Unlike three other Clark County Commission races in November, the contest for District C is pitting two candidates against each other who hold long political experience: Las Vegas Councilman Stavros Anthony and former Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller.
Anthony, a Republican and the current mayor pro tem, is seeking to win over voters in a broader geographical area than he presently represents. In the Democratic corner, there is Miller, who turned to business ventures and law after a losing a bid for attorney general in 2014.
Both candidates vying to replace term-limited Commissioner Larry Brown have fielded the most competitive fundraising campaigns of any commission race through two quarters of the year, although Anthony maintained big leads in spending and cash on hand as of June 30.
In recent interviews, Anthony, 63, said he did not know much about Miller and could not “think of anything in particular” he had done for the people in the district, and Miller, 44, questioned Anthony’s ability to carry constituents through the next four years.
“My opponent in this race doesn’t know how to lead,” Miller said. “He knows how to make soundbites.”
Response to protests
For Anthony, a move from the council to the commission feels like a “natural progression.” (To be sure, Brown was a city councilman before being elected to the commission.)
Anthony has lived in the district for 40 years and represented Ward 4, which includes about one-third of District C, since 2009.
As a conservative, he vowed he will not raise taxes and he will strive to keep business regulations, licenses and fees low, while also focusing on issues fundamental to neighborhoods: Preserving the presence of police and being responsive to concerns about graffiti, stranded shopping carts and junk cars, and road quality.
“I want them to walk out their front door and look around and say, ‘I am proud of my neighborhood,’” he said.
Anthony, a retired Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department captain, rejected any broad brush police reform efforts in response to nationwide demonstrations, including in Las Vegas, that have been mounted in protest of systemic racism and police brutality, saying he saw no evidence of wrongdoing here.
“Whenever somebody says that there is police brutality, I don’t know what that means,” he said. “I don’t know what the statistics are. You have to get down into the weeds when you talk about police brutality.”
Instead Anthony said he would always be open to conversations about possible reforms when needed, pointing to how community review boards and community policing had been established at Metro during his time on the force. He also denounced as “criminal” the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis police custody. Floyd’s death set off the wave of social unrest.
Miller said the county’s response to the unrest should model behavior he has seen nationally proven to be most effective: Local law enforcement leaders communicating and listening to protesters with the aim of finding common ground.
“People are almost just violently entrenched in their positions in wanting change and you have to listen to that,” he said, adding that it was indicative of the deep divide in national politics.
Las Vegas must feel safe
In fact, Miller’s run for commission was spurred by the unapologetic partisanship across the country, where there appears little appetite for compromise.
It is a different landscape than he recalled when his father, Bob Miller, served as Nevada governor throughout the 1990s and the stakes are high at the moment with local leaders staring down an economic disaster amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve clearly got to move to try to make sure that the economy doesn’t collapse, and that we do everything we can in order to sustain ourselves, but those decisions have to be guided by the recognition that until people believe that they can come to Las Vegas and be safe, we’re not going to recover,” Ross Miller said.
He said he believed the commission has thus far acted “fairly effectively” and worked aggressively to weed out businesses that aren’t complying with public health mandates while trying to balance enforcement with allowing establishments to operate. He noted that much of the decision-making is funneling down from the governor’s office.
Miller said that officials must ensure that public safety guidelines and policies are backed by scientists and doctors and the recovery should be framed both in the short- and long-term, working collaboratively with the governor’s office to link incentives and gain access to federal programs.
He was also critical of leadership within the City Council, including Mayor Carolyn Goodman for her well-publicized controversial remarks defying public health experts.
And he castigated Anthony, too, for hosting a back-to-school pool event in August despite Anthony’s assurance it would follow all safety protocols.
“It’s unfortunate that they’ve been given as strong of a voice as they’ve had in this debate,” he said of city leadership. “I think it’s hurt our reputation internationally and hurt our economy.”
Anthony’s assessment of the city’s response differed: He said he thought it has handled the pandemic “pretty well,” using nearly $120 million in federal relief funding to primarily ensure no disruptions to public safety services while participating in county-led efforts on homeless services and testing at Cashman Center.
He said the city’s ambassador program, where 65 employees visited businesses for compliance with public health rules, revealed that “99 percent” were following mandates. Nearly six months into the crisis, Anthony said that efforts should evolve.
“The goal should be not only to keep us safe — that was the only goal in March — the goal today should be to keep us safe but get people back to work,” he said.
Having built relationships over the past dozen years not only in the city but within the county — two governments which historically have had challenging times working together — Anthony said he will be well positioned to get things done for Southern Nevada.
“When I go to the county as a county commissioner, I’ll be bringing a city of Las Vegas perspective, which is a good thing,” he said.
Standing by their record
And Anthony said he will lean on his record to get elected, which he said includes building parks throughout the ward and a fire station in Sun City, along with having a hand in development agreements across District C, which generally consists of the northwestern Las Vegas Valley.
With victories in the ward over the past two election cycles, he added that he also believed it bodes well for him that neighboring Wards 2 and 6, which are also part off the district, are presently occupied by Republicans on the council.
But Miller is equally certain that he is the right candidate to lead the district through an economic recovery, pointing to how he sat on an economic development board to help shape the recovery during the Great Recession and oversaw a securities division to go after individuals preying on seniors during that period.
“What propelled me to try to consider a run for this office is that I just fundamentally believe if you’re going to make a difference, it’s easiest to do so at a local level,” he said.
With more than 38 percent of the vote, Miller defeated five Democratic challengers in the primary election.
Anthony did not face a Republican opponent.