Tensions in the Nevada GOP have become a full on split as the argument over the assembly’s majority leader reached an impasse with Michele Fiore squarely in the middle of it. While political power struggles within parties are no new idea in politics, the situation in Nevada is singular because the almost laughable back-and-forth between the parties involved. It is especially interesting to Nevada residents as this is the first GOP majority in the state since 1985. Looking at this widening rift, some voters may be feeling a bit of buyers remorse.
Michele Fiore was elected by the Republican caucus as the first female majority leader, an achievement for any woman in politics and even more significant because she was elected to the post by her fellow caucus members. After a shuffle in leadership, John Hambrick was elected as assembly speaker and that was where Fiore’s troubles began. First, he tried to remove her as majority leader, then reinstated her, then removed her again, this time also taking her position as chair of the Assembly Taxation Committee. At least part of his reasoning for this move was Fiore’s troubles with the IRS which involve improperly handled payroll taxes from a previous business she was a part of. The allegation that Fiore does not pay her taxes has been bandied about by Hambrick and others as the argument has worsened.
The assemblywoman has hit back against her removal, noting that Hambrick has no justification to remove her from a position to which she was duly elected by a majority of the Republican caucus. According to a statement released by Fiore, she and other members of the caucus still consider her the majority leader and they will act accordingly. Hambrick canceled a January 5 meeting which she called for, a move which she notes makes a vote to resolve the issue an even more difficult prospect. As she put it in a statement, the meeting was unilaterally canceled, but she and her supporters will carry on with the meeting as planned, denying his authority to make such a pronouncement under the circumstances.
Michele Fiore herself was quick to note the theme of a “war on women” from within her own party, but the Nevada GOP’s split over this kerfuffle in the assembly seems to have more to it than just who is the real majority leader. This is a party which has not been in charge in Nevada for nearly 30 years. Like many people who have been out of power for so long, they look a little out of practice. This may raise questions of their suitability to lead the state government and cause some voters to rethink supporting the Republicans in the next election. A bad showing in these early days will reflect poorly on the party’s leadership as a whole and may spell doom for any future elections.
Former minority leader, Republican Pat Hickey, has called out his fellow Republicans for what he calls a “second-rate Vegas lounge act.” He warned that it may be a squandered opportunity if the party cannot stand united and do the job of governing that they were elected to do. Fiore’s sentiments reflect this view, noting that a conclusion to the matter is in the best interests of the caucus. As for the tax evasion allegations leveled against her, she refutes them completely. While she is in talks with the IRS, the Reno Gazette-Journal confirmed that she was the victim of embezzlement by a former employee and no wrongdoing has been imputed to her that would warrant her removal. Thus, the power struggle seems even more forced and contrived, exacerbating an already bad situation.
Some have a different view of the leadership struggle, one which centers on who the real conservatives are. Tea Party candidate Tom Jones, who ran an unsuccessful campaign to become the state controller, sees it as a battle between the establishment and the real conservatives. In a blog post, he encouraged a third party option where true conservatives could rule the roost. As he put it, “The Republican Party is destroying itself and the only viable alternative for a Conservative is the IAP.” IAP stands for Independent American Party, of which he is a member. He also accused the GOP of trying to change the makeup of the tax committee in order to pass more taxes, a pet peeve for many tea partiers. On the whole, however, Jones is an outsider to the situation and his views may be more wishful thinking on his part than an objective critique.
The split in the Nevada GOP over whether Michele Fiore is the true majority leader or not is a difficult case of leadership that may become more common in the wider Republican party. Establishment leaders are facing an uphill battle to keep their posts. Speaker Boehner is facing a challenge from far-right Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, who has promised to challenge him for the top spot. There is a power struggle being played out at a large scale, as in Nevada, so in Washington. It will be interesting for many to see how the situation with Fiore is resolved in Nevada and how it affects the future election in the state. It could be a warning to the highest levels of leadership of what might happen to them should such conflicts arise in Congress. In the fight between Tea Party and establishment, everyone wants a tip on which contender to bet on and Nevada could be a practice round for the larger prize fight at the top.
Opinion By Lydia Bradbury