In spite of a previous failed attempt to qualify a recall against Gov. Steve Sisolak, opponents of the state’s Democratic governor have filed not one but two competing long-shot efforts to remove Sisolak from office.
Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s office confirmed that two new political action committees incorporated in recent weeks have filed the formal paperwork necessary to begin collecting signatures to recall the governor.
Advocates also say they expect a third group to possibly file their own recall effort against Sisolak in the near future, and a fourth group, the “Fight for Nevada” organization that made the first recall effort against Sisolak, says it wants to file another recall attempt against Sisolak if the current attempts fall short.
In response to the recall effort, Meghin Delaney, the governor’s public information officer told The Nevada Independent that the governor is attending to his responsibilities.
"The governor is focused on the job he was elected to do. Right now, that includes leading the state through an unprecedented global pandemic. Nevada has a recall process, and Nevadans have a right to exercise that process if they so choose," Delaney said.
The divided effort to recall Sisolak could complicate the already tenuous path required to qualify a recall against the governor, as voters can sign more than one petition but individual recall efforts are not allowed to combine signature totals.
Qualifying a recall against any public official requires supporters to collect verified signatures from 25 percent of voters who cast a ballot in the last election of the targeted office-holder within a 90-day period. For Sisolak, that means the minimum number of verified signatures needed to qualify the recall is 243,995.
A previous effort to recall the governor led by the “Fight for Nevada” group fell more than 200,000 signatures short of needed signatures to qualify the recall petition in May.
One of the new recall PACs is called “Save Nevada - Recall Steve Sisolak,” and was registered with the secretary of state’s office on Aug. 30. It filed its formal notice of intent to recall the governor on Sept. 3, with the recall petition stating the governor “failed to uphold his oath of office” and engaged in the “wanton destruction [of] Nevada’s economy and that of her residents.”
Kelly Slater, a freelance DJ in Las Vegas, leads the “Save Nevada” recall effort. Slater told The Nevada Independent that he had launched the campaign after he joined several recall groups that hadn't moved forward with their ambitions.
“I just decided that it was time for somebody to do something and actually follow through. And that’s when I took the initiative and downloaded the recall paperwork and submitted it to the state,” Slater said, adding that he worries Sisolak shut down large sectors of the Nevada economy in a political stunt designed to affect Trump’s re-election.
To collect the required number of signatures, Slater is mainly relying on social media outreach and said he plans to mobilize a large number of volunteers through a Facebook page he created geared toward recalling Sisolak. He and another administrator of the Facebook page intend to set up a signature drive along with other events.
Another new recall PAC, “Battle Born Patriots,” was registered with the secretary of state’s office on Aug. 28 and filed its formal notice of intent to recall Sisolak on Sept. 3.
The group’s recall petition contains the same language and rationale given by the initial “Fight for Nevada” recall group, saying the governor has “placed himself and office in an adversarial position against the majority of Nevada residents and does in no way represent Nevada values.” It cites a range of grievances against the governor including him supporting or signing gun control legislation, limits on private wells, reporting mileage to the DMV and a false claim that he supports a statewide income tax.
In a YouTube video entitled “Not Fighting For Nevada – An urgent message for all Nevadans who want to recall Governor Sisolak,” “Battle Born Patriots” PAC leader Bruce Parks says that the new group was launched because the “Fight for Nevada” group had transitioned from a “grassroots” movement attempting to recall Sisolak to a non-transparent group that “does not have the best interests of Nevada at heart.”
“There is no transparency with this organization,” he says in the video. “When asked for founding documents, for example a charter or bylaws, there were none forthcoming.”
In an interview with The Nevada Independent, Parks said that the recall effort was created "in the interest of freeing Nevada from the tyranny that is our current governor," who he alleged has enacted "unconstitutional mandates."
"We're not going to stand by and watch the trampling of our rights and not have our voices heard," Parks said. "That's unconscionable as a resident of the state of Nevada, but it's also unconscionable to me as an American."
To reach the more than 200,000 needed signatures, Parks said the group is relying on word of mouth and partnerships with local businesses who have grievances with Sisolak. The PAC, which prides itself on being a grassroots organization, has leaders responsible for the effort in each county and will use communication between them to reallocate resources where needed.
