Election Day in Las Vegas: Your last chance to vote

It all comes down to this.

More than a year of campaigning. Millions of dollars of advertising. Thousands of glossy flyers clogging mailboxes. Thousands more texts (“reply STOP to opt out”). And even a couple of debates.

It all ends today, Election Day.

Voters will issue the final word today on races that have national implications and have drawn national media attention. Control of the U.S. Senate could hinge on Nevada, where the race between incumbent Democrat Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican challenger Adam Laxalt has been called the most competitive in the nation.

Control of the House of Representatives could be determined here in Southern Nevada, as Republicans are battling in unusually tight races in a trio of newly redrawn congressional districts that cover the middle and southern end of the state.

And the state Republican Party will see if exceptionally conservative candidates in the mold of Donald Trump can defeat Democrats in several statewide constitutional offices, one of which could affect how elections are conducted in the state for at least the next four years.

Top races, national attention

The U.S. Senate contest has seen a record-setting amount of spending, $176 million, according to the New York Times, citing an analysis by media-tracking firm AdImpact. For all that money, the race is still razor-thin: The Real Clear Politics polling average on Monday had Laxalt ahead, 47.6 percent to 44.9 percent.

With the Senate divided equally between the parties, a single seat could flip the balance of power to Republicans. Laxalt is that rare candidate who has been endorsed by both former President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who have an acrimonious relationship but nonetheless agreed on Laxalt as the GOP’s standard bearer in this contest.

The same situation is found in Southern Nevada’s three congressional districts, where a 2021 redistricting redistributed Democratic voters. As a result, the previously ultra-safe 1st Congressional District, represented by Dina Titus, is suddenly competitive, with Republican Mark Robertson even leading in some polls. The always competitive 3rd District, represented by Congresswoman Susie Lee, is even more so, as Lee faces off with Republican attorney April Becker.

Polls show Rep. Steven Horsford, whose district stretches from North Las Vegas to encompass the entire middle of the state, with a lead over his Republican opponent, Sam Peters.

Republicans need to flip just five seats to gain control of the House.

Statewide races

In addition to national races, the race for governor has drawn interest beyond Nevada. Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak is fighting for a second and final term against Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, the Republican nominee. The Real Clear Politics average on Monday had Lombardo ahead, 46.7 percent to 44.4 percent.

In addition, the race for secretary of state has drawn national interest, with former Assemblyman Jim Marchant — who has consistently claimed without evidence that the 2020 election was stolen — pitted against Democratic attorney Cisco Aguilar. The secretary of state oversees Nevada elections, and Marchant has traveled to rural Nevada counties to preach the virtues of hand-counted paper ballots over electronic voting machines.

In this election, Nye County has elected to use paper ballots and hand counting, although the new county clerk has said he will also use voting machines to count ballots in a parallel process.

Polls open morning to night

Polls will be open today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and voters can drop off their completed mail ballots at any voting location in Clark County. Any voter who is in line at 7 p.m. will be allowed to cast a ballot, no matter how long it takes.

When polls close across Nevada, counties will begin reporting election results to the state, and voters will begin to learn who will lead them for the next two, four or six years. But final election results could take days.

Why? It’s a feature of the greater reliance on mail-in ballots, which began during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic as a way to keep lines at polling places short and protect voters and election workers from exposure to the coronavirus. The policy of mailing every active registered voter a mail ballot was made permanent in 2021.

Under the law, any ballot postmarked by Tuesday and received by the county by Saturday will be counted, which means outstanding mail ballots will continue to be tabulated through next week. Those vote totals could change the results, especially in close races. The county has to finish counting ballots by next week, and certify the election by Nov. 18.

Federal monitoring

Nevada is one of several states where the U.S. Justice Department will send monitors to ensure compliance with voting rights laws on Tuesday.

That action occurs regularly on Election Day, and will see monitors sent to Nevada’s most populous counties, Clark and Washoe. Monitors will also be sent to Queens in New York City, Cuyahoga County, Ohio (where Cleveland is located); several counties in Pennsylvania, three counties in Texas and two others in Virginia.

Contact Steve Sebelius at [email protected] or 702-383-0253. Follow @SteveSebelius on Twitter.

‘Awakening,’ and Las Vegas Strip stardom, for performer April Leopardi

Similar to “Le Reve” at Wynn Las Vegas, the T Spot at Tuscany Suites is no more. But the intimate lounge plays into April Leopardi’s rise to prominence on the Strip.

We first saw Leopardi perform at the T Spot (today’s Copa Room) about a decade ago, as a member of “Alice,” Anne Martinez’s fiery rock adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” The show was typical of many Vegas showcases, inspired and tireless and loaded with local talent valiantly attempting to find a proper Las Vegas home.

