ColumnsNevada Legislature

Total Recall: What Does Roberson Really Want?

Late Wednesday, news broke of Republicans filing a notice of intent to recall State Senator Joyce Woodhouse (D-Henderson). Within 48 hours, Republicans would announce intention to recall two other female Senators. Why? That’s the question on everyone’s mind as reporters, other legislators, and constituents try to figure out the actual intent of this attempted recall.

So now, we must ask: What is Senator Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) really up to?

A long history of bad blood

The two first faced off in 2010, when Roberson challenged then Senator Woodhouse in the Henderson based Senate District (SD) 5. After a particularly brutal war of attack ads and heated arguments, Roberson narrowly defeated Woodhouse.

Photo by Andrew Davey

The following election, Woodhouse ran again… But not against Roberson, due to the 2011 redistricting that placed Roberson in the new SD 20 and Woodhouse in the new SD 5. Nonetheless, Roberson recruited Steve Kirk to run against Woodhouse in 2012. This time Woodhouse prevailed, dashing Roberson’s dream of becoming Majority Leader in 2013.

About that last election, and the next one
Photo by Andrew Davey

Though Roberson ultimately found success in claiming a Republican Senate majority in 2014, he then lost the majority in 2016. Once again, Woodhouse denied him the majority. She narrowly defeated Carrie Buck in SD 5, while Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) defeated then Assembly Member Victoria Seaman (R-Las Vegas) in the Las Vegas-Summerlin based SD 6.

Photo by Andrew Davey

Just days after the election, Senator Patricia Farley (NP-Summerlin South) left the Republican Party and announced she’d caucus with the Democrats. Farley’s departure particularly stung for Roberson, as he recruited her to run for the Las Vegas-Summerlin based SD 8 in 2014. But when Roberson grew increasingly controlling of Farley’s schedule and agenda, Farley decided she couldn’t take it any more.

Republicans must regain Farley’s seat and flip at least one Democratic-held seat in order to have a chance at regaining the Senate majority. And even then, Republicans must still fight hard to reelect Senator Becky Harris (R-Enterprise), who represents a district Hillary Clinton carried by 8.65% last year.

Is this “democracy in action”, or just a distraction?
Photo by Gage Skidmore

This leads to the other dilemma Nevada Republicans are facing next year: the intense discord in their own party. Roberson lost his chance to serve in Congress in June 2016, when he lost the NV-03 Republican Primary to Danny Tarkanian. Tarkanian has since reemerged to challenge U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R) in next year’s Republican primary. Meanwhile in NV-03, Roberson ally Senator Scott Hammond (R-Las Vegas) now faces a competitive Republican primary next year… Against none other than Victoria Seaman.

Once we place all these pieces of the puzzle together, we start to get a better sense of what’s going on with the new Republican campaign to recall Senators Woodhouse, Farley, and Cannizzaro this fall. One, this is Roberson’s desperate attempt to reshape a particularly treacherous map for Senate Republicans next year. Two, this is Roberson’s ham-fisted attempt at “settling the score” with Senators Woodhouse and Farley. And three, this might just be the perfect time to divert media attention away from the intraparty warfare that now plagues both the Nevada and the national Republican Party.

Thus far, Republicans have claimed at least one of their recalls was over a bill that never received a vote. They’ve yet to offer any other reason for this. Unless Republicans can come up with something more plausible, it’s hard not to conclude this has more to do about the votes they’re afraid of in 2018.

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