Parks said the various recall groups aren't working together because of different philosophies on how to succeed, but he wishes them luck.
"I definitely hope they succeed. And if I'm presented with a petition from one of those other organizations, I will definitely affix my signature," Parks said. "I am that opposed to what our governor has done to this state. Any effort to effectively remove him from office, I am definitely behind.”
John Cardiff Gerhardt, an independent candidate for Assembly District 12 and an open supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory, told The Nevada Independent that he has been preparing to launch a recall Sisolak campaign since April. But the candidate does not plan to file a formal notice of intent to recall the governor until he has prepared a list of 244,000 eligible verified Nevada voters willing to sign a recall petition.
Assembly District 12 is a heavily Democratic district and the seat is held by Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Martinez.
Similar to Parks, one of Gerhardt's reasons for advocating to recall Sisolak is that he views the governor's decision to shut down the economy as a tyrannical overstep of authority. Gerhardt also said he believes the governor is a puppet for the Chinese Communist party in part because Sisolak's wife is of Chinese descent, wore red and yellow clothing — the colors of the Chinese flag — and walked ahead of Sisolak to his State of the State address.
In response to the accusation, Delaney said, "That’s a ridiculous, offensive, and racist insinuation."
To prepare the list of voters, Gerhardt said he has individuals sign up via an online form or a phone call, and then he and his team check voter databases to make sure voters are eligible. Once a voter is verified, he or she is added to a database.
"Once that number surpasses 244,000, we will feel confident that we can succeed in that 90-day period because we know exactly who is ready, willing, and able to sign this petition," Gerhardt said. "So that when we formalize it, we … contact them, and we talk to them directly. That's how we would succeed."
Though Gerhardt said he would consider joining one of the other recall Sisolak campaigns, he has reservations about "Fight for Nevada" because he believes the group is a front for Sisolak. Gerhardt believes that Sisolak created the "Fight for Nevada" group to corral dissenting Nevadans into an easily sabotaged group.
Gerhardt's campaign website contains information about his plan to develop a list of eligible voters and a curated SoundCloud Recall Sisolak playlist that includes songs such as, “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “United We Make America Great Again, feat. Donald Trump.” Gerhardt said that he and his campaign are closing in on 1,000 people on the list since he began in April, and he hopes to have enough prospective signers to launch a petition around Christmas.
In a separate video streamed on YouTube on Tuesday, Fight for Nevada President Rudy Clai said the group had planned to launch a new recall campaign against the governor on Sept. 11, but that other various groups whose leaders had “wasted time and (made) a lot of slanderous remarks that they could not back up” had jumped the gun and already filed recall petitions. He said the planned September filing date would be pushed back, and that the group would continue building support for a future recall effort in the meantime.
“We don’t want to confuse the public by being number four,” he said in the video. “We wish all three of them the best of luck and massive success. However, be assured, that if they fail, Fight for Nevada will be there and take our turn at bat.”
Clai told The Nevada Independent that Fight for Nevada wasn't ready to relaunch a recall effort when the organization brought him on as president in June. He said he's been using his 50 years of experience in political campaigns in Chicago, which doesn't include any recall efforts but does include gathering large amounts of signatures for various petitions, to grow, fundraise and create partnerships with other groups, such as gun clubs and anti-abortion organizations.
He said the group has 19,000 members who have joined online and generally support their effort and between 2,000 to 3,000 active members who are ready to walk door to door for the recall. He said he'd welcome anyone from the other recall groups to join should their effort fail and Fight for Nevada's second attempt come to fruition.
"We're letting them do their thing, and we're letting them go at bat because we have different campaign tactics than they do," Clai said. "If they want to join us, they'd be more than welcome to join us."
Fight for Nevada, which gathered just over 33,000 signatures, sued in federal court for an extension of the signature gathering deadline, saying that efforts were hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. That request was ultimately denied by federal District Court Judge Richard Boulware.
Only three governors since 1921 have been successfully recalled and forced to run in a special election.