Who’s on first?
Stay with us on this one. It takes a little explaining.
George Chachas used to be mayor of Ely, the county seat of Nevada’s White Pine County. He was recalled from office.
Bob Miller is mayor of Ely now. He just lost the primary election to his challenger, George Chachas. But he won’t leave office and wants to run against Chachas again in a general election.
Chachas won more than 50 percent of the primary election vote in a three-person race, making him the new mayor without the need for a general election. That’s how Miller became mayor in 1999.
Flash back now to 2003. Bob Miller was re-elected mayor, and Chachas challenged his eligibility because Miller didn’t live in Ely. Chachas took the case all the way to the Nevada Supreme Court, winning a ruling that removed Miller from office. That left a vacancy in the mayor’s office for the City Council to fill by appointment. Miller moved into Ely, and the City Council appointed him mayor. He was appointed for a half term, until the next election, which is why he had to run again this year after only two years in office.
Under state law covering cities Ely’s size, the City Council could have adopted language allowing candidates to run in the general election and skip the primary if there are only two or three candidates.
Instead, the City Council adopted a law stating that “if one candidate receives more than a majority of votes cast in the primary election … his name alone shall be placed on the ballot for the general city election.” But the city also adopted a law stating that the candidates who “receive the highest number of votes at that [primary] election … must be declared nominees for office” and placed on the general election ballot.
Thus the city has two laws in conflict.
City Attorney Richard Sears ducked a request for a legal opinion on the matter because Bob Miller had appointed him to office. He bumped the assignment to the Nevada attorney general’s office, which came down on Miller’s side, saying that more recent law trumps older law, and that meant the two candidates would have to be in a general-election run off. That conflicts with the view of White Pine County Clerk Donna Bath, but attorney general apparently trumps county clerk.