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Las Vegas mayoral candidates debate policy, defend records at Nevada Independent forum

The candidates talked about solutions to homelessness, discussed how to best support CCSD and had a tense back-and-forth about the Badlands golf course.
Eric Neugeboren
Eric Neugeboren
Election 2024Local Government

The three top candidates for Las Vegas mayor defended their political records and debated (at times contentiously) their qualifications, proposed city policies and leadership visions at a Wednesday evening forum hosted by The Nevada Independent.

The forum featured former U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), City Councilwoman Victoria Seaman and City Councilman Cedric Crear, who lead in polling and fundraising, with the top two vote-getters in next month’s primary election advancing to the November general election, as long as no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote and wins the seat outright.

Wednesday’s forum, moderated by Indy CEO and Editor Jon Ralston, touched on topics including the three candidates’ backgrounds and positions related to the November ballot, as well as policies such as homelessness, public education, affordable housing and the defunct Badlands golf course, which was the most contentious discussion of the night. 

Berkley’s candidacy marks her return to the political stage a dozen years after she lost a high-profile race for U.S. Senate, which ended her 14-year career in Congress. Since then, she has held leadership roles in the Touro University System, a private medical school. She also served one term in the state Assembly and two terms as an elected higher education regent.

Seaman has represented Ward 2, which covers southwestern Las Vegas, on the city council since 2019 and previously served one term in the state Assembly as a Republican.

Crear has been the councilman for Ward 5, which covers the central and northern parts of the city, since 2018. He previously served as a member of the state Board of Regents and was a city planning commissioner. He announced his candidacy for mayor in 2021 and would be the first Vegas-born and Black person to hold the position.

This year’s mayoral race is the first time in 25 years without a member of the dynastic Goodman family on the ballot. Oscar Goodman served as the city’s mayor from 1999 to 2011, with his wife Carolyn elected that year and serving as mayor ever since. The mayor is the public face of the seven-member city council, which makes decisions on everything from infrastructure to homelessness.

Fourteen candidates are vying for the mayoral seat, including Nevada Equal Rights Commission Director Kara Jenkins. 

There has not been much polling in the race, but an April survey from Emerson College found Berkley and Seaman as the only candidates above 10 percentage points, and Crear in third, though 56 percent of respondents were undecided.

Click below to see how candidates addressed the following topics:


Candidate records



Affordable housing

Grant Sawyer Building and Cashman Complex

Goodman leadership

November ballot


The most tense part of Wednesday’s forum was the discussion surrounding the city’s legal battles with the owner of the defunct Badlands golf course.

The issue revolves around the city’s taking of 35 acres of land from the owner of the golf course, who had attempted to turn it into a housing development, prompting resident backlash.

The Nevada Supreme Court last month upheld a lower court’s ruling that the city must pay $48 million to the developer, and more lawsuits are pending. The city later said it had tried to negotiate with the developer, but he did not do so in good faith.

Seaman said Wednesday that she has repeatedly urged the city to settle the case, referring to her vote against pursuing outside counsel. She said the Supreme Court’s ruling was “very political.” 

Meanwhile, Crear said he stood with the residents voicing opposition to the development (“If I didn't, that can happen any other place in your neighborhood”), and that he does not think the city did anything wrong.

Berkley, who lives near the golf course, said she also stood by the residents voicing opposition. She went after Crear for calling the developer a “bully developer,” and Seaman for taking credit for being the lone council voice against the continued legal battles, saying it “isn't leadership, it’s immaturity.”

Seaman then responded by saying she never heard from Berkley (who lives in her ward) during the course of the Badlands saga.

“No one heard from you, you never showed up at the council meetings about the appeals and outside attorneys,” Seaman said.

Berkley said it wasn’t her job to fix the issue as a private citizen.

Nevada Independent CEO Jon Ralston with Las Vegas City Councilwoman Victoria Seaman, former U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) and Las Vegas City Councilman Cedric Crear at The Nevada Independent’s Las Vegas mayoral forum on May 15, 2024. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent).

Candidate records

Asked whether she is simply running because she is “bored” after being outside of politics for more than a decade, Berkley pushed back and asked “what could be a greater honor than to represent your hometown?” 

“There isn't anyone in the state of Nevada that I can't call that won't return the call,” Berkley said.

She said she didn’t think “there are too many people in the state that knows health care better than I do.”

In Crear’s campaign, he has leaned into his achievements to revitalize the Historic Westside, which is located in Ward 5, including the acquisition of a workforce training center and a program to increase the economic advancement of low-income workers.

Asked about his achievements outside of Ward 5, Crear referred to traveling across the country in search of ways to alleviate homelessness and the city’s mental health crisis, and pointed to his work to expand the city’s recuperative care center.

He also said in an ad that he is the best candidate at selling the city globally, which he said Wednesday is because he was born in the city and sits on a city tourism board.

Seaman was pressed on several topics, including her campaign mailer that said “Pro-criminal radicals are trying to turn Las Vegas into another urban wasteland.”

Seaman said crime is “out of control in the city,” especially property crime. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, however, reported a 10 percent decrease in property crimes in the first three months of 2024 compared to the same period last year, according to a statewide crime database.

