Clark County District Attorney David Roger, rejecting a move by Nevada's top election official, said Tuesday that there's no legal basis for blocking longtime county commissioner Bruce Woodbury from seeking another term in office.
Roger said in a letter to Secretary of State Ross Miller that he doesn't believe Woodbury and three other local officials are violating state term limits by seeking new terms. Roger's decision also favors university regent Thalia Dondero and school board members Mary Beth Scow and Ruth Johnson.
In 1996, Nevada voters passed a constitutional amendment limiting elected officials to 12 years in office. But Roger said terms won in 1996 don't count toward the 12-year limit.
In all cases, the officials had held their positions since at least 1996. In Woodbury's case, he's been on the Clark County Commission since 1981.
"Based on the information available to the voters in 1996 ... because the issue affects a limited number of candidates and, most important, because ambiguities should be resolved in favor of candidacy when possible, this office finds that probable cause does not exist to remove the challenged candidates from the ballot," Roger said.
Roger also said the state attorney general's advice to Miller appears to be that 1996 doesn't count as the start of the 12-year term-limit period only for state legislators. But he said treating lawmakers differently than local officials raises a question whether the distinction violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Supporters contend term limits give voters more control and prevent career politicians from locking out newcomers and becoming beholden to special interests. Critics maintain term limits have resulted in a loss of valuable experience, institutional memory and an increase in the power of lobbyists, staff and bureaucrats.