Leopardi was an ensemble cast member, catapulting herself around the room, at one point angrily flinging a stack of plates across the stage at her romantic interest. The song was Aeromith’s “Crazy,” fittingly enough for this number. The plates, fortunately, were plastic.

Leopardi has also performed in “Vegas! The Show,” “Zombie Burlesque,” “Sexxy,” “53X” and “Ester Goldberg’s Totally Outrageous Brunch.” These are not (or were not) giant productions. But Leopardi, with her partially shaved red hair and inherent intensity, has always been a standout.

She has since landed the co-starring role of Darkness in “Awakening” at Wynn Las Vegas. This is the show playing where the splendid “Le Reve” ran for 15 years and more than 6,000 performances before closing in August 2020. Bernie Yuman, Baz Halpin and Michael Curry produce the $120 million residency show.

“Awakening” is a cast of 60 along with Curry’s advanced puppet work and a healthy compliment of magic acts. The production plays in the renovated and technically advanced Awakening Theater. The venue was drained after “Le Reve” but is still seated in the round.

Yes, a far leap and a long toss of the plates from the T Spot. This is a dream opportunity, to borrow from the former show.

Leopardi chatted about her role as Monday’s premiere approached.

Johnny Kats: Have you absorbed everything that has happened in your career to the point that you can just focus on the job at hand?

April Leopardi: I don’t know that I will ever be fully calibrated. It’s literally the stuff that dreams are made of. This is just heads above anything I’ve done before. Maybe one day, I’ll get comfortable, but right now I still come to work every day and I can’t believe I’m here.

Those of us who know you in Las Vegas know your skill set, but can you take me through the technical pattern of how you landed the role?

I was contacted by (casting director) Louanne Madorna about this new project. She couldn’t tell me much about it, but she thought I’d be great for it. I had left Vegas for Hawaii for six months, and I was flown into Vegas to do a nightclub performance that happened to be the same week of the audition. … I made it through callbacks. They sent me scripts, not necessarily from this show, but of existing things, to read through. This continued for a really long time until they offered me a contract in January.

Did you have a clear idea of what you this show was about?

As I’m sure any of the performers in the show will tell you, when we signed our contracts we knew absolutely nothing about the show. Nothing. We didn’t know who was involved. We didn’t know the storyline. I didn’t know what I was going to be doing in the show.

Describe your character, Darkness

She is a goddess. and her other half is Light, who is a god. And they’re very deep, interesting characters. They begin as lovers, and they have a falling-out. They separate, and Darkness becomes very cold and guarded. She’s a woman scorned, if you will, and she becomes the villain to an extent. But the way these characters are written, there’s not a clear good guy and bad guy. They’re both (good guy and bad guy) if that makes sense.

You do speak in this role, right? Have you spoken on stage before?

Not to a great extent. I did “Cats” a long time ago, toward the beginning of my career, so I got to speak and sing a little bit. But I’m used to being up in the air, spinning, throwing plates, expressing a story with my body. So, this is really fun. It turns out, I really like having a microphone. (Laughs.)

There is magic in this show, and you were Murray Sawchuck’s assistant for a time. Are you involved in any of the magic scenes?

There are illusions in the show. I don’t want to give it away before people see it. But I will tell you that I think you’ll like the way the illusions are written into the story.

What is the biggest performance challenge for you in “Awakening”?

This Darkness character is larger than life. She’s a goddess who has been alive for a thousand years, who has completely isolated herself and kind of made herself the queen of her domain. She’s a very lonely character. She doesn’t really interact with anybody, especially toward the beginning of the show. It’s been a challenge to learn how to take myself out on this massive stage with 60 other people, with these puppets and all these crazy things, and, without saying or doing too much, force the audience to pay attention to me. I have to get them to care about me, and what happens to me, during this journey. Those are big boots to fill.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

Killers to play Las Vegas Strip on New Year’s Eve

The Killers have played three shows in their hometown of Vegas this year. They’ll add a fourth, with a flourish, just under the wire.

The band is playing its final show of 2022 at the Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan, the resort announced Monday morning. Tickets are on sale 10 a.m. Nov. 18 at cosmopolitanlasvegas.com, or 800-745-3000. Tickets start at $150, not including fees.

The Chelsea show falls inside the dates of the band’s “Imploding the Mirage” world tour, closing March 25 in Houston. The Killers packed the Chelsea during the tour in April. They also played T-Mobile Arena in August and, on Saturday, Palace of the Gods at Caesars Palace to cap the Las Vegas Grand Prix Fan Fest.

Just before taking the stage Saturday night, front man Brandon Flowers was asked about the band headlining a residency in Las Vegas. He said, “We’ve talked a little bit about it. I’m definitely not opposed to it. I love the idea.”

