Another kind of harassment

“I was horrified. I was pissed. I was done.” Those were the quotes KNPR used to promote its interview with state Sen. Patricia Farley regarding her experience with the Republican caucus at the Nevada Legislature in 2015, before she switched to non-partisan status and decided to caucus with the Democrats. Farley was recruited by Senate Republican Leader Michael Roberson, now running for lieutenant governor, who assumed her gratitude for his assistance in obtaining her political position would translate into automatic obedience and subservience.

Farley is one of three senators the Republicans have targeted this year for recall for reasons they refuse to articulate beyond they didn’t like how they voted, a cynical strategy to overturn the voters’ decisions and regain majority control of the state Senate since the 2018 electoral map is not favorable for Republicans. While some insist misogyny is not a factor in the recall, it’s telling that each of the three Senators is female. Farley had previously announced she won’t be a candidate for re-election in 2018, making a recall against her meaningless and obviously retaliatory. In any event, a recall of three Senators who have not committed any egregious act right after a legislative session is unprecedented and disturbing.

Listening to the KNPR interview, it’s hard to conclude that sexism isn’t a factor in the Republican caucus. Farley speaks of caucus life with the incredulity of a newly elected legislator suddenly thrust into a system of power that quickly threatens to mow her down. Her descriptions of the behind-the-scenes shenanigans have the ring of truth, especially when contrasted with the rote statement issued by Roberson to counter her accusations.

Farley describes the recall as a “vindictive” power grab and an effort “to professionally and personally attack me.” She says she left the Republican caucus because her integrity was being damaged. She points out the caucus leadership was all male and asserts that men and women in the caucus were treated differently. She can’t resist underscoring that one of the caucus leaders, former senator Greg Brower, was recently cited for sex discrimination and retaliation when he served as Nevada’s U.S. Attorney.

Farley relates her experience in the Republican Senate caucus in a straightforward manner. She tells KNPR she “was elected and not expected to talk … or share my opinion.” On her first day of voting, Farley describes how Senator Kieckhefer walked up to her desk on the Senate floor and told her to vote yes on a bill, with no discussion or explanation. When she later objected to this dismissive treatment in the privacy of the caucus room, she was rebuffed. When she challenged the “poison pill” strategy of linking popular and unpopular bills together to create a policy quagmire for the Democratic caucus, she was ignored and sidelined, the political equivalent of a pat on the head.

Perhaps the most revolting “inside baseball” maneuver described by Farley during the interview was Roberson’s deliberate scheduling of key votes late at night in an effort to torment the late Sen. Debbie Smith, who was struggling with brain cancer during the session and unable to withstand the stress of an extra-long legislative day. Farley says education bills that were important to Smith were routinely pushed later and later into the evening hours when Smith was exhausted and then often rolled over to the next day.

You might find this level of sheer meanness difficult to fathom, but it has long been tolerated by those not wishing to rock an already unsteady ethical boat. Farley, echoing the disclosures of many women over the past few weeks in the #metoo campaign, decided to expose it, attributing her treatment to “too many people who inhaled too much power too quickly.”