A group of conservatives upset with Kenny Guinn's approval of the largest tax increase in state history filed papers Wednesday to begin recall proceedings against the popular Republican governor.
Emboldened by recall efforts in neighboring California, the group filed a notice of intent to seek a recall election with the Nevada Secretary of State's Office in Las Vegas. Organizers have 90 days to collect 128,109 signatures, or 25 percent of those who cast ballots in the 2002 general election _ something backers acknowledge will be difficult.
"It's going to be a daunting task,"said Tony Dane, a political consultant and chairman of The Committee to Recall Gov. Guinn."But if people feel motivated enough to take control of their government, it's possible."
No statewide recall effort has ever succeeded, and no Nevada governor has ever been the subject of a recall election, state Archivist Guy Louis Rocha said.
Guinn, 66, issued a statement highlighting his accomplishments, including establishing the Millennium Scholarship program and privatizing the state worker's compensation program.
"Nevadans expect their elected officials to make difficult decisions that are not always popular with everyone,"he said."I am honored the voters of this state have twice elected me to serve as their governor. With respect to the recall effort, I have great faith in the wisdom of the people of Nevada."
Guinn was re-elected in 2002 with 68 percent of the vote.
Democrats dismissed the idea of unseating the Republican governor.
"They aren't going to get any help from the Democratic side,"said Chris Wicker, chairman of the Washoe County Democratic Party.
"I don't think there's one Democrat who is going to sign that petition. It's just stupid,"he said on KRNV-TV's"Nevada News Makers."
Dane, who has worked as a consultant on various municipal campaigns in southern Nevada, California and New York, said more than 600 volunteers have signed up to collect petitions.
He said the efforts began before the California recall, although he acknowledged events there could bolster their cause.
"I'm hoping people in Nevada look at California and get excited about the possibilities,"Dane said.
Michael Bowers, chairman of UNLV's political science department, said Nevada's effort is clearly influenced by California's recall against Gov. Gray Davis.
Bowers called the Nevada recall group a"fringe element"that lacked widespread support and the backing of a millionaire like U.S. Rep.Darrell Issa, who financed the recall effort in California.
"I cannot imagine in my wildest dreams that this would ever be successful,"Bowers said."Frankly, Kenny Guinn is still fairly popular in the state, and he's done nothing illegal. He's done nothing unethical."
A Reno Gazette-Journal/KRNV-TV News 4 poll found 68 percent opposed recall efforts targeting Guinn and six Nevada Supreme Court justices. Twenty-four percent supported it, and 8 percent were unsure.
The poll, conducted from July 28-30, questioned 600 likely voters by telephone and had an error margin of 4 percentage points.
Guinn tangled with Republican leaders in the state Legislature earlier this year over his $1 billion tax proposal. After months of debate, two special sessions, a landmark Nevada Supreme Court decision prompted by Guinn's request for intervention, lawmakers approved a record $836 million in tax increases.
Sandy Harmon, spokesman for the recall group, said he was outraged that Guinn did not make tax increases part of his campaign, but proposed a record increase after his re-election.
"We have to remove him from office before he does anymore damage,"Harmon said.
Assemblyman Lynn Hettrick, who led the fight against increased taxes, said he does not support the recall.
"I think he's a good man, and he means well,"said Hettrick, R-Gardnerville."He has a right to his opinion just like I have a right to mine. I don't fault him for that."
Guinn has said he plans to retire from public office when his second term expires in 2006.
If the group collects enough signatures, county clerks would have nine working days to verify them. Once signatures are verified, an election must be held with 50 days, meaning an election could be held as soon as late December.
The group is not backing a recall candidate, Dane said.
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow for recalls of state leaders, and Nevada would be the first since California to trigger a recall election against its governor. The only other active recall effort is in Wisconsin, where state Sen. Gary George has filed a lawsuit delaying a scheduled recall election against him.
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