The College of Southern Nevada Charleston campus on Monday, March 16. (Photo: Bridget Bennett)
Policy, politics and progressive commentary
The Board of Regents is a 13-member elected board that sets policies and approves budgets for the Nevada System of Higher Education, which is comprised of four community colleges (College of Southern Nevada, Truckee Meadows Community College, Great Basin College, Western Nevada College), one state college (Nevada State College), two universities (University of Nevada Las Vegas and University of Nevada Reno) and one research institute (Desert Research Institute).
This year there are five open regents seats. Here we will cover three races — Districts 6, 7 and 13. All three districts are wholly within Clark County. For a breakdown of races in District 8 and 11, which cover parts of northern and rural Nevada and a slice of Southern Nevada, click here.
Candidates can secure their regents seat by winning at least 50% of votes during the June primary. If nobody wins,the top two finishers will advance to the November general election.
Regents serve six-year terms.
District 6 covers the southernmost parts of Clark County and is currently represented by Regent Patrick Carter, who is not running for reelection. Four candidates will appear on the primary ballot, though one candidate has done no obvious campaigning.
Heather Brown is president and co-founder of StartUp Vegas, a nonprofit focused on expanding the tech and startup ecosystem in Las Vegas. She previously worked for political campaigns and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from UNLV.
Brown told the Nevada Faculty Alliance she made the decision to run after she “heard time and time again that NSHE strives for excellence yet the budgets and how money has been allocated does not reflect that.”
She believes the budget needs “an overhaul” and that more money needs to go directly to the institutions and less to administrative oversight.
“I want to repair the relationship with folks across Southern Nevada, prioritize graduation readiness, and ensure that the proper investments go into the community workforce pipeline,” she added.
Brown has been endorsed by the Culinary Union, Nevada State AFL-CIO, the Vegas Chamber and Clark County Education Association.
She reported no fundraising during the first quarter of 2022.
Karl Catarata is currently a political science student at UNLV and promoting himself as the youngest candidate running to be a regent.
“I believe we need a qualified, experienced, and community-minded young person on the Board of Regents,” the 24-year-old told the Nevada Faculty Alliance.
Catarata was recently named Nevada state director for the Human Rights Campaign. He has previously worked for Las Vegas City Councilman Brian Knudsen and U.S. Rep. Susie Lee’s offices.
He identified college affordability and accessibility, as well as workforce development, as his highest priorities as a regent.
Catarata has been endorsed by IBEW Local 357, Make the Road Nevada Action and the Nevada State Education Association. He reported raising $1,886 in campaign contributions during the first quarter reporting period.
Jeanine Dakduk describes herself on her campaign website as “a higher education professional with over 15 years of experience at five different universities, including UNLV and UNR.” According to her profile on LinkedIn, she was most recently a senior academic advisor at UNLV’s College of Liberal Arts. Her 2022 financial disclosure forms list her occupation as consultant.
She has a bachelor’s degree in history from Northern Illinois University and a master’s in educational leadership from UNLV.
Dakduk declined to answer specific policy questions posed by the Nevada Faculty Alliance, telling the group that “questionnaires, even if nonpartisan, are framed to encourage a personal stance on a particular topic.”
She continued, “A regent needs to review the proposals from the chancellor and their team to make informed decisions on policy. To take a stance now is premature. The issues change. The environment evolves. A regent must be impartial, not beholden to campaign promises.”
Dakduk has publicly pledged to not seek partisan or organizational endorsements, not accept campaign contributions, and only serve one term as regent.
Dakduk’s platform, according to her website is, “high-quality, affordable education; education that leads to careers; and improved student outcomes.”
A fourth candidate in the race, Brandin Manwill, has no online presence as a candidate and has done no obvious campaigning.
The complete Nevada Faculty Alliance questionnaires for District 6 candidates is available here.
District 7 covers the western parts of the Las Vegas Valley, including Summerlin. Incumbent Mark Doubrava is termed out and cannot run again. Five candidates are seeking to replace him. They include a former Clark County commissioner, a neurosurgeon and two UNLV graduate students.
Susan Brager is no stranger to public office. She served 12 years on the Clark County School Board and 12 on the Clark County Commission.
