Las Vegas Sun

September 25, 2017

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Leaders oppose Guinn recall

A broad spectrum of Nevada business and community leaders, Republicans and Democrats alike, said Tuesday they would vigorously oppose any effort to recall Gov. Kenny Guinn.

In interviews with the Sun, some leaders characterized a proposed recall as being led by "fringe" political elements who oppose any tax increase.

Others said Nevada's problems are nowhere near as severe as in California, which is conducting an election on Oct. 7 to determine whether Democratic Gov. Gray Davis should be recalled.

Nevada GOP consultant Tony Dane announced that he planned today to begin the process of recalling fellow Republican Guinn by filing required paperwork with the secretary of state's office. Dane, who ran unsuccessfully for the Assembly in 1996, has said he has the support of some Republicans and conservative groups.

Dane's recall effort is fueled by opponents of the $836 million in new taxes approved by the Legislature in special session this summer to fund the state budget over the next two years.

Guinn said he supported tax increases to pay for education and the increasing demands on government services due to Nevada's rapid population growth.

No prominent Nevada community leader so far has said he or she would lend support or money toward a recall of Guinn. Some business and political leaders said they would not comment, but those who offered their opinions were decidedly opposed to the idea.

In contrast, California's recall effort has the support of many prominent business leaders, entertainers and elected officials, some of whom are seeking to take Davis' place.

"Ridiculous" is how Republican Party supporter Steve Wynn, chairman and chief executive of Wynn Resorts Ltd. and builder of Wynn Las Vegas, termed the effort to recall Guinn.

"To understand the folly of a recall of Gov. Guinn, all one has to do is look to California and see the political and social disarray," fellow GOP gaming executive J. Terrence Lanni, chairman and chief executive of MGM MIRAGE, said. "A similar campaign in Nevada would undermine the basic premise of our system of government.

"All of us in Nevada have better things to do with our time and resources."

Even former Las Vegas Mayor Jan Laverty Jones, a Democrat who lost to Guinn in the 1998 gubernatorial election, said she would oppose a recall. Jones, senior vice president of communications and government relations for Harrah's Entertainment Inc., praised Guinn's leadership.

"It is absolutely outrageous that we should even be talking about recalling a governor who stood up and took a stand for what is best for Nevada, irrespective of party affiliation," Jones said.

"He managed the process judiciously and did his research diligently. This state should be ashamed that it would return leadership with disrespect. How dare they."

Although Strip hotels were major supporters of Guinn's successful campaigns in 1998 and 2002 and remain in his corner, other business sectors that fought the governor on elements of his proposed tax package also expressed no appetite to recall him. Among them is the 7,000-member Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, which issued a statement opposing the recall effort.

"The chamber does not support a recall of Gov. Guinn," Kara Kelley, president and chief executive of the chamber, said. "We do not believe his actions have warranted this measure. Nevada does not want to face the instability that California is currently facing in light of their recall."

Lou Emmert, vice president and general manager of Sprint Nevada and the chairwoman of the board of directors of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, today said a recall effort would be a waste of time and money.

"Proponents of the campaign to recall the governor have failed to justify this initiative. This recall would waste the state's valuable resources and discourage economic development," she said. "Nevada works hard to distinguish itself from California and we're encouraging businesses to relocate to Nevada from California; therefore following California's lead with a recall is sending the wrong message."

Past chamber board chairman Robert Forbuss, a business consultant and registered Democrat who also opposes the recall effort, said he did not know of any prominent businessmen or companies that wanted the governor replaced.

"I have talked to no one in the business community who has an appetite to participate in a recall," Forbuss said. "I haven't heard of anybody who wants to jump onto that bandwagon.

"The governor is doing a great job, and I applaud his effort. He stuck to his guns. I wasn't a big fan of the (failed) gross receipts tax, but we needed to fund the budget. I didn't agree with the type of taxes he proposed, but I agreed with the effort he was making."

The Nevada Manufacturers Association, which represents 400 companies, has not taken a position on the proposed recall. But its executive director, Ray Bacon, a registered nonpartisan voter, said he would discourage the association from supporting an ouster of Guinn because he thinks it's a bad idea.

"We're not going to be part of it," Bacon said. "Are we less than happy with some of the taxes? Yes, but not to that extent" of supporting a recall.

"I don't think there's any way in the world that a recall effort would be successful in Nevada," Bacon said. "A lot of people are getting caught up in the frenzy of what is going on next door. But I don't see any reason to do the recall. With some of the things going on in California there is justification over there for a recall but we don't have that justification here.

"Everyone here agreed there was a need for more taxes. We disagreed on the methodology but not on the need for more taxes. In California they disagree about everything."

Cox Communications, Bank of America and Sierra Health Services were among the companies that declined comment on a recall of Guinn. Adriana Martinez, chairwoman of the Nevada Democratic Party and Carole Vilardo, president of the Nevada Taxpayers Association, also declined comment.

"It's not an issue that the association will be involved in," Vilardo said.

And while the Clark County Republican Party does not intend to take an official position, its chairman, Brian Scroggins, said he supports Guinn and would oppose a recall. Scroggins, president of United Sign Inc. of Las Vegas, said the county party is concentrating on fund-raising and get-out-the-vote efforts but would not participate in initiatives that are "divisive" within the party.