Seaman also defended accepting an endorsement from Las Vegas radio host and conspiracy theorist Wayne Allyn Root, an election denier who promoted fake COVID-19 cures, by saying that she would accept endorsement from anyone. She also defended her lawsuit against the city that alleged she was assaulted by Michele Fiore, a former councilwoman. 

She alleged Fiore broke her finger after grabbing her hand, and that the city had destroyed video evidence capturing the altercation, which the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported had been deleted. The city launched an investigation, and Seaman said Wednesday it “put us both at fault.”

Las Vegas City Councilwoman Victoria Seaman at The Nevada Independent’s Las Vegas mayoral forum on May 15, 2024. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent).


The candidates all took a similar approach on how they plan to reduce homelessness, but disagreed on who is best equipped to tackle the problem, as well as the effectiveness of ongoing initiatives.

Crear said he has done the most to mitigate homelessness in the city, pointing to initiatives such as Vegas Stronger and the Catholic Charities homeless shelter, both of which are headquartered in his ward, as well as the expansion of Haven for Hope.

Crear and Seaman also defended their votes in support of a controversial 2019 ban on homeless encampments in downtown Las Vegas.

Seaman said she was hearing from business owners who were looking to close because of the unhoused population in the area, but that she would not have supported the ordinance if it did not also include efforts to provide shelter and wraparound care.

Berkley said she has heard consistently from leaders of homelessness groups that the city council is not doing enough on the issue. She applauded some of the existing programs and credited the Legislature for a bill passed last year that allocates $100 million to a matching fund for homeless services, which advocates worried would not be sustainable.

She said she would like to see a new Las Vegas campus for wraparound support for unhoused people beyond its existing open-air courtyard where people experiencing homelessness can stay overnight

Former U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) at The Nevada Independent’s Las Vegas mayoral forum on May 15, 2024. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent).


While the Las Vegas mayor has no official oversight of the Clark County School District (CCSD), the candidates agreed it is important for the city to invest in education programs but differed in their overall perspective of the district.

Seaman said she thinks CCSD has failed and that it should be broken up into smaller districts because students in rural communities such as Mesquite don’t have the same needs as those in Summerlin. She also said she supported a provision in AB400, which passed the Legislature last year, that allows cities to apply to sponsor charter schools.

Berkley did not answer whether she thought the school system had failed and said she was proud to be a graduate of CCSD, which Seaman quipped was “a long time ago.” She said the city should do whatever it can to supplement the school district, including offering additional after-school and summer programs.

Crear also did not answer whether he thinks CCSD has failed but pointed to city programs, such as Youth Development and Social Initiatives and a mobile prekindergarten program, and said that the city should expand its support of students.

Affordable housing

The candidates also explained which type of affordable developments they prefer.

Seaman said she prefers mixed-use development, a type of development that could combine housing and commercial purposes.

Berkley said there is a “serious supply and demand problem” in city housing, with more people needing affordable homes than there are available. She said she supports Gov. Joe Lombardo’s push to free up federal land for affordable housing, adding that the city should look at providing different types of housing, such as tiny homes, depending on a person’s needs.

Crear touted the opening of housing developments in his district, including the recent groundbreaking of a 104-unit complex in the Historic Westside. He also emphasized that new housing construction should be done vertically so that neighborhoods aren’t “inundated” with additional housing.

Las Vegas City Councilman Cedric Crear speaks during a Las Vegas mayoral forum at the Fontainebleau Las Vegas on March 15, 2024 (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Grant Sawyer/Cashman Complex

The three candidates all expressed an openness for a health care facility to move to the Cashman Complex in downtown Las Vegas.

While Crear did not say what type of facility should move to Cashman, a baseball stadium and event center that is being considered for redevelopment, he said some options might be sports and public health. 

Seaman said she wants to see a children’s hospital move to Cashman, while Berkley also said health care should be prioritized, even hinting that one hospital system is interested in moving its operations to that location, though she declined to provide more specifics.

Berkley also said the deteriorating Grant Sawyer State Office Building should be imploded, but didn’t say what should take its place. Crear said he thinks the building will be sold, and Seaman said she would talk to Crear because the building is in his district.

Goodman leadership

The candidates were all complimentary of the Goodmans and said it is important for an experienced hand to hold the mayoral seat.

Crear did not answer whether there was anything he would have done differently from the Goodmans in the past 25 years. Seaman said she would have handled the Badlands settlement talks differently. Berkley said she would not have taken the same approach in a now-infamous CNN interview that Carolyn Goodman held at the start of the pandemic, where she offered the city as a “control group” for the virus.

The candidates also all defended their long political careers, saying the next Las Vegas mayor should have political experience. Ralston noted that Oscar Goodman was a political newcomer when he took office.

Berkley said she hasn’t heard a “new and visionary idea” from the more than a dozen other candidates in the field, so her experience makes her more qualified. 

Seaman also said it is time for “new blood” in the mayor’s office, and that she represents a new voice, even though she already works in city politics. Crear added that it would be “very irresponsible” to elect someone without city hall experience, an apparent dig at Berkley.

Berkley was the only candidate to acknowledge regret over a former vote they cast, saying she should not have voted in support of the U.S. invading Iraq in 2003.

November election

Berkley and Crear said they would be supporting President Joe Biden in the November election, while Seaman said she would back former President Donald Trump

One thing the candidates agreed on? They opposed ranked-choice voting, which will be on the ballot in November in the form of Question 3.


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