“I have a strong desire to bring my background in consensus-building and group success to the Board of Regents,” she told the Nevada Faculty Alliance. “We need to end the meddling that has plagued the system and I will make that my highest priority.”
Brager wrote that the “micromanagement at the board level of the chancellor and institution presidents” needs to end. “We must continue to hire world-class administrators and educational leaders, but then, let them do their jobs unobstructed.” She vowed to call for a binding resolution on the issue during her first meeting as regent.
Brager also supports the breaking up of NSHE into a university system and community college system, saying that the needs and goals of students are “so vastly different.”
“Separate governance systems could be achieved with the same number of administrators as we have today and both systems would be lean and streamlined, instead of a top-heavy giant,” she added.
Brager is a realtor. She is a high school graduate but has no college degree.
Dave “Coach” Crete has worked in real estate sales and leasing for two decades. He is also an Air Force veteran, served on several local and regional commissions, and spent 26 years as a volunteer football coach — hence being known as Coach Crete.
In his Nevada Faculty Alliance answers, he emphasized workforce development and a need for the system’s universities and colleges to stay competitive.
“As a state, Nevada operates in a very competitive environment with other states, in attracting new businesses and industries,” he wrote. “Nevada also works at attracting businesses from other states to relocate to Nevada. For us to continue to diversify our economy and offer greater opportunities for our current and future residents, we must improve our educational system, including our colleges and universities.”
While the regents operate as a nonpartisan board, Crete acknowledged in his answers that he is a conservative.
He was notably the only candidate to express a negative opinion about the possibility of collective bargaining for NSHE professional employees, telling the Nevada Faculty Alliance he is “not a fan.” (One other candidate, Aury Nagy, said he had no fixed opinion on collective bargaining, believing it to be a institutional-level issue, but Nagy added that “it seems unfair to me to prevent the employees of NSHE from organizing should they choose to do so.”)
Crete was also the candidate most open to allowing the open or concealed carry of firearms at NSHE universities. (One other candidate, Nagy, wrote he believed college campuses “should be weapons free” but was open to an exception for victims of violence who feel carrying a gun would help them feel more safe and able to participate in their education.” The other candidates opposed weapons on campuses.)
Crete’s questionnaire answers say he holds two bachelor’s degrees in business.
M.J. Ivy said he is running for the board because “there is a true need for informed decision and honest talk on the board.”
“We need a focus on the needs of the students and raise the graduation rate among BIPOC,” he continued, using a term meaning Black, Indigenous, and people of color. “There needs to be a true focus on the students and the needs of the school.”
Addressing the ongoing conflicts between NSHE and the state legislature, Ivy said it comes down to issues of transparency.
“They need to know that what is being given to them is the truth and not something else,” he said. “They want to trust the board again and feel a part of the solution and not a money machine. We must hire people that will work together and leave their egos at the door.”
Ivy also said he believes the next chancellor should be someone “who has lived here for a long period of time” and “who has a stake in Nevada.”
He noted that he believes NSHE salaries should be reduced so regents can be paid at least $30,000 a year for their work.
Ivy, an Air Force veteran, currently works for a public relations firm and a church. He holds a bachelor’s in communication studies from Linwood University and is set to graduate with a master’s in public policy and leadership from UNLV this December.
Hieu Le is currently a graduate student at UNLV, studying public administration. He previously earned a bachelor’s from UNLV and an associate’s from CSN — both in political science. He currently works for Clark County’s Safekey program, which offers low-cost before- and after-school care for CCSD students.
Le said he is running “to reconnect students to our education system.”
“Me and my peers through my journey have become aware of the problems with our tuition fees and lack of diverse leaders with colleges,” reads his campaign website. “My community wants to improve our college system by splitting up tuition costs between online and in-person classes and creating more social and diverse leadership programs on campus.”
In his Nevada Faculty Alliance questionnaire answers, he emphasized student involvement, saying students should be involved with the selection of individual institution presidents.
He identified affordability, accessibility and social justice as his three highest priorities.
Dr. Aury Nagy is a neurosurgeon and managing partner of Nevada Brain and Spine Center. He believes the board needs the representation of a medical professional, particularly with the departure of District 7 incumbent Doubrava, who is an ophthalmologist.
“I was surprised to see no one with a scientific background running to help oversee DRI and the growth of the sciences at our universities and colleges,” he wrote.
