Top Democratic donor Stephen J. Cloobeck said he’s prepared to spend “whatever it takes” to recall Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman.
“I know what it will cost to be successful, and have the funds set aside,” Cloobeck said in an interview Wednesday. “I’m bringing my A-game to this fight. She’s violated the world-class respect of the state of Nevada, and more importantly, of the city of Las Vegas.”
Cloobeck declined to state specifically how much money he will spend, but political strategists say his commitment improves the chances of the recall campaign amid ongoing social distancing.
On May 6, former professional poker player Doug Polk, who’s spearheading the campaign, filed a notice of intent to circulate a recall petition, accusing Goodman of not acting responsibly in her push to reopen non-essential businesses amid the coronavirus shutdown.
This followed a series of controversial comments she made during national interviews. Polk created a YouTube video critical of Goodman’s comments and a website to solicit support for the recall.
Goodman, a former Democrat now registered as a non-partisan, declined to comment through a city spokesman.
Cloobeck, 58, a resort industry entrepreneur and philanthropist, said he brings four decades of experience in politics and running campaigns to the recall effort.
He said he learned about the recall through media reports and reached out to Polk , offering to “combine forces” with him. Cloobeck, who only revealed his support publicly this week, said he expects to provide Polk with “coaching and counseling” in addition to money.
“This young man took it upon himself to do this on his own,” Cloobeck said. “He is a well- intentioned, aspirational man, and he’s got a tremendous social media presence. I like his style. He’s sharp and he cares deeply about Las Vegas and Nevada.”
Veteran political strategists estimate that Cloobeck, the founder and former chairman of Diamond Resorts International, could spend between $100,00 and $300,000 on the campaign.
Cloobeck, who currently runs Cloobeck Companies, LLC, is prepared to pay people, including those who lost jobs in the COVID-19 scare, up to $20 for each valid signature collected, a source said. He also has a team of political operatives at his disposal.
“When you have that kind of backing and that kind of money, I’m pretty confident they’ll get the needed signatures,” said Republican consultant Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, who has worked on a city recall campaign in the past.
“This is no longer just a grassroots effort. This is like a Fortune 500 operation. Cloobeck has a long and rich history of being involved in the political process, and with that comes a lot of relationships that he can bring to the table.”
Dan Hart, a longtime Democratic strategist, agreed.
“Nobody knows what it’s like to recall someone in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic,” Hart said. “But if there’s an organization that could do it, it would be Cloobeck and his team. They have the skill and the funding. They seem to be very organized.”
But another longtime strategist, who did not want to be identified, was not as optimistic.
“City recalls historically have been tough because you’ve got to find voters that actually voted,” the consultant said, adding the difficulties in dealing with the virus at the same time should not be underestimated.
“How many people are going to open their door to sign a petition in the era of COVID-19? With people worrying about family members being sick, going back to work or getting unemployment, it’s going to be difficult finding folks to set all those things aside. I think it’s a long-shot.”
Molly Forgey, a Democratic spokeswoman, said her party is not involved in the recall.
“But we still disagree with the mayor’s call to open the Las Vegas Strip prematurely, and really we’re appalled to hear her offer the city up as a control group,” she said. “We continue to support the governor’s science-based approach to re-opening our state’s economy.”
Reno-based Republican consultant Robert Uithoven defended Goodman’s position.
“I think there are a lot of people inside and outside Las Vegas who appreciate the mayor for taking the stand that she did,” Uithoven said. “You’ll see a lot of people come to the mayor’s defense.
“Voters tend to be skeptical of a campaign funded predominately by one person. But I certainly think the mayor ought to be taking this seriously.”
Goodman has come under fire over national interviews she gave last month putting her at odds with Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak’s directive to shut down non-essential businesses, including casinos.
It was her appearances on national television last month — first with NBC’s Katy Tur, then CNN’s Anderson Cooper — that prompted the fiercest criticisms. Goodman said the city should be used as a control group to test whether social distancing measures were working and suggested that businesses that reopen and are hit hard by virus outbreaks would simply be swallowed by competition.
Cloobeck, who supports Sisolak’s approach, has contributed more than $492,000 to the state Democratic Party, campaign records show. He also contributed $15,000 to Sisolak’s campaign and another $50,000 to the elected governor’s inaugural committee.
Polk needs to collect 6,745 valid signatures by Aug. 4 from registered voters who participated in last year’s municipal primary to trigger a recall election.
Reporter Shea Johnson contributed to this report.
Contact Jeff German at email@example.com or 702-380-4564. Follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter. German is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing. Support our journalism.