Maroon 5 was the Chelsea’s New Year’s Eve headliners in 2021.

The hotel’s lead entertainment executive is, predictably, ready to rock again with the band that broke in Vegas.

“The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has remained at the forefront of the Las Vegas entertainment scene for more than a decade,” Cosmopolitan Vice President of Entertainment and Nightlife Fedor Banuchi said in a statement. “We are honored to have Las Vegas’ very own, The Killers, back to The Chelsea for what is sure to be an unforgettable New Year’s Eve performance.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

Luxury Las Vegas housing broker sets up shop in Downtown Summerlin’s retail area

Ivan Sher has brokered some of Southern Nevada’s most expensive home sales and lands a steady stream of high-priced listings.

Now, he’s launched his own real estate firm. But instead of moving to an office building, he set up shop in an unlikely spot: Downtown Summerlin, steps from Foot Locker, Crazy Pita and Sparkles Beauty Bar.

Sher, formerly with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nevada Properties, branched off last month to open an independent brokerage, IS Luxury. He has 15 agents, all of whom worked with him at Berkshire, and a 6,200-square-foot office that he said cost millions of dollars and around six months to build out.

The space, previously occupied by women’s clothing store Hottie, features an open meeting area with a long, counter-height table under three gold-color chandeliers and bottles of Champagne nearby.

‘Feeder markets’

Sher, 53, said he signed a lease in Downtown Summerlin because he lives in the area and because the 106-acre outdoor mall, off Sahara Avenue and the 215 Beltway, is closer than other commercial districts to wealthy enclaves such as The Summit Club and The Ridges.

He also liked the idea of being a unique tenant of sorts: a luxury real estate brokerage in the midst of a pedestrian-heavy shopping area.

“That was a huge part of it,” he said.

His plans extend beyond Summerlin. Sher said he wants to open an office in Henderson and, in what he called, “feeder markets” such as the Lake Tahoe area; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Park City, Utah.

Many of his clients have second homes in those locations, said Sher, who envisions “a pipeline from one area to the other.”

Pricey deals

Sher, who was born in South Africa and lived there until he was 7, moved to Southern Nevada in 2000.

He books no shortage of home sales in the Las Vegas Valley. His team logged $760 million in sales volume last year, up from $443 million in 2020 and $323 million in 2019, according to IS Luxury’s website.

Over the years, his team has listed homes for such clients as casino developer Steve Wynn, former MGM Resorts International top boss Jim Murren, Kiss bassist Gene Simmons and former Golden Knight Max Pacioretty, who put his 10,181-square-foot Summerlin house on the market last month for nearly $12 million.

Sher’s group also represented both sides of the deal when famed magician David Copperfield bought a four-story, steel-and-concrete Summerlin mansion in 2016 for $17.55 million — the most expensive home sale ever recorded in Southern Nevada at the time. The record stood until last year, when a Henderson mansion traded for $25 million in a deal that Sher was not involved with.

He also sold a 9,427-square-foot house in The Summit Club for almost $19 million this year. And in summer 2021, he listed a 14,207-square-foot mansion in Henderson for $32.5 million, the most expensive home offering in Southern Nevada in a decade.

Housing swings

Fueled by rock-bottom mortgage rates, Southern Nevada’s housing market accelerated to its most frenzied pace in years in 2021, and the luxury sector was no different.

“We’d sell them before they hit the market sometimes,” Sher said.

Ultra-wealthy clients took out loans because they were like “free money,” he said.

Las Vegas, which had long been known as a more affordable market, also saw a big influx of buyers from California and other states during the pandemic as people worked from home.

Southern Nevada’s housing market has hit the brakes this year as the Federal Reserve fights inflation with higher interest rates. Overall, sales totals have dropped sharply from year-ago levels, inventory has soared, and sellers have increasingly slashed their prices.

The average rate on a 30-year home loan was 6.95 percent as of Thursday, down from 7.08 percent the week before but up from 3.09 percent a year ago, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported.

Amid the jump in borrowing costs, 31,669 homes in Southern Nevada traded hands this year through October, down 22.6 percent, or more than 9,200 sales, from the same period last year, according to trade association Las Vegas Realtors.

Within that, luxury home sales were largely flat: 1,304 homes sold for at least $1 million this year, up 1.6 percent, or 20 sales.

The economy “doesn’t feel as stable” with higher interest rates, Sher said. The stock market, often a key source of wealth for luxury homeowners, has seen a volatile, sliding year.

Sher said he is starting to see more activity on his listings but noted that some sellers are “panicking” and dropping their prices.

Still, he figures the market will be stable next year.

“May not be record-breaking, but it’ll be … a good, solid year,” he said.

Contact Eli Segall at [email protected] or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.