One particular area of potential growth, Nagy said, is the pursuit of grant funding related to the opioid epidemic.
“This money would be available for the sciences departments, the psychology departments, the political science departments, the schools of public health, the law schools and the schools of medicine,” he wrote. “Success in these areas could be communicated to our community as a direct response to a desperate community need. This could enhance the reputation of NSHE.”
When asked about prioritizing the various types of institutions that fall under NSHE, Nagy wrote that community colleges should be prioritized over the universities and DRI, which have greater access to private and federal funding for research and can be less dependent on state funding.
Nagy also said that educators should be paid “between 5 to 10% more than the national average” in order to ensure proper recruitment and retention of faculty.
“We want graduates of our institutions of higher learning to excel here in Nevada, and to be leaders of our community in the future,” he wrote. “This means fighting for more funds in the legislature, in Washington, and pushing and enabling our faculty/staff to aggressively pursue federal/private funding opportunities.”
On whether they would support or opposite a policy to regulate discussion of or teaching about divisive topics such as Critical Race Theory on NSHE campuses:
- Brager: “There should be no policy enacted that would have the effect of chilling free speech and limiting academic discourse, regardless of the subject matter.”
- Crete: “I would only support such discussion if it were from an unbiased point of view and all sides are discussed when it is discussed in the classroom…”
- Ivy: “CRT was started by a set of lawyers to drill down and understand the whys and the whats about living as a person of color. We live and breathe race every day. Teaching about CRT is not a bad or good thing. It is education.”
- Le: “I would support CRT on NSHE campuses. We need to be more informed on the social and racial issues within the state.”
- Nagy: “I believe that such topics can and should be taught in courses devoted to those issues or in the field of political science in general. I would hope that NSHE’s new chancellor would urge institution presidents to use caution when allowing their faculty to push those theories into courses traditionally unrelated to those topics.”
(editor’s note: some answers were shortened for length)
The complete Nevada Faculty Alliance questionnaires for District 7 candidates is available here.
Incumbent John T. Moran is running for his second term representing District 13, which covers parts of west Las Vegas. He faces two challengers — Stephanie Goodman and Jennifer Bandiero.
None of the three candidates completed the Nevada Faculty Alliance’s policy questionnaire.
Moran, who won his current team by handily beating two opponents during the 2016 primary, is a senior partner at Moran Brandon Bendavid Moran and has represented public and private gaming companies, according to his official NSHE bio.
He earned a bachelor’s in political science from Arizona State University and a juris doctorate from California Western School of Law.
In October 2021, Moran publicly called for fellow regents Cathy McAdoo and Patrick Carter to resign from their leadership positions on the board after the pair were accused by then-Chancellor Melody Rose of violating Rose’s contract and creating a hostile work environment. (McAdoo and Carter did step down the following month. Both have opted not to run for reelection this year.)
Stephanie Goodman owns a local advertising firm and is currently the executive director of Dr. Robert Hunter International Problem Gambling Center, the state’s largest dedicated treatment center for gambling addiction. She is the former daughter in law of Las Vegas mayors Oscar and Carolyn Goodman.
She earned a bachelor’s in “advertising and English literature” from UNLV, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Goodman’s campaign website says she will work toward “more partnerships between business and higher education to strengthen our economy, create jobs, and secure industry support for university programs that educate the next generation of skilled workers” and to “ensure that college and university campuses are safe places for all students to enjoy free speech, regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum.”
Jennifer Bandiero is a former teen pageant competitor who describes herself in campaign materials as “a protective single mother” with “deep roots as a community activist and volunteer.”
She identifies “medical privacy, transparency, constitutional rights, campus safety and no mandates” as top priorities. On her social media page, she refers to the pandemic as a “pLandemic” — a term used by covid denialists and conspiracy theorists who believe the pandemic was artificially induced as a means of controlling the public.
Bandiero also refers to the COVID-19 vaccine as “COVID gene therapy” — another unfactual talking point of covid conspiracy theorists. Gene therapy involves altering a person’s DNA to cure or prevent a disease. The COVID-19 vaccine does not alter a person’s DNA, scientists and public health experts agree.
Moran voted for mandatory vaccine requirements for NSHE college students.
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