Circulators fell shy of collecting enough signatures to force recall votes for Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and four Lincoln City Council members.
The 30-day petition drive to recall Gaylor Baird fell thousands of signatures short of the number needed, and hundreds short for most City Council members, organizers of LNK Recall said in a news release.
"This sends a loud message that most of Lincoln agrees that now is not the time to implode our city government," said Justin Carlson, spokesman for the recall opposition group Decline to Sign. "The recall effort has been a cheap partisan attempt to discredit our duly elected city leaders."
Gaylor Baird said her focus and priority remains on bringing an end to the pandemic by working collaboratively to keep people safe, distribute the COVID-19 vaccine and help in economic recovery.
"I invite all those experiencing the stress of this most difficult moment in our lifetimes to join in our collective effort," the first-term mayor said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. "The most successful path forward is one we walk together."
Announced in October, the initiative sought to remove Gaylor Baird and City Council members James Michael Bowers, Richard Meginnis, Jane Raybould and Tammy Ward over pandemic actions they have taken.
All but Meginnis are registered Democrats.
Opponents of the recall have called it a divisive, unnecessary measure bred out of opposition to the mayor's mask mandate.
LNK Recall had until 5 p.m. Wednesday to turn in petitions at the Lancaster County Election Commissioner's Office if organizers believed they had surpassed the signature thresholds to initiate a recall election.
But a news release sent out Wednesday afternoon indicated they were short signatures, though organizers declined to provide specific counts for each elected official.
Organizers needed at least 21,652 valid signatures to trigger a recall election for Gaylor Baird, 4,864 signatures for Bowers, 8,009 for Meginnis, 5,362 for Raybould and 2,495 for Ward, according to Election Commissioner Dave Shively.
In the news release, Samuel Lyon said LNK Recall volunteers will turn their attention to this spring's city elections, in which at-large council members Roy Christensen, Sändra Washington and Bennie Shobe are expected to seek reelection.
"Incredible momentum and the work of some 400 Democrat, Republican, and independent volunteers and organizers from all four City Council districts and Lancaster County was not enough to overcome the hurdle of COVID-19 and the reinvention of petitioning in Lincoln during a pandemic," Lyon said.
The effort was the first organized recall effort in years, and the county had not had a successful recall since 2000, when controversy on the now-defunct Rokeby School Board led voters to recall a board member.
LNK Recall organizers kicked off their signature gathering on the steps of City Hall, held sign-and-drive events and found favor with some restaurants and bars before garnering the backing of comedian Larry the Cable Guy.
"In the end, they couldn't git 'er done,'" Bowers tweeted.
Entering the final week, the Lancaster County Republican Party threw its support behind the effort, in part as a springboard for the spring City Council elections.
On Wednesday morning, LNK Recall said the signature gathering effort still succeeded because it exerted pressure on city policymakers who the organizers feel have overstepped their bounds or abdicated their duties during the pandemic.
LNK Recall claimed credit for the end of unpopular health directives that paused youth sports and mandated early bar closures or shutdowns even though Health Director Pat Lopez said the measures helped bring transmission of the coronavirus down.
“We've done a lot to push back on what seems to be an attack on small business by the mayor,” Lyon said in the release. “Arbitrary mandates have been exposed and reversed and a clear message has been sent to the City Council that Lincoln expects more from them. We expect them to do their job.”
The coalition built during the recall effort will look to attract candidates in future city elections and perhaps renew a recall attempt, Lyon said.
State law does not preclude the organizers from filing for another recall since they did not get on the ballot, Shively said.
In a statement, Nebraska Democratic Party leader Jane Kleeb labeled Republican Party backers of the recall effort as "sore losers."
“Those who backed the petition deserve ridicule for trying to recall officials for instituting and supporting Lincoln’s sensible mask mandate to fight the deadly pandemic," Kleeb said. "They should be ashamed.”
Recall elections should rarely be used and only for violations of public trust, not policy squabbles, said Carlson, of Decline to Sign.
Lincoln's elected leaders have been doing what voters elected them to do, he said.
"Our mayor and City Council have Lincoln’s best interests in mind during this challenging time," Carlson said. "Now that this partisan distraction is over our elected leaders can continue focusing on the pandemic response to keep our city as safe as possible."
PHOTOS: LINCOLN DURING THE PANDEMIC
Photos: The scene in Lincoln with much of city shut down
City Council distancing
Gameday empty Saturday
Thank you Bryan West
No fans allowed
Volleyball social distancing
Boo at the Zoo
Downtown mask art
Marching band competition
East Campus proposed budget cuts
No Football Saturday
UNL in-person class
Farmers Market influencers
Weeping Water vs. Fillmore Central/Exeter-Milligan
First day of middle school
First day of school
Pius X volleyball practice
House of Flowers delivery
City Council BLM protest
Rally and hearing
Lancaster County Super Fair
LPS board meeting
Meatpacking workers rally
Lincoln Northeast graduation
Gov. Ricketts address Legislature
Masked Archie the Mammoth
First Jury Trial in Four Months
Lincoln Community Playhouse
The Kindler Hotel
Garth Brooks Drive-In Concert
Urban Air Adventure Park
Gere Branch Library
Music on the Move
Bars Opening in Lincoln
LPS Teachers Retirement
Holmes Lake Manor Horse Visit
Lancaster County Courthouse
Church Social Distancing
Children of Smithfield
Parkview Christian Teacher Appreciation Day
Lincoln Christian 2020 Seniors
Test Nebraska site
Drive-Thru Career Fair
Center for People in Need food distribution
Masks For Truckers
Teacher and Staff Parade
Virtual City Council
Good Friday Music
Masks on a walk
Watch: A timelapse of the mural at Saro Cider
Watch: Hand sanitizer rolls off Innovation Campus assembly line
No fun here
Tower Square sign
WATCH: Celebrating a birthday with a parade
Simpsons in the windows
Drive-thru COVID-19 testing
UNL Beekeeping virtual class
Lincoln Lutheran Online Teaching
Blue for public health
Basketball without fans
Thanksgiving to go
Socially distant Santa
Christmas tree demand
Basketball fans reduced
Mike Hilgers at Legislature's First Day
Zoo Bar membership
New high school
Biking in snow
Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.