Former court administrator Chuck Short is challenging one-term incumbent Cecelia Gonzalez in the Democratic primary for Assembly District 16.
There also are three candidates on the Republican primary ticket in the heavily Democratic district.
“I’m a public servant to the core”,” said Short, 65, who from 1993 to 2008 served as administrator and executive officer of Clark County courts.
“And I know that every time I’ve committed myself to excellence, I’ve brought innovation,” he said, including transforming the courts from a paper to a digital system.
Gonzalez, a native Nevadan of Thai-Mexican descent, said she first ran for office because there weren’t elected officials who looked like her.
“I’m just really passionate about making sure that our communities have representation,” said Gonzalez, 30, who serves in a predominantly minority district.
“I know what it’s like to be on social services,” she said. “I know what it’s like to go hungry. I know what it’s like to work three jobs.”
Gonzalez is pursuing her doctorate in multicultural education at UNLV, where she is a graduate assistant and part-time instructor. She also works as a substitute teacher.
Her top priority is criminal justice reform, including reducing the prison population, providing prevention programs, and ensuring inmates are treated with dignity and respect.
“The prison industrial complex impacts so many facets of our community and society,” said Gonzalez, whose father has been in prison most of her life. “Education, not incarceration, goes along with that.”
She said she has demonstrated her ability to work across the aisle in the Legislature by championing bipartisan legislation, including decriminalizing traffic tickets.
Short said his top priority if elected would be further diversification of the economy and making Nevada a national leader in renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal. He also advocates strengthening business opportunities for warehousing.
“How do we make sure that basic public services are provided if we don’t have a healthy tax base?” he said.
Short said he relies on collegiality and cooperation to get things done.
“We gotta stop the ‘gotcha’ in Carson City,” said Short, who works as a consultant and serves as a member of the governor’s unemployment strike force.
The three Republicans in the primary race are Benjamin Donlon, Jesse “Jake” Holder and Greg Van Houten.
Donlon previously ran for the Assembly in 2014 and 2016.
“I think I would bring a level of efficiency from a business perspective that hasn’t been employed in the state of Nevada for way too many years,” said Donlon, 73, a paralegal who also has worked in real estate and as a mortgage broker.
Donlon said his top priority is education, favoring creation of a task force to find a bipartisan approach to improving the state’s education system, in turn improving the workforce and the state’s ability to attract new businesses.
“If you don’t have a workforce, people won’t come,” he said.
Clark County’s public administrator Robert “Rob” Telles has accused Donlon of posing as a member of his office. Donlon vehemently denied the accusation, saying that his company, American Recovery Systems, works with attorneys to find heirs of estates to see if they need legal representation in probate court.
Like Donlon, Holder has previously run for the Assembly, as well as for Congress and Las Vegas City Council, each time as a Democrat.
“Quite frankly, I just think they’ve gone crazy,” he said about the Democrats and his reason for switching parties. “They left me about 2014.”
His top priority, he said, is voting integrity. “We can never, ever have disputed elections,” said Holder, 58, an insurance agent and former lieutenant commander in the Navy reserves. “The citizenry, the public, has to always have 100 percent confidence” in the outcome of elections. “You can never have what occurred on January 6 ever again.”
He believes that mail-in ballots should be reserved for absentee voting and supports requiring voters to show identification.
Van Houten, the third Republican candidate, did not respond to requests for an interview.