Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 | 2 a.m.
An effort by Nevada Republicans to recall two Democratic state senators and replace them with GOP candidates is despicable in so many respects, it’s hard to know where to start criticizing it.
So in no particular order, here are some of the key problems with it: It’s an abuse of the recall provision, an attempt to hijack the democratic process, an affront to voters, a possible step toward nonstop elections and a potential form of political bullying that will only add to the corrosiveness of partisanship in the Legislature.
That’s all because the GOP operatives behind the recall attempts have yet to offer any valid reasons that the targets of their effort — Sens. Patricia Farley, an independent, and Joyce Woodhouse, a Democrat — should be ousted.
There has been no indication of serious malfeasance that would suggest the senators are unfit to hold office and therefore deserve to be recalled. No crimes, no scandals, no ugly revelations from the senators’ past. Nothing.
To the contrary, by specifying that they want Republican candidates to replace Farley and Woodhouse, the plotters showed that their scheme for what it is: a power grab by a party that knows it can’t take back control of the Senate, which it lost in 2016, any other way.
In other words, it has nothing to do with good, responsible government, and everything to do with party politics.
That’s not what the recall provision is designed for. The intent of the provision is to give voters an opportunity to remove officeholders who are not fit for office, not to give one party a tool with which to pry opponents out of their seats.
If voters let the GOP get away with this, the possible implications could include wave after wave of recall elections as operatives from both parties try to gain seats and weaken the opposing party. In the Legislature, party leaders could strong-arm opposition lawmakers by threat of baseless recall attempts.
The threat of recall could also create a chilling effect on policy debate. According to media reports, Woodhouse may have drawn the GOP’s ire by co-sponsoring a “sanctuary city” bill that would have limited the amount of information local and state law enforcement authorities could share with federal immigration officials. If the recall attempts on Woodhouse and Farley would succeed, lawmakers might be less inclined in future sessions to take strong, vocal stances on divisive issues.
That would be a devastating effect, as the way to a strong democracy involves more ideas and more discussion, not less.
And while candidates who are targeted for ouster can run in a recall election, doing so would sap away time and effort that would best be spent on governing.
To succeed, the plotters will need to get more than 7,100 signatures from people who voted in Farley’s district and more than 13,000 in Woodhouse’s district. For Farley, who was elected by a wide margin but then left the Republican Party to become an independent, the recall election would be a waste of tax dollars given that she has already announced she wouldn’t seek another term.
In the effort against Woodhouse, the plotters appear to be motivated purely by opportunism. Woodhouse eked out a win in 2016 over Republican candidate Carrie Buck by 469 votes of the 54,731 cast in her district, so the Republicans obviously saw her as vulnerable.
The Woodhouse petition was filed by former GOP Assemblyman Stephen Silberkraus, while the group targeting Farley includes individuals associated with the conservative political group Keystone Corporation.
What can voters do to oppose these plotters? Beyond refusing to sign the petitions, they would also be well-served by contacting state GOP leaders and demanding that they oppose this attempt to undermine the election process.
To his credit, Gov. Brian Sandoval distanced himself from the recall efforts and said those behind them were “on their own,” but some who have not followed Sandoval’s lead include Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson (email address: [email protected]) and Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison (online email form: http://ltgov.nv.gov/Contact/Email/).
Update: Shortly after this editorial was written, Democrat Nicole Cannizzaro, who represents Senate District 6 in the northwest Las Vegas Valley, was targeted for recall. The petition aims to replace her with April Becker, a Republican.