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Wealthy Democratic donor lending support to Mayor Goodman recall

Updated May 12, 2020 - 8:23 pm

Stephen J. Cloobeck, one of the biggest Democratic donors in the state, is lending support to recall Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman.

That support is expected to include cash to pay workers to gather signatures, a source said.

Cloobeck, a resort industry entrepreneur and philanthropist, would not specifically discuss his efforts.

But in a statement to the Review-Journal on Tuesday, he said: “Clearly Mayor Goodman has not acted in the best interest of Nevadans in this time of crisis. I am seriously weighing the options of a legislative move to amending the city charter, as well as a recall effort because the citizens of Las Vegas deserve better.”

Goodman, a former Democrat who is registered as a nonpartisan, has come under fire over interviews she gave last month pushing hard to reopen casinos and other businesses as the coronavirus remains a serious health threat.

In the interviews, 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.

Goodman could not be reached for comment.

Former professional poker player Doug Polk has been the public face of the current recall, giving the city notice last week of his plans to seek the mayor’s removal. Polk contends Goodman has chosen to protect the financial health of the high-powered casinos over the safety of her constituents, and has not acted responsibly.

Cloobeck has previously criticized Goodman’s response to the pandemic, while praising Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak’s more cautious approach to reopening businesses.

Since April 2018, Cloobeck has contributed more than $492,000 to the Nevada Democratic Party, campaign records show.

Cloobeck, the founder and former chairman of Diamond Resorts International, a worldwide timeshare resort company, considered running for governor in 2018 as a Democrat. But he did not jump into the race.

Instead, the influential party activist contributed $15,000 to Sisolak’s campaign and another $50,000 to the elected governor’s inaugural committee, records show.

Sisolak and Goodman have been at odds over their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Goodman has resisted emergency measures ordered by Sisolak, such has closing casinos and other non-essential businesses, to slow the spread of the virus. She once called the shutdown “total insanity.”

Sisolak, a former Clark County commissioner, has consistently maintained that his methodical approach to open up the economy has been based on science to better protect the health of Nevadans. The state began its first phase last weekend, allowing nonessential businesses back to work, including restaurants, barbershops and hair salons. Casinos are still closed

A statewide poll conducted for the Review-Journal found that 64 percent of Nevadans supported Sisolak’s handling of the pandemic and business shutdown. In contrast, 61 percent of likely voters said they did not agree with Goodman’s stance.

Polk last week produced a YouTube video critical of Goodman’s public comments about the virus, including those made during a rambling interview with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper.

He also created a website to support the recall.

“It’s time to remove this casino shill from office,” the website says. “Carolyn Goodman’s embarrassing CNN appearance shocked the world, exposing herself as a puppet for casino owners and a threat to public safety.”

Polk has until Aug. 4 to collect 6,746 valid signatures from registered voters who participated in last year’s municipal primary election, according to City Clerk LuAnn Holmes. The figure is based on 25 percent voter turnout in the election, where Goodman won a third term that ends in 2024.

If Polk collects enough signatures by the deadline, it would trigger a recall election.

Over the weekend, Polk said he was working out the logistics of the campaign and planned to start gathering signatures soon. He said he was paying for the recall himself “for the time being,” but welcomed financial support from others.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.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.

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