A conservative activist and anti-tax firebrand has helped organize three political action committees with the goal of recalling Nevada Assembly Republicans that he says haven’t come out strongly enough against the governor’s proposed tax increases.
The move by Chuck Muth came as Republicans prepare for a fierce debate over Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed budget when the legislative session begins Feb. 2.
The political action committees are targeting southern Nevada Assembly members Chris Edwards and Stephen Silberkraus, and Speaker-designate John Hambrick, largely to get them to vote against a proposed $1.1 billion in new and extended taxes.
The Nevada Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Assembly for a tax increase.
Muth said Monday that three more votes are needed to block the budget from passing the chamber. He said recalls are necessary to overcome what he sees as a broken promise by Sandoval, also a Republican, to not increase taxes.
“Gov. Sandoval is the reason these committees are coming up, because he hid it from voters,” he said.
Nevertheless, the move has angered the legislators in the crosshairs.
“He’s premature, unfair and out-of-line,” Edwards, whose district includes Mesquite, Overton and parts of Nellis Air Force Base, said about Muth. “He’s misleading voters in a very bad way.”
Hambrick said he signed a no-tax pledge years ago and wants to review the governor’s budget more thoroughly before dismissing it. He said he would be open to changes in the tax code that don’t immediately cost taxpayers more money.
“I signed the no-tax pledge, and I’ll live up to that,” said Hambrick, who represents a district in the western Las Vegas valley.
Silberkraus, who represents a district in Henderson, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Legally, PACs cannot begin collecting recall signatures until 10 days after the legislative session begins. But the groups can receive donations, and Muth said the goal is to get enough signatures to hold a special election in May.
No recall petition filed against a legislative member since 1993 has succeeded, according to data from the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office, and the few petitions that do meet their signature goal are usually targeting rural county commissioners or school board members after elections with low turnouts that require far few voters’ signatures to qualify a recall effort.
The state only recognizes recall petitions that obtain 25 percent of registered voters’ signatures in a particular district. In Assembly District 29, represented by Silberkraus, activists would need to obtain more than 7,000 signatures in order to qualify the recall.
“It’s an uphill battle,” Muth said. “It’s going to be very, very difficult to gather enough signatures.”
Even so, the mere possibility of balancing the legislative load and a special election concerns legislators such as Hambrick. Despite winning nearly 80 percent of the vote in November, Hambrick said he’s prepared to run again in a special election if necessary.
“I walked my district this last time extensively, and it appears maybe I’ll be walking it again on weekends,” he said.