Forget the election, in Nevada all that matters is the governor's divorce
Wednesday 11 June 2008
The governor of Nevada, home of the quickie wedding and paradise for tacky nuptials, is fighting for his political future after becoming embroiled in a not-so-quickie but increasingly tacky divorce.
Jim Gibbons, who has separated from Dawn, his wife of 22 years, is being publicly accused of adultery, cheating and dishonesty, during legal proceedings that have seen him trailed by paparazzi and denigrated in court as "the most scandal-ridden governor in the history of the state".
The Republican politician has brawled over custody of his 23-room official mansion – Dawn eventually moved into the guesthouse – and been repeatedly accused of lying. The month-long case has shocked even residents of Nevada's largest city, Las Vegas.
Details are emerging as the FBI investigates allegations of corruption involving his personal finances. Mr Gibbons, 63, was also involved in a sex scandal two years ago, when a cocktail waitress said he attempted to force himself on her in a car park.
The chief contention in the divorce case regards what prompted Mr Gibbons to suddenly leave his wife. Although the governor's legal papers claim they are "incompatible," Mrs Gibbons blames the split on his "fawning involvement" with another woman, who has become "his frequent bar, lunch, dinner and even grocery store companion".
In a submission to court dated 2 May, Mrs Gibbons detailed his "infatuation and involvement" with the wife of a Reno doctor. She described herself as "a castaway wife" who had been jilted by a man who "succumbed to the wiles" of a rival. "Lust is the real villain here," she claimed.
Although the governor has denied any affair, writing to a local newspaper to say the unnamed woman "has been a friend of mine for over 15 years, and there is nothing inappropriate about that friendship", state media are not convinced.
They claim Mr Gibbons was spotted at a sushi bar with his alleged girlfriend, and also attended her daughter's high school play.
He also apparently took a dark-haired woman to the film Sex and the City, while a Las Vegas newspaper posted a clip of him chatting to a brunette in a bar, under the headline: "Video of governor with 'other woman' surfaces."
The scandal also saw Mr Gibbons ask his estranged wife to vacate the governor's mansion, citing a 1907 law that requires him to live there. Mrs Gibbons, 54, refused to budge. "I never asked him to move out," she told reporters.
On Monday, divorce lawyers for Mr Gibbons issued a statement saying their legal action was temporarily on hold pending "an attempt to resolve issues". But the damage to his reputation may already have been done.
An FBI investigation into claims that he took illegal gifts – including a free cruise staffed by Bunny Girls – from a defence contractor while serving in Congress reports later this year. In addition, weeks before the last election in 2006, a Las Vegas cocktail waitress said he had tried to force himself on her. The case was dropped due to lack of evidence.
Republican officials are worried that Mr Gibbons may cause his party considerable electoral damage in November. Nevada is facing financial meltdown, amid falling revenues and a population that has more than doubled since 1990.
The current scandals may cost his party the state senate election, and could even persuade voters to turn to the Democrats for the first time in 30 years in the presidential poll.
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