CCSD School Board District D Candidates

Steve Marcus

A child sleeps under a campaign flyer during a candidate forum for CCSD School Board District D candidates at the East Las Vegas Library Thursday, May 5, 2022. The forum was organized by the Clark County Conservative Coalition and Vote Nevada.

Linda Cavazos stood behind a small folding table inside a conference room at the East Las Vegas Library feverishly organizing literature for her School Board reelection campaign.

A candidate forum for School Board hopefuls would soon begin, and Cavazos was determined to make a good first impression with undecided voters.

She wound up standing there for a few hours two years ago answering questions from constituents.

Some knew about her previous work on the board or as an educator, she said. Others didn’t know about her background but came with a common question: How would she improve public education?

“It is an opportunity for people to see who you are and how you present yourself,” she said.

The event was hosted by Vote Nevada, a nonprofit civic engagement group founded by a group of Las Vegas women determined to find solutions to help strengthen the community and solve problems.

The forum was their way of raising voter awareness of the candidates, knowing the fate of the School Board was vital to the futures of 300,000 students in the Clark County School District.

The event was such a hit that Vote Nevada is doing it again and expanding it to other nonpartisan races.

The 2024 Primary Election Candidate Forums is 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Student Union at the College of Southern Nevada’s Cheyenne campus, 3200 E. Cheyenne Ave.

The forum will focus on nonpartisan open primary races, including the contests for Las Vegas mayor, the Nevada State Higher Education Board of Regents, judicial seats and School Board.

The group extended invitations to 41 candidates who will be on the ballot, 37 of whom immediately confirmed they would participate, officials said. There’s no fee for candidates to take part in the forum or for voters to attend.

Look at it as speed-door knocking.

“It was so well accepted (in 2022) that we thought we should expand it for the benefit of the community,” said Sondra Cosgrove, a history professor at College of Southern Nevada and the executive director of Vote Nevada. “You can come and go (at your leisure); just come learn about who is on the ballot.”

Only 22% of registered voters in Clark County participated in the 2022 primary, according to the Nevada secretary of state. Some voters might not realize they can participate in open primaries for nonpartisan offices, Cosgrove said.

And when they do take part, some voters aren’t armed with much information about the candidates, she said.

Candidates who win more than 50% of the vote in the primary win the office outright, making even more urgent the awareness work of Vote Nevada, Cosgrove said.

The more people who vote, the better the community is represented, she said. There are 484,651 voters registered as nonpartisan in Clark County — some of whom don’t pay attention during the primary, because they wrongly believe they aren’t voting until the November general election, she said.

Even more startling: “I’ve had a candidate ask whether they were in the open primary,” Cosgrove said.

Cosgrove said the one-on-one approach of the event gives community members the ability to ask about what is important to them.

It isn’t a debate or a competition, she said. Neither is it Democratic or Republican. It’s all about voter awareness.

“You have to give Dr. Cosgrove credit,” Cavazos said. “She laid out the ground rules and goals for the forum. She was very clear that this wasn’t a debate. There was a common goal of getting (voters) information.”

Cavazos, who won the School Board race for District G, said the environment was mostly relaxed and that the candidates were cordial to one another. She said there were a few unexpected questions, and most of the talk centered on “how do you feel you’d be helpful to the board for the benefit of our students?”

“The biggest benefit is it is informational,” Cavazos said. “It gives the voter constituent not only the opportunity to see what the candidate has to offer in a way of experience and goals, but also allows them to ask why would you want to run for a position that appears to be difficult and challenging.”

Upon arrival at the forum, voters will be assisted by volunteers to locate the candidates on their ballot. People can ask any election-related questions and can also register to vote, Cosgrove said.

“If you have little kids and you are super busy, you aren’t going to have much time to do research,” Cosgrove said. “Here, everyone will be in the room for three hours. You can spend 15 minutes with each candidate, and then when your ballot comes, be able to say, ‘Great, I talked with that person.’”

Cosgrove is a professor for five courses of history at CSN. She stresses to her students the importance of registering to vote and taking part in the process.

“I spend a lot of time teaching my students about people dying to get the right to vote,” she said.

Vote Nevada will host a second candidate forum 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. April 27 at CSN for top-of-the ballot, closed primary races for Congress, the Nevada Legislature and Clark County Commission.


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