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Rare county partisan race boils over

The October surprise in the Douglas County District 3 commissioners’ race is that there is one.

It has been more than 70 years since someone who was not a Republican has served on the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.

But that’s not stopping Ruhenstroth Libertarian Charles Holt from conducting an active campaign for the seat presently held by Larry Walsh.

Topaz Ranch Estates Republican Mark Gardner defeated Walsh handily in the primary, and even Holt displayed a Gardner sign in his front yard then. Most Douglas County partisan races are resolved in the Republican primary.

“I was touched by Mark’s story that he married his wife when she had breast cancer,” Holt said. “My fiancé had bladder cancer. She then refused to marry me. I took care of her for five more years until she died.”

Gardner answered claims that he is only a part-time resident of the county, saying that his wife was helping their daughter in Lodi.

“Due to Laura’s commitment to help our daughter with her work schedule by taking care of our grandchildren several days a week, Laura went back and forth on a regular basis,” he said. “That commitment ended earlier this year.”

Gardner, who registered to vote April 18, 2017, said the couple plans to visit their grandchildren, who all live in California, regularly.

“We take our role as grandparents quite enjoyably,” he said.

Holt has been registered at his Mustang Lane home since Sept. 3, 2014, according to the Douglas County Clerk-Treasurer’s Office.

Support of redevelopment area No. 2 delineates the candidates positions.

Holt acknowledged that at first blush he indicated he opposed redevelopment at Stateline.

“I initially said that I didn’t think it was such a great deal,” he said. “I met with former commissioners, current commissioners county employees and visitor authorities. It was unanimous. (Redevelopment) is a sensible investment in the future financial wellbeing of the county.”

Gardner is opposed to redevelopment at Stateline and has the backing of several residents who distributed a petition to have it placed on the November ballot.

Gardner’s supporters have been fighting the Redevelopment Area No. 2 at Stateline for more than two years, including Commissioner John Engels who defeated Commissioner Steve Thaler in 2018. The redevelopment district was approved in February 2016, before Gardner moved to Douglas County.

Originally proposed to fund construction of an event center at Stateline, the Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority also received authorization to charge a $5 room tax in Stateline from the Nevada Legislature in 2019.

Holt said he changed his views after doing the research.

“I’m a life-long learner,” he said. “Positions I had have changed because I spent a solid six weeks studying the issues. My opponents think they know everything they need to know. That’s a mistake you won’t expect from me.”