designed to keep the unhoused from sleeping on the street. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently weighing the constitutionality of such prohibitions. 

Seaman blames the “liberal policies” of neighboring municipalities for the proliferation of homelessness.  

“They put Band-Aids on the problem,” she says. “Like when they have encampments, they put in a Porta Potty, or they take up these hotel rooms and just put people in that really should have treatment rather than just giving them a place to live that now they don’t care about.” 

Seaman takes exception to the suggestion that the city’s Courtyard of Hope offers little more than Band-Aids. Of more than 7,000 clients who sought shelter at the Courtyard last year, the facility, which is designed to help place people in housing, directly placed three people into housing. 

“We want to give people the services they need. I know that not every person is going to take them but the more we offer them and the more we continue to bring them, eventually, those folks will take services,” Seaman says, adding the Couryard’s clients “aren’t sleeping on someone else’s private property.” 

Berkley and Seaman support a proposal from the resort industry to build a homeless facility that would provide mental health services and transitional housing. The project would be financed by the resort industry, with a $100,000 infusion from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. 

“The governor’s project is replicating what we do at the Courtyard and it would be a huge step in the right direction,” Seaman says of the proposal, which is spearheaded by Wynn Resorts. 

Seaman says the project’s architects are looking at a location near Rainbow and the College of Southern Nevada because of existing mental health services in the area. She says she’ll advocate for the facility regardless of where it’s located, even over potential protests from residents. 

Berkley would prefer the project not be near downtown. 

“Let us do a wraparound service away from downtown Las Vegas that’s fully enclosed and is fully self-contained,” Berkley says. “it can’t be so remote that it would impede clients from finding and keeping work. I think they know it can’t be in Timbuktu.”

Berkley says the resort industry’s involvement in the effort is critical to providing employment.

“We’re providing not only life skills, but job training skills, so that they get a job at one of the hotels,” Berkley said. “One of the things I bring to the table, I believe, is I know everyone in town. I can call anyone and they will return my calls, and we should all be working together.” 

Development

Berkley and Seaman are united in their support of Lombardo’s effort to secure more federal land for development in Southern Nevada via an expedited appraisal process. Neither views the southwest’s drought as an impediment to more development.

“I am pro-growth.” Berkley said. “I do believe that the Water Authority will continue to manage our water resources. I know they work closely with the Israelis who have technology because they’re in a desert environment with very limited water resources.”

Seaman says she expects Nevada’s congressional delegation will renegotiate the Colorado River Compact, which allocates the river’s waters among southwest states and Mexico. A deal designed to keep the river flowing expires in 2026. Renegotiation of the longstanding pact could occur then, say some experts. 

Southern Nevada’s housing market is a hotbed for venture capital investment, which has helped increase the cost of buying and renting a home. 

Wall Street investors own more than 13,000 homes in Clark County, compared to fewer than 8,000 in 2019, according to a Rutgers University analysis of property records. 

“These corporate owners that are buying up single family houses and jacking up the price, they’ve got no relationship to Las Vegas,” Berkley told the Current. “They don’t live here. They never will live here and they are making a substantial profit on the backs of our citizens and our working families.”

Berkley says she doesn’t know if the city can address the issue via an ordinance. “But it is very important for us to look at that. If we have the legal authority to limit that sort of purchase, I would be in favor of that. If this is a legislative issue, we should go to the Legislature and ask for some relief.” 

Last year, Lombardo vetoed Senate Bill 395, a measure that would have tracked investor purchases, and limited corporations and LLCs to buying 1,000 properties a year. The measure will return to the 2025 legislative session because lawmakers had no opportunity to vote to override the veto. 

Seaman says “any resolution to ban corporate-owned housing would have to come from state legislators or from Congress.” 

While they oppose rent control, both Berkley and Seaman support inclusionary zoning – a process that requires developers to include low-income or affordable workforce housing in their projects, or pay into a fund that would assist the city in providing housing at lower price points.

Seaman says she prefers incentives for mixed use projects, which she says help to disguise a lower-income component. 

“I love mixed use, because you’re putting buildings wherever and you’re not knowing that some of them are workforce,” she says.  

Berkley says she expects to encounter NIMBY, the “not in my backyard” syndrome, on the road to providing affordable housing. 

“A number of people that I’ve spoken to are not enthused about having more housing projects in their neighborhood,” says Berkley. “And I think it would be important to help educate the public that we are talking about very nice housing that is going to provide a solution for a number of their fellow citizens.” 

She says she respects the desires of residents in rural areas to protect their neighborhoods from development. 

Wrong side of the tracks 

Efforts to revitalize blighted areas in Las Vegas during the Oscar and Carolyn Goodman era have been focused almost exclusively on downtown.

In 2019, the Current reported that Mrs. Goodman’s administration had spent $187 million on redevelopment projects, $163.6 million of it downtown and $22 million in the blighted Westside, which lacks necessities such as grocery stores.

