Shift to even-year LV City Council election results in female majority, and way more voters

By: - November 17, 2022 6:21 am

Francis Allen-Palenske and Nancy Brune won races for the Las Vegas City Countil.

It’s been four years since Nevada became the first state with a female majority Legislature. 

Although not as pronounced this election year as in 2020, women have persistently held the advantage in judicial elections in Southern Nevada. 

And last week, women won both open seats on the Las Vegas City Council.

Former Republican Assemblywoman Francis Allen-Palenske won with a more than 1,800-vote edge over former city councilman and state legislator Bob Beers in the race to represent Ward 4. She will be the first woman to represent the ward.

“The biggest and most significant game changer in my race was knocking door to door aggressively for almost nine months,” said Allen-Palenske.

In Ward 6, Nancy Brune — a first-time candidate — won a four-year term on the board by nearly 360 votes against her opponent Ray Spencer, a former Las Vegas Metro Police sergeant.

Brune, a registered Democrat, will take the seat currently held by Councilwoman Michele Fiore, an election denying Republican who lost her race for Nevada state treasurer last week to incumbent Zack Conine.

“I always believed I had a good shot, but I knew I would have to work really hard, so I’m excited about the outcome. I think the lesson for me is that hard work truly pays off,” Brune said.

Currently the council has three women and three men, plus Mayor Carolyn Goodman. Women will now have a 4 to 2 majority on the council.

Allen-Palenske said the news isn’t that women won — it’s that they keep winning.

“Women in the last 20 years have been very active in Nevada, and it’s great to see,” Allen-Palenske said.

Nevada became the first state in the nation to have a majority female Legislature in 2018, and for years before that, Nevada had one of the highest, if not the highest, ratio of women legislators in the country. 

This year also marks the first time city council elections were held in an even-numbered year — alongside statewide races that typically see higher participation — after the Legislature passed a bill to move municipal elections away from odd-numbered years where there’s fewer voters. 

More than 72,000 voters cast a ballot for candidates in Ward 4 and Ward 6, more than five times as many as the roughly  14,000 voters who participated in the 2019 Las Vegas City Council general election, despite four seats being on the ballot that year.

Increased voter turnout benefits the democratic process and has the potential to bring in new council members who can bring different perspectives and life experiences, said Brune.

“It’s a great thing,” said Brune. “It feels like the outcome truly reflects the will of a more significant number of residents.”

The six-member city council sets policy for more than 640,000 residents living within its wards, and votes to appoint a city manager responsible for the daily operations of government and administration.

While council members are elected on a non-partisan basis, the council makes decisions for the city by majority vote, meaning the makeup of the council can kill or save ordinances and resolutions.

The council also sets the city’s goals for major projects and infrastructure improvements, ranging from community zoning priorities and land use to finances and strategic planning.

With the passage of major funding bills by Congress, the City of Las Vegas is flush with federal dollars the council can allocate.

Last year, the Las Vegas City Council was awarded more than $130 million through the American Rescue Plan. The bulk of the funding has been allocated to affordable housing, business assistance, pandemic response and nonprofit organizations. Just over $9 million is being held in reserve by the city in case COVID makes a resurgence. If not, the city will make a determination on the best use of the reserve funds.

One of Allen-Palenske top priorities is combating crime and improving public safety,  by increasing funding for police and other first responders.

On a phone call with Las Vegas Mayor Caroline Goodman, Allen-Palenske said the mayor congratulated her shortly before the future Ward 4 councilwoman started campaigning for a position on the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Fiscal Affairs Committee.

“I’m now making my best play at following through on that commitment,” Allen-Palenske said.

As the former executive director of the Guinn Center—a nonpartisan data-driven policy center — Brune said she believes her goal of “putting people before partisan politics” and  “focusing on common sense solutions” resonates with voters and won her the election. 

“I’m truly committed to putting people over partisan politics and I look forward to working with anyone who has a good idea,” Brune said.

The growing number of women on the city council highlights the importance of placing women in policy-making roles to represent women’s needs, said Brune.

Brune previously said housing and public health are two of her top priorities, adding that she is interested in a position on the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority and the Southern Nevada Health District.

“I have a couple of pet projects I want to work on and I’ve been told the mayor will be receptive to having those conversations,” Brune said. “I think there will be an opportunity to shape the topics I’d like to address.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated Las Vegas Concilwoman Michele Fiore is term-limited. Fiore completed one term, city council members can serve up to three terms.

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Jeniffer Solis
Jeniffer Solis

Reporter | Jeniffer was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies. While at UNLV she was a senior staff writer for the student newspaper, the UNLV Scarlet and Gray Free Press, and a news reporter for KUNV 91.5 FM, covering everything from the Route 91 shooting to UNLV housing. She has also contributed to the UNLV News Center and worked as a production engineer for several KUNV broadcasts before joining the Nevada Current. She’s an Aries.