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August 18, 2019

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Control of state Senate at stake in three recall petition drives

State Sen. Patricia Farley, I-Las Vegas

State Sen. Patricia Farley, I-Las Vegas

State Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas

State Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas

State Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson

State Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson

Republicans would gain control of the state Senate if three recalls of senators are successful.

Although Glover, Becker and Buck are nominated, anyone can file to run against a recalled official. According to the Nevada Secretary of State, a nominating petition must contain signatures equal to 25 percent of the number of registered voters who voted in the state, or in the county, district or municipality holding the election of the recalled official. That petition must be filed at least 20 days before a special election.

Paperwork has been filed for three recall committees targeting Democratic Sens. Joyce Woodhouse of Henderson and Nicole Cannizzaro of Las Vegas, as well as Sen. Patricia Farley of Las Vegas, an independent. Farley, who caucused with Democrats during the 2017 Legislature after leaving the GOP, is not running for re-election in 2018.

Farley said the effort is retaliation for switching parties “and speaking up” about what she didn’t like going on in the GOP caucus.

Republicans had nine Senate seats during the last legislative session, while the Democratic caucus had 12 members. The three recall efforts could help shift the balance in the Senate for the 2019 legislative session.

Democrats have criticized the efforts as baseless attacks coordinated by Republicans. Farley said those who registered the recall committees did not explain why they’re trying to oust the senators.

“They’re going door to door, giving voters different reasons and just testing things out,” Farley said. “That’s disgusting.”

Senate Republican Leader Michael Roberson of Henderson said in an Aug. 16 statement that voters have the right to act as checks on government, and that he supports the efforts.

“After witnessing the breathtaking pro-felon and anti-business priorities of the Democrats this past legislative session, it’s no surprise to me that Nevadans are standing up to their destructive, job-killing agenda,” he said.

Farley says these campaigns are not being led by a grassroots movement from voters. None of the phone numbers listed for the recall committees has voicemail set up, and attempts to contact those who appear to be involved were unsuccessful.

If an election is conducted, reasons for the recall are required to be printed on the ballot.

“It’s all political operatives,” Farley said. “They have no path to regaining the seats in the 2018 election, and their only path is to try to do this recall.”

Attorney Daniel Stewart of Hutchison & Steffen says the law firm is representing all three recall committees. Stewart was Gov. Brian Sandoval’s general counsel until July 28, and Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, one of Hutchison & Steffen’s founders, recently cited his growing family and law practice in his announcement that he would not seek re-election.

Stewart said the recall work is unrelated to the offices of the governor or lieutenant governor. He said the firm reviewed the filings for the recall committees to ensure they were legally correct and filed with the appropriate authorities.

Going forward, Stewart said, it’s up to the clients whether they’d like to continue to use the firm for litigation or challenges that may arise.

Farley’s recall is being pursued by Annalise Castor, who is listed on the Secretary of State’s website as the treasurer for the American Mothers Inc. of Nevada. Messages to the group and an Annalise Castor on Facebook were not returned.

The committee wants Farley replaced by Republican Jared Glover. There was no response to a voicemail message left at a mailbox set up by a Jared Glover.

Kevin Kean and John Gibson are also listed as participants in the Farley recall effort. Both are listed as board members on the website of the Keystone Corp., a group that supports limiting government spending and opposes business taxes. An email and call to the group were not returned.

Claire and Neil Roth, as well as Katie McKenzie, are leading the effort to recall Cannizzaro. They are seeking to replace her with Republican April Becker.

A Claire Roth listed on the Harvard Club of Nevada website did not return requests for comment, nor did an April Becker listed at the Becker Goodey Law Office or Claire and Neil Roth on Facebook.

Woodhouse faces recall from former Assemblyman Stephen Silberkraus, a Republican. He wants her replaced with Republican Carrie Buck, who lost to Woodhouse in 2016. Silberkraus and Buck, executive director of Pinecrest Academy of Nevada, could not be reached for comment.

Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald did not respond to a request for comment.

Michael Green, an associate history professor at UNLV, said recall campaigns are not uncommon, though they’re typically unsuccessful in Nevada. In 2005, he noted, voters did cut short the term of former Las Vegas Councilwoman Janet Moncrief.

Recalls were created in the early 20th century to give voters a tool to combat the notoriously corrupt legislatures and local political boards of the time, Green said. Now, he says, politicians, businesspeople and others with behind-the-scenes influence are pursuing recalls over policy differences or political reasons, rather than ousting corrupt elected officials who ignore the will of the public.

“In recent years, the recall has tended to be used by the people it was intended to hamstring,” Green said. “Partly because to organize a recall — to get the petitions, to get the required number of signatures — it’s a large-scale effort. If I want to recall somebody, I probably do not personally have the money or time to do it.”

At least 25 percent of a senator’s constituents who voted in the last election must sign the recall petition for a new vote to be conducted. Canvassers have 90 days from the date the intent to recall was filed to get the signatures to force the elections, which Clark County voting officials say could cost more than an estimated $50,000 apiece.

All three recalls were filed within weeks of each other in early August. Democrats have a hotline where people can report the arguments they hear and are using the “decline to sign” slogan to discourage voters from participating.

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