The Current’s review in 2021 of Clark County Assessor’s records revealed the city owned at least 25 vacant lots on the blocks bordered by Interstate 15 to the east, Van Buren Avenue to the north, Martin Luther King Boulevard to the west, and Washington Avenue to the south.

Records indicate little has changed today. 

“I did a cleanup there last year. And I’m going to tell you, it has been neglected,” Seaman says of the Historic Westside. 

That’s an understatement to Katie Duncan, owner of the Harrison House, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016 as a reminder of Las Vegas’s segregated past. Harrison House was home in the 1950s and 60s to Sammy Davis Jr. and other Black entertainers who were prohibited from staying on the Strip where they performed. 

“Symphony Park is booming behind investment by the redevelopment agency but the other side of the freeway isn’t getting any redevelopment,” says Duncan, who says she’s unable to get attractive rates on loans or share in redevelopment funds. She says Crear, her councilman, refuses to talk with her. “He won’t talk with anybody.” 

In 2016, the city launched the HUNDRED plan, “a vital step in identifying the opportunities to link with the past and create a familiar bridge to the future,” according to his website. The plan consists of eight “Big Moves” envisioned for the Westside.  

  • Establish a gateway welcoming the community 
  • Revitalize Jackson Street spent 7 million repaving road and planting trees
  • Make the most of opportunities for infill to add new housing, parks, plazas, greenhouse and community gardens 
  • Establish Washington Live, an entertainment district along Washington Avenue, between D and H streets
  • Establish community amenities and housing in mixed-use developments
  • Ensure all streets in the Historic Westside are designed for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. 
  • Reopen James Gay Park and reclaim the park with mixed-use facilities 
  • Develop the Moulin Rouge Entertainment District 

Duncan, who is running for the council seat currently held by Crear, says the vast majority of improvements have not come to fruition. 

“They did put up some signs,” she says of the effort to establish a gateway. “They spent $7 million repaving Jackson Street and planting trees, but there was nothing for the businesses.” 

A city spokesman says the city made infrastructure improvements on Jackson Street, including new lighting and wider sidewalks.

The city cites the groundbreaking of ShareDOWNTOWN, an apartment complex on the Westside, and the new Mario’s Market, in a previously shuttered CVS store as examples of infill efforts under the HUNDRED plan. Mario’s Market received $1 million in American Reinvestment Plan funds, according to the city.

No multi-use developments have materialized, and entertainment districts are “in process,” according to the city.  “James Gay Park is home to the Historic Westside Urban Farm and a farmer’s market,” a spokesman said. A photo of the park indicates it is closed. 

“There’s so much opportunity in the historic Westside,” says Seaman. “And we need to really have that town hall with all of the community, and find out what they want and what they need, give incentives and bring the developers in.”

“That area is ripe for development, and it is high time,” Berkley said, stressing the need to “show the positive economic possibilities that are there. The community wants development, but they want to have great pride in their neighborhoods.”   

Berkley says she intends to meet with legislative representatives of the area to determine its needs and how the city and Legislature can work together to ensure development. 

Animal crisis

Seaman prides herself on bringing the council’s attention to the animal overpopulation issue and the failings of the Animal Foundation, the government-funded shelter for Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and Clark County. 

The city is opening the shelter contract to bids later this year. 

“We’ve had providers take some tours,” Seaman says. “I don’t want to jump the gun,  but I believe that whoever our next partner is, we will have a new contract and oversight.”

Berkley, a longtime friend of Animal Foundation board member and former Las Vegas mayor Jan Jones, says rather than building a city-run shelter, as Seaman has proposed, “we need to adequately fund the Animal Foundation that currently exists and make sure they can afford to take care of our four legged friends.”

Seaman opposes a ban on the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits from pet stores, a measure passed by Clark County and Henderson to help get a handle on overpopulation. She says a ban would increase illegal breeding. 

Berkley, on the other hand, says she would prohibit the sale of pets in stores and would support an increase in fines for illegal breeders. 

Seaman says the city currently lacks the personnel to follow up on breeding complaints and is working to hire a staff person. The city has also increased illegal breeding fines and penalties to include two days in jail upon a second offense and ten days behind bars for a third offense.

“We did this because we cannot wrap our hands around illegal breeding with the manpower we have now,” Seaman said. 

The primary election is June 11. Early voting is May 25-June 7. The top two candidates in the race will advance to the general election, unless one candidate receives more than 50% in the primary.

The other 11 candidates who filed candidacies for mayor are Kolawole S. Akingbade, Tera Anderson, Lynn Baird, Daniel Joseph Chapman, Irina Hansen, Kara “KJ” Jenkins, Eric Thomas Medlin, Donna G. Miller, Michael Pacino, Deb Peck, and William Walls III.