"It's going to be difficult to mount a recall effort against the governor," Scroggins said. "I would not want to recall the governor. I was not supportive of the tax initiatives. I thought they were a bit high. I can disagree with the governor on tax initiatives, but I still like him and would endorse him.

"The party is focusing on issues everyone can agree on. That's why we're staying away from resolutions because they're very divisive."

If there is any high-profile business executive in Nevada who understands the pressures Guinn has faced in the past year to balance the budget, it is Walt Higgins, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Sierra Pacific Resources. And Higgins, a registered Democrat whose company is the parent of embattled Nevada Power Co., said he, too, opposes a recall of Guinn.

Higgins said Guinn deserves praise for making tough, unpopular decisions "to do what needed to be done" to benefit the state.

"We have a governor who was elected and then re-elected by a huge majority of Nevadans," Higgins said. "Everyone knew we faced financial challenges. The governor worked very hard to find solutions to difficult problems. I don't think recalls have ever been about taking someone out of office because of public policy choices.

"If we just threw people out of office every time we disagreed with them, we'd have anarchy. We elect a governor to make tough public policy calls even if we, as voters, don't agree with everything. That's what representative government is all about."

John Restrepo, principal of Restrepo Consulting group and a registered Democrat, said a recall of Guinn would be a bad idea.

"It's probably the most stupid idea I've heard in a long time," Restrepo said. "He was duly elected by the people. This is a representative democracy we have, not a democracy by mob rule."

Dan Van Epp, president of Summerlin developer Howard Hughes Corp., praised Guinn and also spoke out against the recall effort.

"Gov. Guinn did what was necessary for the state and we appreciate his good service," Van Epp said.

In order to get a recall initiative on the ballot, Dane and his supporters will need an estimated 128,000 signatures from voters, or one-fourth of those who participated in the November 2002 general election.

Despite the absence of support for a recall from gaming and other prominent businesses, some individuals say the effort will gain backing from those who believe that Guinn strayed from the pledge he made during his first term in office not to raise new taxes.

So says Steven B. Miller, policy director for the Las Vegas think tank, Nevada Policy Research Institute, a self-described "free market" entity which has been critical of the new taxes as well as efforts to expand government. Miller, who is nonpartisan, said he believes most of the institute's 600 members would back a recall.

"They're very angry," Miller said. "The anger is in virtually every part of the state outside Las Vegas, and there's also some in Las Vegas. It's almost entirely about the tax issue. There is a sense of betrayal by the governor who ran, at least for his first term, saying no new taxes. And then he didn't explain what he would do until he was locked into a second term."

Lucille Lusk, co-chairwoman of Nevada Concerned Citizens and a Republican, said her organization has not yet taken an official position. Lusk said the conservative organization, which espouses family values and claims to have 5,000 member families, "thinks a recall is deserved but whether we are included depends on the validity of the effort."

"Kenny Guinn has changed," Lusk said. "At one time he was an incredible gentleman. He was good to people. But during this session of the Legislature he was rude and said things that were inappropriate to say.

"He misled a lot of people about what he intended to do. A lot of people thought he would be a cautious spender. They thought he would keep government small and instead he has increased it by leaps and bounds. His decision to go to the Nevada Supreme Court to get the state Constitution overturned was embarrassing for the state."

But Guy Hobbs, a Las Vegas business consultant and registered Republican who chaired a task force last year that recommended a broad-based tax package for Guinn and legislators to consider, said the recall is a bad idea. Hobbs, former chief financial officer for Clark County, said the recall would be bad because it "provides opportunities for people with extreme views" to gain publicity for themselves.

"I'd be surprised if you found anyone who was stable and well grounded who would support this recall," Hobbs said.

Similar views were expressed by Paul Brown, Southern Nevada director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, whose 45 member organizations include unions, environmental organizations, gay and lesbian groups, attorneys and the Nevada Women's Lobby.

Brown, a Democrat who opposes a recall of Guinn, said the effort is supported by a "fringe" element that has a chance only if it manages to raise a great deal of money.

"We think it is absolutely appalling that there would be a recall when there has been no malfeasance," Brown said. "I haven't heard of any big money players behind it. If that's the case, it's dead in the water.

"There are huge differences between Nevada and California. We didn't have the energy crisis at the level California did, and Davis was involved in negotiations with Enron. That's at least part of what people in California are angry about. What you have in Nevada are angry folks who don't want to pay taxes at all. In California, you have the energy problem as well as the tax problem."

Glen Arnodo, political director for Culinary Local 226, said the union that represents food servers, cocktail waitresses and other gaming employees would oppose the recall effort.

"We would absolutely oppose any attempt to recall Gov. Guinn," Arnodo said. "He showed more foresight and courage on taxes than any governor we have had in a long time.

"The recall election in California is being motivated by large forces having to do with the presidential election. In Nevada, it's a fringe group of radical Republicans who view Guinn as a traitor."

Officials with the Nevada State Education Association, which endorsed Guinn, said in a statement issued today that they stood by the governor and opposed any effort to recall Guinn.

"We believe Gov. Guinn is a strong governor and will continue to lead this state in the direction it needs to go," said NSEA Executive Director Ken Lange.

He said the way to recall an official is at the polls, and he said his union "will actively work with our members and coalition partners to keep democracy on track."